1 min read

Don't invite opinions

Don't invite opinions

When usability testing, try avoiding opinion mode at all costs.


  • "We want you to review the prototype and give us your feedback"
  • "Today we are asking you to serve as an evaluator of the Web site"
  • "We would like your input"


  • "I want to learn how people use this product, so I will give you some activities and watch how you go about them."


It’s very easy for participants to slip from think-aloud to opinion mode. And opinion mode is no longer observational data. Instead of observing where users struggle, we would hear users speculating where they think they would struggle. And there is a huge difference between speculation and actual behavior. We can’t trust users’ speculations.

Opinion mode is the default way of being for most of us. We evaluate, we give our opinions and feedback all day every day. Think-aloud on the other hand is rather unusual. It's just natural that we tend to slip back to opinion mode automatically.

That's why we should be extra careful not to invite opinions.

I do this by carefully selecting the words I use. In my instructions, I only ask participants to carry out the tasks and think out loud. I am avoiding any mentions of "feedback", "input", "evaluation" and the likes that imply opinions.

Here are some more sentences with words that are best to avoid.


  • "We are interested in your first impressions"
  • "Tell us what you think is easy to understand, or that you like or dislike"
  • "Tell me if anything you think is particularly difficult or easy to understand."
  • "Tell us what you think"