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LCU (Least Competent User) Usability Testing

When you conduct any sort of usability test you always want to concentrate on your user demographic.  Users from your demographic are the people that need to be able to understand and easily navigate your web site.  Web sites rise and fall upon the support of their user base. For of our usability studies we also include a group of people from outside the demographic. These outsiders are commonly known as Least Competent Users (LCUs).  In many instances they provide some of the most insightful feedback and suggestions.

Who Are Least Competent Users?
When people first hear the term LCU they usually jump to a false conclusion. Don’t confuse the least competent portion of the LCU acronym to be indicative of a user’s intellectually ability or personality.  The “Competency” refers to the user’s computer or the Internet skills.  Their computer skills are novice at best.  This makes them an ideal candidate to test almost any web site.  One of my favorite LCUs is a family member.

Why Are LCUs Good Usability Testers?
If the LCU understands the purpose of your web site and navigation you're testing, there is a high probability that regular users shouldn’t have a problem with the site.  LCUs don’t tend to get down in messaging or other features that would annoy a seasoned web surfer. Because of their rudimentary approach they don’t need to be within your testing demographic.  You’re looking for them to provide very basic feedback.

When To Utilize LCUs?
We find the best time to utilize Least Competent Users is after completing testing with usability participants from the site’s demographic.  By the time we’ve finished testing with users from the site’s demographic most of our trends have been identified. 

What To Test With LCUs
Concentrate on testing the most basic functions of the web site. 

  • Do they understand the point of the site? 
  • Can they use the navigation to get around the site?
  • If you try to get them lost on the site can they find their way home?

Take them through very simple routines.

Be Gentle With LCUs?
There are times when it is very easy to get frustrated with LCUs.  You always need to remember that Least Competent Users don’t use computers or the Internet on a regular basis.  Don’t give LCUs overly complex tasks.  Have them concentrate on a macro view of the web site.  Encourage them to give constant feedback.  You should reinforce that there are no right or wrong answers.  Tell them the more feedback they give the better. Most people open up to you with a deluge of comments.

If you are looking for great usability feedback, consider a Least Competent User.  You’ll be surprised what you can learn.

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