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Intercept Testing

What is it?

Intercept testing is a form of usability testing that can be conducted almost anywhere. You don’t need to recruit participants in advance. Instead, you simply approach participants in public spaces. Intercept testing is informal and shorter in length than formal usability testing and it usually lasts around 15 minutes. Participants are also compensated less due to the shorter time commitment.

Purpose of Intercept Testing

Intercept testing is about understanding challenges, thoughts, insights that people experience when using service just like usability testing, but at a cheaper and much faster pace.

Planning your tests

To conduct intercept tests, you will need

  • A prototype or live service
  • To have backups. If your prototype requires services such as the internet, power, and/or specific software to function, always have a backup because malfunctions do happen.
  • User goals and tasks. Prepare a handful of simple tasks the way you would in formal usability tests. Be mindful of the length, as intercept testing is intended to be quick.
  • To choose the right venue. Although participants aren’t recruited formally, you can still find a specific type of audience by choosing the right venue. For example, if you’re looking for feedback from students and teachers, university campuses would be a good option. Consider going to more than one location to get a more diverse selection of people (for example, rural and urban locations).

Conducting Intercept Tests

Always contact a manager or office supervisor for permission to setup an intercept testing location. Don’t show up unannounced!

When doing an intercept test think about

  • Group size. Approaching the participant with a crowd can be intimidating. Try to keep your group size to a maximum of 3 people. Do bring at least one person with you as your notetaker.
  • How you dress. How people perceive you will affect how they respond to you. Mirror the formality and dress of the people you are trying to approach. It will make you feel like part of the group, and people will be more likely speak to you.
  • Body language. People can pick up your body language easily even if they aren’t aware they are doing it. Too much hesitation and lack of confidence can alarm people. Be confident and show people that you’re not wasting their time. Just go for it!
  • Mastering your elevator pitch. Clearly introduce your role, why you’re here, what the test is about, the amount of time you will need from them and any compensation you offer. Practice your pitch beforehand. For example: “Hi, my name is Ashley from the Ministry of Transportation in the B.C. government. I’m here to collect feedback on an online tool that my team has been working on for the past month. Would you be able to spare 10-15 minutes of your time and in exchange, you will receive a $10 gift card?“
  • Introducing your colleagues. If you have notetakers and observers with you, introduce them and explain the role of each person to the participant.
  • Avoiding interrupting as much as possible. It’s always tempting to jump in right away when the participant is confused or asking for clarification. Take this as an opportunity to find out why they are confused, instead of answering their question or helping them get to the next step. Avoid giving instructions to the participant on how your service should work. Remember, this is a test of your service, not your participant.
  • Recording feedback. Bring a notetaker with you for intercept testing. While you focus on moderating, your colleague can help by capturing the feedback.
  • Paying attention to how participants feel. Monitor the visual and verbal cues of your participant. If you detect any uneasiness, address it and try to understand why. If it continues, ask if they want to stop the session.