Formative and Summative testing Cheat Sheet
The Common Industry Format (CIF) makes a distinction between “formative” and “summative” usability tests. Formative tests are carried out:
- During the development of a product;
- To mould or improve the product;
- Virtually anywhere (you don’t need a lab);
- With the test administrator and the participant co-present.
The outputs from a formative test may include:
- Participant comments in the form of a “thinking aloud” narrative (for example, attitudes, sources of confusion, reasons for actions);
- Photographs and highlights videos;
- Usability problems and suggested fixes.
In contrast, summative tests are carried out:
- At the end of a development stage;
- To measure or validate the usability of a product;
- To answer the question: “How usable is this product”;
- To compare against competitor products or usability metrics;
- To generate data to support marketing claims about usability;
- In a usability lab;
- With the participant working alone.
The outputs from a summative test may include:
- Statistical measures of usability (for example, success rate, average time to complete a task, number of assists);
- Reports or white papers.