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Choose your own adventure to learn usability testing basics

By Jessica Ivins

Choose your own adventure to learn usability testing basics

At Center Centre, our students get to choose their own learning adventures. We don’t require students to learn from one specific resource like a book or an online tutorial. Instead, they choose resources and experiences that meet their learning styles and learning needs.

As we’ve developed the User Research Practices course, we’ve found a lot of resources to help our students learn the basics of usability testing. Below are some of our favorites. If you’d like to learn more about usability testing, use these resources to develop your own learning adventure.


  • Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy is a fast and easy read. It demystifies usability testing. It explains how to run usability tests at your organization, even if you have a small budget or are short on time. After you read this book, you’ll know how to get started with usability testing.

  • For a deeper dive into usability testing, read the Handbook of Usability Testing by Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell. This book walks you through each step of the usability testing process, from planning a test to analyzing the results, then sharing the results with your team. Because this book dives deeply into the process of usability testing, I suggest reading a few of the articles below, watching one of the videos below, or reading Rocket Surgery Made Easy before you read this book.

  • Just Enough Research by Erika Hall explains why we need to conduct user research (usability testing is a form of user research). Read Erika’s book if you want an introduction to user research that explores usability testing, user interviews, field visits, and surveys.


  • Erika Hall’s Just Enough Research video presentation explains why we conduct user research. Her presentation covers many of the concepts in her book, listed above. Use this video as an alternative to reading the book.

  • Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy video demo supplements Steve’s book by the same name, listed above. In the video, he walks you through a real usability test. He even suggests what to take notes on before the video begins. At the end of the video, he prompts you to evaluate the findings in your notes.

  • The All You Can Learn (AYCL) seminar, Effectively Moderating Usability Tests, explains things like how to interact with participants, how to make participants feel comfortable, and how to get accurate data from participants. To watch this seminar, you’ll need a monthly subscription to the AYCL library, or you can purchase this specific seminar.


  • Usability Testing Demystified” by Dana Chisnell walks you through the process of conducting a usability study. Dana also explains how to involve your team in the usability study. If you’re brand new to usability testing, start with this article.

  • Talking with Participants During a Usability Test“ by Nielsen Norman Group shows you how to ask effective questions and elicit important findings from participants in a usability test.

  • Six Steps to Ensure a Successful Usability Test” by Ginny Redish provides six essential guidelines for running an effective usability test, such as selecting user tasks that uncover the biggest problems.

  • Testing Content” by Angela Colter explains how to usability test your content. It’s usually not enough to make sure that our users can find the content they need. Usability tests also need tell us if users understand the content in our designs.

Apply to be a student

Do you want to learn how to conduct usability tests or how to use other methods of user research? Become a student. View our full program or apply today.

Learning how to lead as a junior UX designer

By Jessica Ivins

Learning how to lead as a junior UX designer

When you hear the words “leader” and “leadership,” what do you think of?

You might think of personality traits like extroversion or charisma. You might think of colleagues who are assertive or proactive. Or you might think of activities like leadership retreats or team-building exercises like the dreaded trust fall.

You may also think of a leader as a person in a position of power and influence—people like Sheryl Sandberg, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. People often refer to an organization’s CEO, CTO, and CFO as “the leadership,” so maybe you think of the senior managers in your organization.

The terms “leader” and “leadership” are muddy. These terms hold different meanings for different people.

Two of our courses, Leadership and Facilitated Leadership, focus on leadership skills. When students graduate from Center Centre, they’ll be industry-ready, junior UX designers who understand what it means to effectively lead.

As we build our curriculum, we ask ourselves questions like,

  • What will our students need to learn to be effective leaders?
  • After graduation, how will they exhibit leadership on a design team when their title is junior designer?

To answer these questions, we have to get to the core of leadership. Dr. Jim Tucker, an expert in learning and leadership, provided us with this definition of leadership:

Leadership is a relationship in which one or more individuals influences one or more other individuals to change.

This is Center Centre’s definition of leadership. Notice that we define leadership as a relationship, not as a position.

We believe that anyone can lead, regardless of their title. A title like Director or Manager doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to influence others to change. It just means that you have a title and a position higher up in the org chart.

Center Centre students will know how to influence others. Graduates will know when it’s appropriate to step up and steer the design team toward shared goals, even when they’re surrounded by senior people. They will also know how to step up.

One way to steer a team is by applying the concept of micro leadership. In an interview with Leah Buley, our co-founder, Jared Spool, describes micro leadership:

[Micro leadership is] this idea that you’re not the CEO of the company or the head of the organization, but in fact, at that moment in that meeting, you’re the one who leans forward and says, “Hey guys, I have a way we can work through this.”

Then you bring out the Post-its and you bring out the technique and you say, “Let’s write some ideas down and put them on the wall, and then we’re going to organize them in this interesting way and see what happens.” For that brief moment, you’ve become the leader of the group.

That skill, being able to know when to do that, how to do that, how to be effective at it, and then how to sit back and say, “OK, group, someone else has to take over at this point, because I’ve done my little piece,” is a core UX skill that we hardly ever talk about.

By applying concepts like micro leadership in a team setting, our students will learn how to influence others to change when change is needed. They’ll know when to step up, and when to step back down so the team can continue to move forward.

Learn to lead: Become a Center Centre student

Would you like to learn and practice leadership skills at Center Centre? View our full program or apply today.