It is never too early to start testing your activity. Even if you have a paper prototype still on post-it notes you can have someone read through them to see if the activity flows well and any information is still comprehensible.
If you can, test multiple times before you make the activity available to the public. This will help make clear common issues with the activity and also get feedback from any changes you make between testing.
Take photos of your installed signs and post them on social media, even if they are temporary. Surprisingly, these types of posts generate a lot of engagement.
Think about what goal you want to reach for the test. Does the activity function correctly? Is the player understanding the content of the activity? Does the content of the activity change minds in the way you were hoping for?
Having clear questions in mind before starting a test will help focus your observations of the player and reviewing their feedback.
If your activity requires visiting multiple locations, you do not have to follow the player around for the duration of the test. However, ask them to identify anything that might look broken. Have them take screenshots they can send you for documentation of errors so you can fix them later.
The first priority for testing is making sure the activity functions, otherwise you might not be able to test the content of the activity itself.
When observing a playtest, you must resist the urgeto explain anything or give hints to the player. You want them to use the activity in as close to a real world situation as possible and you will not be able to explain the activity to everyone that chooses to play it at any time of the day. You want the player to be able to get on board with the activity naturally, without outside help.
Related, let the test player know you will not be able to answer any questions until after the debrief. If they do ask questions, make note of what they asked and politely remind them you are not allowed to help.
Take notes about what seems awkward, enjoyable, or difficult to the player.
Pro move: For the 15 minute time outs in Hive Mechanic, instead of simply thanking the player, link them to a feedback form for those who do not have time to chat.
Pro move: For those who do not have time to playtest, hand them a business card sized print out of your QR code so they can play later.
Debriefing the Playtest
It is important to ask non-leading questions about the player’s experience. For example, you might ask “How did you manage to solve our puzzle about the old barn ghost?” rather than “What did you think of the old farm hand’s journal during the barn ghost puzzle?”
Begin by asking the player more general questions about their experience such as “What was your favorite moment?”. Based on their answers you can then lead into more specific questions and get them to tell you what works best in the activity and what you can do more of.
The above format should also be done for what the player thought was the most frustrating or boring part of the activity. These answers can help you target parts of the activity that need re-working or potentially cut out entirely.
Ask comparison questions: “How is this activity different than a historical marker?”
Tips from Libraries Who Have Playtested
Wear clothing that will distinguish you as part of the library, more people will be willing to give the test a chance.
Ask people walking by a question they will get a little bit wrong. This creates a “need to know” and they are more likely to try the activity.
If the QR code does not work for some people, have them text anything directly to your activity’s phone number.
Test with a partner. It will make the experience less awkward, you can discuss insights between players, and different people may have different methods of engagement with participants.
If people do not have a smart phone on them, you may offer a tablet, your own phone, or give them a print out to try later. iPhones can be locked to a specific application under the accessibility settings.
Have a business card, QR code to a google form, or email sign up do those interested in the project can learn about future activities or playtests and provide additional feedback.
Be ready for visitors who are interested in being co-creators and join the larger Beyond Our Walls program.
The password must have a minimum of 8 characters of numbers and letters, contain at least 1 capital letter, and should not exceed 20 characters