The beauty of small data – Usability test dinner in Darmstadt

Fritz Ehlers

“Don’t make me think.”  This unmistakable request comes from Steve Krug, who wrote a very smart book with this title about web usability. I generally think it’s an honorable idea to make things as simple as possible for people. Today it’s your turn - if you are dealing with web usability in one way or another. If not, a soft spot for pizza or just pure curiosity may be enough. So what exactly are we talking about?

A few very active people around Phillip Hormel from an agency in Darmstadt for online communication have started an exciting event series in 2014, which is called  Usability Testessen 


The driving force behind it: You actually need only 5 testers to get a pretty good first impression of the areas that come off short in regards to usability in a project. This was shown in a study by Studie von Jakob Nielsen und Tom Landauer .


A Usability Test Dinner works as follows: One of the parties, that would like to get something tested, provides the premises, WiFi, pizza (vegetarian as well, please), beer and (for ascetics and drivers) water. The whole thing should be enough for 30 to 40 people. Particularly because in between and at the end, during the exchange of experiences and networking, a relaxing drink in one’s hand is always an advantage. Back to the testing process: Up to 14 test stations are set up, ideally equipped with two drinks each. One to two test stations are reserved for the host, the rest goes to other businesses.

The testing subjects are sitting at the test stations. In teams of two they visit up to six businesses within six rounds. Here, each test round is limited to twelve minutes. During the test conversation the  Thinking-Aloud-Methode is used. Up until now websites, apps, Facebook ads, TV apps, e-book readers, icons, interfaces, business ideas, prototypes and texts have been tested this way. Including an introductory speech, a break and a final feedback round, the event takes three hours - from 7 to 10 p.m.


The total costs are between 300 and 400 Euros. The whole thing is planned and organized by employees of the initiative Usability Test Dinner, who are also hosting the evening in a sovereign and relaxed way. In the Frankfurt area there have already been seven events of this kind - thanks to a quickly growing group of highly motivated testers and the cooperation with well-known, established and upcoming companies such as DER German travel agency, Deutsche Bahn, flinc or IHK Darmstadt, to name only a few.


Usability dinners are offered in seven cities at this time: Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Wiesbaden/Mainz, Erfurt, Aachen and Munich. Always according to the motto: If there’s a problem, I turn it into a party. A solution, that in this case is both simple and efficient. So nothing you would have to think about for long. Something Steve Krug would certainly approve of. 


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Fritz Ehlers

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Fritz Ehlers has headed the Art & Copy department at Cocomore since August 2011. He has been in leading positions, e.g. at major network agencies like Publicis & McCann. For him being a creative mind, means focusing on people, culture and technology rather than having an eye on the works of the plenty advertising colleagues out there. Describing Fritz in four words: curious,  assiduously optimistic, beardy.