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First Fridays Usability Testing Program

First Fridays Usability Testing Program (a.k.a. GSA First Fridays) is a usability education, demonstration and awareness program that focuses exclusively on federal digital services (websites, mobile sites, etc.). The program educates government web teams and program managers about usability via collaborative testing experiences and training opportunities. Its ultimate goal is that agencies will either begin their own usability testing programs, or hire professionals who can help them.


First Fridays provides no cost hands-on user experience workshops and training for federal employees, provided through partnership with DigitalGov University. For example, you can join the First Fridays team for a hands-on seminar where you’ll get practical instructions on how to facilitate your own usability tests. You’ll facilitate a 15-minute test and get feedback for your agency website in this three-hour workshop.

You'll learn how to:

  • General usability principles
  • Basics of conducting a do-it-yourself test
  • How to Collect feedback from test results
  • Test results feedback - how to go from testing to making changes

Visit DigitalGov University’s training page to learn when the next workshop is offered.

Demonstration Services

Sometimes, the best way to learn about something is to see it firsthand. First Fridays provides various services that demonstrate the practice of usability – and many of them are open to observers.

  • Formal Tests - Day-long tests of a live or staged website, which include recruiting three test participants, creating tasks for them to accomplish. Observers will be in another room monitoring the test and taking notes. Open to observers.
  • Hallway Tests - Also known as "Quick Tests," these involve creating paper prototypes or printouts of a web page or pages, and getting feedback from a large group of people in a public space, usually at random. Open to observers.
  • Mobile Tests - Mobile device testing focuses on testing of mobile-optimized sites on smartphones, and mobile applications from iTunes or Android. User behavior is recorded via a camera focusing on the device and the hands of the user. Open to observers.
  • Remote Observation - Want to see a usability test in action but can't make it to to the GSA office? Don't worry—every test can accommodate a few people who can observe the test online through GoToMeeting or Webex.
  • Expert Evaluation - Another way to improve usability is through an Expert Evaluation, also known as a Heuristic Evaluation. These involve evaluating a site in many important usability categories, including: navigation, identity, accessibility, content and design. GSA staff will evaluate your site based on these criteria and deliver an Expert Evaluation Report (PDF, 93 KB).

How Usability Demonstration Tests Work and How You Can Join In

First Fridays is based on "discount" usability testing supported by industry leaders, including Steve Krug in his book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy. During a four-hour session, the First Fridays team:

View the before and after gallery to see examples

  • Starts by asking three recruited participants to perform 35 minutes of tasks on the test website. Site stakeholders observe the participants doing the tasks from another room.
  • After the test, the observers debrief over lunch and identify the three most serious problems and quick-fix solutions to be completed within 30 days.

Then, the First Fridays team sends site stakeholders a short report and test recordings, and follows up with them 2-3 weeks after the test.

There are First Fridays tests every month, so there are lots of opportunities for you to check out one of the tests and see all that you can learn. To offer your site, or to volunteer as a test participant or observer, contact First Fridays.


The First Fridays Usability Program is available for presentations at federal agencies about usability testing and other subjects related to user experience. To find out more, contact First Fridays.