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API Usability Testing

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1. Where should we find developers to participate in usability sessions for our APIs?

The best source for useful feedback of your API program is from developers who already use your APIs. It’s best if you have already been engaging with your developer community so that you have some names in mind to ask to participate. However, if you don’t know who your users are, one option is to put up a notice on your developer hub that solicits volunteers. Like this (GRAY - can we put an example or a screenshot?)

Alternatively, you can engage with the developer community in your area and ask for volunteers there. For instance, in DC, there is a vibrant API meetup that would be good to visit in search of participants. Or use Twitter, listserves or social networks.

Lastly, you can contact the API Usability team at GSA to ask for suggestions.

2. How can we do API usability testing with a remote participant?

Ideally, you’ll have your test participants (e.g. the developers) in the same room with your team. If you can’t make that happen, use any webinar software and have the developer review the site remotely while you watch. Feel free to record that webinar so you can review it later.

3. Do we need to pay them?

Try and rely on people’s goodwill and their interest in helping to improve the federal govennment. People like to help and offer their expertise. That should work 95% of the time.

4. How many developers should we get?

We use 3-5 developers per session and can get a ton of data from them.

5. What materials should we bring on test day?

Be sure to bring power strips for laptops, printed copies of the agenda, and pens.

6. What should we do if one of the agencies doesn’t show?

Just rightsize the event to work for n-1 agency participants.

7. What should we do if one of the experts doesn’t show?

One option is to use the extra time to directly engage with the agency participants on the other feedback they’ve gotten and review the agency checklist with them.

8. How much planning does this take?

Once you do a couple of these, they become easy to replicate. We recommend giving yourself 4 weeks to nail down a date and confirm attendance, but the actual prep work can be done in a short period of time.

9. What kind of followup is necessary?

Great question. We let our agency participants know right from the start that we hope to identify a few things they can easily change to make their API and its pages better. Then, we follow up with them 2-3 weeks afterward to see if they have made any changes. We always try to capture before and after screenshots for our records, as well.

A Collaboration of 18F and DigitalGov UX Program.