First Fridays Usability Testing Program
First Fridays Usability Testing Program (a.k.a. GSA First Fridays) is a usability demonstration, education and awareness program that focuses exclusively on federal websites. We educate government web teams and program managers about usability via collaborative testing experiences and training opportunities. Our ultimate goal is that agencies will either begin their own usability testing programs, or hire professionals who can help them. We've helped more than 50 federal sites to date, including IRS, Census, USAJOBS, and the Department of Transportation. You can see the results of these tests on our Before and After Gallery.
First Fridays Usability Testing Program is a twice-monthly demonstration project aimed at teaching agency staff how to find and fix usability problems on government websites and applications. We test on the first Friday and third Wednesday of every month.
During a four-hour session, GSA asks three recruited participants to perform 35 minutes of tasks on the test website. Site stakeholders observe the participants doing the tasks from another room. After the test, the observers debrief over lunch and identify the three most serious problems and quick-fix solutions to be completed within 30 days. We send site stakeholders a short report and test recordings, and we follow up with them 2-3 weeks after the test. Agency employees may sign up for facilitator training.
First Fridays is based on "discount" usability testing supported by industry leaders, including Steve Krug in his latest book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy.
First Fridays provides the following kinds of usability testing services:
- Formal Tests—Day-long tests of a live or staged website, which include recruiting three test participants, creating tasks for them to accomplish. Observers will be in another room monitoring the test and taking notes.
- Hallway Tests—Also known as "Quick Tests," these involve creating paper prototypes or printouts of a web page or pages, and getting feedback from a large group of people in a public space, usually at random.
- Mobile Tests—Tests of mobile-optimized sites on smartphones, and mobile applications from iTunes or Android. User behavior is recorded via a camera focusing on the device and the hands of the user. Like all our tests, observers are welcome.
- Observe a Usability Test—The educational power of seeing a live test cannot be underestimated, especially if you don't have a close relationship with your customers. Come to our office and watch our tests to learn why usability is so important. You'll also have the opportunity to help improve the product we're evaluating. No special skills are needed.
- Remote Observation—Want to see a usability test in action but can't make it to our office? Don't worry—every test can accommodate a few people who can observe the test online through GoToMeeting or Webex.
- Expert Evaluation—Another way to improve usability is through an Expert Evaluation, also known as a Heuristic Evaluation. These involve evaluating a site in many important usability categories, including: navigation, identity, accessibility, content and design. Our staff will evaluate your site based on these criteria and deliver an Expert Evaluation Report (PDF, 93 KB, 3 pages, December 2012).
How to test a mobile device
- Transcript: How to test a mobile device (MS Word, 12 KB, 1 page, August 2012)
We test every month, so there are lots of opportunities for you to check out one of our tests and see all the things you can learn. To offer your site, or to volunteer as a test participant or observer, contact First Fridays.
After you’ve had an opportunity to observe a First Fridays Usability test, join us for a hands-on seminar where you’ll get practical instructions on how to facilitate your own usability tests. You’ll facilitate a 15-minute test and get feedback for your agency website in this three-hour workshop.
What You'll Learn
- General usability principles
- Basics of conducting a do-it-yourself test
- How to Collect feedback from test results
- Test results feedback - how to go from testing to making changes
Contact First Fridays to learn when the next workshop is offered.
Learn about other usability services offered through GSA
Hallway Testing Resources
- Usability Persona Template (MS Word, 204 KB, 1 page, February 2013)
- First Fridays Hallway Testing Evaluation Form (MS Word, 52.5 KB, 4 pages, April 2012)
- Hallway Testing—Lessons Learned (MS Word, 102 KB, 5 pages, April 2012)
- First Fridays Hallway Test Presentation (PPT, 18.5 MG, 29 pages, April 2012)
- Check out the First Fridays Usability Testing Checklist (PDF, 65.2 KB, 7 pages, June 2011)
- Read about Writing Great Test Scenarios (PDF, 101.21 KB, 2 pages, September 2011)
- Use our Letter of Intent Template (MS Word, 25 KB, 1 page, December 2011)
- Use Steve Krug's sample script (PDF, 233.5 KB, 6 pages, November 2009)
- First Fridays script, Spanish language (MS Word , 22 KB, 3 pages, August 2011)
- Instructions for observers (PDF, 113.7 KB, 2 pages, June 2011)
- Final Test Report Template (MS Word, 45 KB, 2 pages, October 2011)
- Mobile testing lessons learned (PDF, 30 KB, 1 page, November 2011)
Resources and Publicity
- Testimonials: What People are Saying about First Fridays
- Read about First Fridays in the Government Executive article, "GSA aims to make agency websites more user-friendly" (December 13, 2010)
- Watch Steve Krug's 25-minute Demo Usability Test
- Watch the webinar discussion of the First Friday Test of the Dept. of State’s Passport Pages
(Windows Media File, 49.4 MB, 1 hour)
- Read the First Friday’s Quick Solutions to Common Website Problems (PDF, 47 KB, 2 pages, June 2011)
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