Sometimes you need to make changes before running a usability study, instead of waiting for the results. If you make the changes, you won’t have to watch all the participants struggle with the same obvious problems. This lets the study focus on deeper issues.
These problems may in the user interface or the underlying business rules. If it’s possible, work with engineering and product management to fix the problems beforehand.
For example, a few years ago, we tested an online document database. The initial search UI opened too many windows, and we expected to hear about that from all of the study participants. The development team created a parallel version of the product that fixed this problem.
This change, along with some others, allowed participants to focus on searching for information instead of on how the system worked. It was a successful strategy: A participant who had used the system before the study explicitly said that he liked the single-window model better. We were able to find a lot of other problems instead of hearing everyone talk about all the windows.
Question What have you done to make usability studies run more smoothly?