Our UserTesting participants often write in to express concern over their Recent Average Ratings. The following message is representative of the e-mails that participants frequently write to us:
Hope you guys are all doing well there in Support! My UserTesting.com username is BenjiRu. I’m writing because I have question about my ratings. I’m at 3.5 stars. I thought I was doing okay, but now I’m wondering how can I boost up my rating??
This sort of inquiry is very common here in Support. After all, it’s no wonder why BenjiRu is concerned about his Recent Average Rating: a test participant's star rating is what determines the amount of tests that are distributed to her or his Available Tests column. The higher your Recent Average Rating, the higher your likelihood of snatching up more testing opportunities.
If only there were a formula for the five-star performance! Alas, we have not found one. In lieu of such a perfect recipe, we can offer two things: (1) general advice that works well in nearly all situations, and (2) specific inside tips that some of our five-star test participants have shared with us.
We start with Lisbeth.
Lisbeth works as a Business Analyst and Consultant in Illinois. She also freelances as an editor and writer for various publications (both online and in print).
1. How long have you been testing with us, and what brought you to us?
Lisbeth: [Off and on for] over four years. A colleague was looking into different testing platforms for a site we were working on and came across User Testing. Intrigued, I decided to sign up as a test participant to get a better feel from the other side, and liked it so much I stayed. :)
2. What do you like best about being a test participant with UserTesting?
Lisbeth: It benefits everyone. I’ve been on both sides of development, and when you’re in the thick of creating a site it’s easy to lose perspective. Things that seem blatantly obvious to the user are invisible to the project team simply because you’re too close to really gauge usability. From a user perspective, it’s a way to make a little extra money that also ultimately helps people to build better sites.
3. How important to you is your Recent Average Rating?
Lisbeth: It’s the variable by which I define my own excellence, and the marker which assures me whether I’m on track or need to step up my game. What I especially like is that it’s now based on the last 12 tests—something that keeps all test participants striving towards perfection.
4. Do you accept any and all tests for which you qualify, or are you choosy when it comes to selecting tests to take?
Lisbeth: I’m moderately choosy. If I don’t feel I am well-equipped for whatever reason, I’ll pass. I’ve also quit tests which have over 20 questions--I personally feel this requires too much rushing through the test, which would deliver a less than optimal performance.
5. What’s the first thing you do when you launch the screen recorder to start recording?
Lisbeth: Introduce myself and read the scenario [by clicking "Previous" on the task bar] to ensure I’m on the same page as the client. I then read the task--and each task--out loud.
6. How do you work through the test tasks?
Lisbeth: I read through the task in its entirety, and keep each question in mind as I'm performing the test. If a question is ambiguous, I'll explain that and why, and then answer it to the best of my ability. If there are multiple questions in a task, I'll review the questions aloud to ensure I've answered them all before I move to the next task, explaining what I'm doing as I go.
I do tend to double-check everything as it's easy to miss something that may be integral to the customer's insight.
7. How do you handle tasks that don’t make sense to you? What strategies do you employ when you’re not sure what the customer is getting at?
Lisbeth: I'll explain first why the question is confusing or ambiguous - this is just to ensure that the customer knows what the communication gap is, so that they can amend it potentially for future tests - and answer it to the best of my ability.
If a question really doesn't make sense, I'll either pause the test and write support for clarification, or abandon it and report it under "other problems" so that User Testing support is at least aware of the problem, again in hopes of notifying the customer for future tests.
8. Sometimes it’s easy to get quiet during a test. How do you remind yourself to keep speaking up? What are some good habits for remembering to always express your thoughts?
Lisbeth: Fortunately, I'm fairly verbose in real life, and love to explain things so thinking "out loud" is a natural inclination. I use that methodology in the same way - showing exactly what I'm doing, demonstrating what I'm looking for and why, and then mapping the intuitive process - where I feel like I "should" go, or why something doesn't work.
I never worry about appearing stupid or that I "should" know how to do something, and approach each test as I would in real life. I'm also not afraid to admit when something confuses me or appears counterintuitive - many times, programmers work with a different mindset than the customer, so subjective perspective can be invaluable in the testing process.
10. Have you noticed any changes to a website you’ve tested based on your feedback?
Lisbeth. Tons! This is the most rewarding aspect of being a participant - many customers write me to let me know that what I found produced results and how they changed their website because of it.
11. Lastly, please feel free to tell us anything else that you think is pertinent to your success as a UserTesting participant with us!
Lisbeth: Approaching each test as if it were the first, and genuinely wanting to help someone make things better are pivotal to excellence in testing.
Lisbeth shares some great advice in her answers to the questions above. Here are the Lisbeth’s main take-aways--the most important A-B-C’s that every participant should keep in mind before a test.
A. Do not necessarily accept every test. If you do not feel that you fall within the intended scope of the test, it is better for your star-rating to walk away and only give feedback when you are certain that it will be most valuable for the customer.
B. Start each test by re-reading the scenario to ensure you and the customer are on the same page.
C. Show, not tell! Demonstrate every aspect of what you are trying to express to the customer.
We think that these three points can benefit every participant, no matter their star-rating.