Civic Design

Monday, May 28, 2007

Developing the LEO (local elections officials) usability testing kit

A little more than year ago, Whitney Quesenbery had a crazy idea: What if someone taught local elections officials to do their own usability testing of ballots?


The MSU-UPA working group

Whitney called together a few people who thought it was an interesting idea. In April 2006, the “LEO kit” was born. LEO stands for Local Elections Official.


We worked together over a couple of days at Michigan State University’s Usability and Accessibility Center to scope out a usability testing “kit” to be used by people who have no specific training on usability or human factors engineering.

Then we went off to work on things separately and remotely, trading drafts and review comments through a wiki.


Designing a test protocol for people who aren’t usability professionals

We had a lot of questions:

  • What do LEOs need to know to be able to conduct an effective usability test?
  • How can we help LEOs understand the immediate and rippling benefits of usability testing their ballots?
  • How can we give LEOs a great tool without adding significantly to their workloads?
  • When in the elections cycle should ballots be tested?
  • How many participants should LEOs include in each test?
  • What constraints do LEOs have?

The pieces of the kit

We eventually agreed on three pieces for the kit:

  • generic test plan that acts like a “how to” for planning usability tests of ballots
  • template session script, which provides direction for moderating individual usability testing sessions, complete with what to say, when
  • final report template to use to report results internally to elections departments or to the public.


We hope you’ll try them and send us feedback on how they worked for you. We will incorporate comments and post revisions regularly. If you want to be notified about updates to the LEO kit, let us know.

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