Vendor Selection Guidelines for Usability Testing Projects

Use this page to review guidelines for writing an RFP and selecting a vendor for a usability testing project.

Writing A Request For Proposal (RFP)

For hiring a vendor for usability testing, you need to create an RFP document. Below are some guidelines on what to include in a usability testing project RFP under the "scope of work" section: About the program Insert description about your program or organizational unit and its website here. State the reason why you plan to do a usability study and the main objectives related to the usability testing project. IEEE [project team name] intends to conduct a usability test for its website at its [insert office location name] location and needs contractor support for facilitating, recruiting, scheduling, and compensating participants to take part in these studies. The participants will be representative of potential users of IEEE [site name] website, will be drawn from the web-using public, and will be recruited according to other reasonable demographic screening criteria to be specified by the IEEE project team. Research plan and script

  • Vendor should provide a research plan covering objectives, methodology, process, and timeline, including a detailed test script. IEEE team should have the opportunity to review and suggest revisions to the session plan.
  • Project schedule should build in time for findings to be considered and for critical issues to be addressed prior to launch.
  • At a minimum, usability testing of the following elements should be included:
    • Key site functionality
    • Home page design, clarity, and organization
    • Overall orientation to site and perceived context within IEEE web presence
    • Core user tasks according to goals of the site

User recruitment (if applicable)

  • Vendor should recruit a mix of IEEE and [insert site name] practitioners and prospects determined in collaboration with the [insert project team name] team. The mix of participants should include international participants via remote testing (as applicable to the site audience type). Testing should be performed with a minimum of six actual site users, in-person or via remote methods, and should be conducted when the first site prototype is available.
  • IEEE employee or volunteer test participants may be recruited in addition to the six external participants but will not count toward the testing requirement.
  • With regard to the vendor’s recruiting and scheduling of participants, the following usually apply:
    • No-show participants: There will be no charge for any participant who fails to show up for a scheduled session.
    • Change of date: If the date of the study is changed after participants have been recruited, the contractor will attempt to reschedule or replace participants. In this case, the contractor will be paid an additional recruitment fee to replace each participant who is unable to reschedule for the new date. In addition, a labor fee [if appropriate] per participant will be charged to cover the recruiter's labor in rescheduling participants.
    • Cancellation of study: If the study is canceled after participants have been recruited, the contractor will be reimbursed the full recruitment fee plus a flat fee of $100 to cover the recruiter's labor in canceling participants.
    • Cancellation of scheduled participants: If the decision is made not to utilize selected scheduled participants within less than 24 hours of the time that they had been scheduled to participate, the contractor will be paid the full recruitment fee plus the full incentive amount to the affected participants.
    • Payment to participants: The contractor will also supply incentives for the usability testing participants at the pre-determined rate in the form suitable to the geographic location of the participant.

Test facilitation

  • The vendor should plan to facilitate the test according to the agreed-upon script. Any necessary note taking will be handled by the vendor.
  • The IEEE [insert project team name here] team should have the opportunity to observe in-person or remotely for all the tests. The vendor should work with IEEE between sessions to answer questions and make adjustments, if needed.

Usability testing report

  • A short, actionable report of approximately five to ten pages detailing how the site meets user experience goals set by the IEEE [insert project team name here] team should be delivered shortly after the tests are completed in order to facilitate development.
  • The report should clearly present the findings and recommendations and provide annotated screenshots and participant quotes where needed.

IEEE Trusted Vendors

If you are interested in sending a usability testing project RFP to trusted IEEE vendors, the Digital and Creative Innovations team can recommend several vendors who specialize in this area of work and have past experience with IEEE. In many cases, it may not be necessary to hire a vendor if usability testing can be completed in-house or through the use of web-based software tools. The Digital and Creative Innovations team can advise on this aspect.

Reviewing Bids And Selecting A Vendor

RFP responses once received should be evaluated based on the approach, deliverables, and timeline to compare how each vendor recommends conducting the project. The proposed approach may change after a vendor is selected and more details are available to the vendor. Some of the things to look out for in an RFP response include: Proposed outline of how the project will be conducted In this, the vendor should be able to provide:

  • The approach and methodology of testing to be used for the given project
  • Outline of issues that will be captured and analyzed by the method they propose
  • The method of participant recruitment and recruitment criteria (and rationale)
  • An outline of how they intend to make the usability testing data actionable for the team via reporting methods and debriefing sessions
  • A written outline of deliverables of the project including session plan outline, reporting methodology, pilot test timing, recruitment, stakeholder presentation, and reporting timeline

Sample of deliverable Most vendors provide (or can be asked to provide) a sample of proposed deliverables for the project. This will help the project team understand what the end deliverable can look like and what should be expected. Rationale for using certain methods Usability vendors should be able to clearly explain their rationale for proposing any/certain approaches and methods for usability testing and analysis of results in their proposal for your project. Usability company history Evaluate the vendor's business to ensure the business is reputable and in good economic condition. This can be determined from knowing how long the usability company has been providing services and knowing their experience with other associations and technical organizations. If the vendor practice is public, their financial standing declaration can also provide a good insight about their economic condition, which can help ascertain if the company is in good economic condition. Budget and schedule bidding The proposed bid/quote for services from the vendor should fall within the budget for the project. The proposed timeline for the project may also be a factor in vendor selection if the project team has schedule constraints. References from past clients for similar projects Each vendor should be able to provide at least two or three references outside of the current organization that you work for. The project team should create a list of questions to ask each of the references. Below are some examples of questions to ask during a reference check:

  • Can you confirm the time frame and scope of the work [vendor name] performed for your organization?
  • Did you encounter any challenges or obstacles in working with [vendor name] during your project?
  • Did [vendor name] deliver your project on time, within budget, and compliant with the agreed-upon statement of work?
  • Based on your experiences, would you work with [vendor name] again?

Past experience with IEEE (if applicable) If the vendor has worked with IEEE in the past, the Digital and Creative Innovations team or another team at IEEE may be able to help provide a reference for work that a vendor has done with them. You can contact the team via their online form. Opportunity to meet for introduction Meeting with the vendor before making a decision provides a good opportunity to get to know the vendor and their planned approach for your project. It can also be used as a method to decide between two contending bids and see which vendor can provide better services for your project. Most vendors usually offer introductory meeting invitation (on non-billable time) along with their proposal that should be leveraged.