Skip to content

Make Your Insights Pop with Usability Bingo

The best way to share insights is to engage your audience. Usability bingo is just what the doctor ordered.

Words by Nikki Anderson-Stanier, Visuals by Nikki Mazur

Let's face it: sometimes research reports and presentations are a snooze fest. I spent hours perfecting a report and then would finally present it. As I improved my insights, my audience was more engaged, but the whole process was repetitive.

I knew I had to do something different to mix it up. So on to Google I went. Eventually, I stumbled across Stitch Fix's usability movie nights. In one section, they mentioned usability bingo and I knew that was what I had to try next. It sounded like so much fun and much more exciting than the typical report and presentation combination.

And let me tell you, it was a hit. My colleagues loved how interactive and interesting it was. They paid more attention to that usability study than I'd ever seen. After that, usability bingo became a regular part of my sharing process. So let's dive into exactly how it works so you can bring this fun activity to your team.

First, what is usability bingo?

Let's begin with the concept of Bingo (one that I suddenly realize I haven't ever had to explain). You have a 5x5 board with numbers randomly allocated to each slot. There is usually a free/bonus space in the middle of the board. With this board in hand, someone calls out numbers. With all your might, you hope you get five numbers in a row—this can be horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

It's not the most exciting game in the world, but hey, it keeps people occupied.

So, what does this have to do with usability? Essentially, what we are doing with usability bingo is replacing those numbers with:

  • Notable phrases/quotes from your usability tests (ex: "I couldn't figure out how to apply the discount code")
  • Pain points or struggles the user encounters (ex: User can't fill out the form)
  • Needs or goals the user mentions (ex: "I need to be able to search for multi-city destinations")
  • Bugs

Instead of the person shouting out a number, you put together a bunch of clips from your test that highlight these different sayings, pain points, needs, goals, or bugs. Then, as your team watches the clips, they cross out the spaces on their bingo board. The first one to get five in a row wins a prize.

Trust me, it's fun!

How to set up usability bingo

In theory, that all sounds great, right? But how do you set something like this up at your organization? I'm not going to lie, it takes a bit of work, especially the first time. But with practice it gets easier and more efficient. Here are the steps I go through when creating usability bingo.

✔ Determine if it's the right test

As apparent in the name, Bingo is easiest to set up after a usability test because identifying usability issues and bugs are more manageable than pulling long generative research quotes and themes. I've tried Bingo with generative research, and it got messy.

Here is how I determine if it's the correct study for usability bingo:

  • The usability test is not too complex or lengthy, and the tasks/identified issues are relatively straightforward.
  • There aren't a million super severe findings. Usability bingo is a fun way to highlight problems, but a report might be better if there are urgent and severe issues.
  • There were enough unique usability issues or phrases to use (you need about 30-50).
  • Your team is interested in coming. You don't want to do all this work for only one or two people to show up.

✔ Identify the bingo spaces

As I mentioned, you need about 30-50 phrases, needs, goals, pain points, or issues to create a set of bingo boards. Technically, you could only use 25 (and I have in a pinch) because that is the number of spaces on each board, but the variety makes it a bit more exciting. Depending on the amount of time you have, pick however many works for you.

Whenever I set up usability bingo in the past, I identified the potential spaces as I synthesized. What did this look like? If I was synthesizing on Google Sheets or an affinity diagram, I highlighted the possible Bingo space with a particular color, or used a colored sticky note (purple became my Bingo color). That way, I didn't have to identify potential spaces separate from synthesis.

An alternative way to do this is to identify video clips with a few different potential Bingo spaces. This approach can make the next step more efficient, because you already use video clips to choose the Bingo spaces—rather than having to go back and find the videos and stitch them together.

I identify suitable Bingo spaces by:

  • Surprising findings – What's something that I wasn't expecting to hear?
  • Critical information – What’s something I want the team to see and pay attention to?
  • Easy fixes – What’s something they could see and quickly fix?

I have done both ways, and they have their pros and cons. When I had less time, I went straight to the video clips because that meant pulling together and editing fewer videos. However, it’s also nice to be able to highlight potential spaces during synthesis. I recommend trying both and seeing which works best for you.

✔ Pull together the evidence

Once you identify the spaces, you need to create video clips that show the spaces on the board. This string of videos is the equivalent of the person calling the Bingo numbers.

So, you go through your usability test recordings and pull the clips that match up with your chosen spaces. Again, if you go the route where you have already identified the clips, then you simply have to put them together into a longer movie format.

Overall, the entire set of clips should be no more than ten minutes. Ideally, each clip should be about two minutes, so colleagues don't lose focus.

This part of the process takes the most work, and it's the one you can't speed through. But at the end of this, not only will you be a video editing whiz—you’ll also have a very appreciative team.

✔ Create your bingo boards

Once you have your Bingo spaces listed and the video, it's time to create your Bingo board.

There are two ways to do this, depending on how much time you have and how many participants you expect:

  1. Manually – I manually create Bingo boards when I don't have many participants coming (usually under 10). Creating them manually means you control all the graphics and how they look.
  2. Bingo board generator – If you are short on time or have a bunch of people participating, you can use a Bingo board generator. Some have pretty ugly designs, so it’s best to look around on Google to find one that works for you.

Bingo boards also work remotely. Just put them on a Miro board and assign everyone to their boards.

✔ Consider snacks and prizes

One of the ways I've wooed people to research presentations or workshops is through food or a good old challenge with a prize at the end. I used to award a quarterly notetaker medal and the person who came to the most synthesis sessions. It might sound like coercion, but it works!

I typically tried to book it for usability Bingo on a Thursday or Friday afternoon. I would bring beer, wine, and any other non-alcoholic beverages. I typically ordered pizza or burgers. If I didn't have enough time for a full-blown meal, I would have chips and dips, popcorn, candy, and other snacks.

I awarded prizes for first, second, and third place. Some prizes I've used are:

  • Coffeeshop voucher
  • Voucher (for two!) to a nice dinner place around the office
  • Spotify voucher
  • Etsy voucher
  • Candles
  • Mugs
  • Small plants
  • Fun office stuff (ex: pens with funny phrases)

I try to look at the list of colleagues joining and pull a few prizes I think they might all like.

✔ Present your work

Once your video clip and bingo boards are ready, it's time to present your work! First, if there’s anyone new to usability bingo (or when it was my first time), I explain the concept and show an example.

After I've explained everything, I let the video clips run, and colleagues cross off their boards. Typically, someone yells “Bingo” part way through (and others groan in annoyance). I pause to acknowledge their win and continue to play through the rest. Sometimes there is a second and even a third place.

If, by some chance, no one achieves Bingo, you award the person closest—either someone who is one away or has the most spaces crossed off on their board.

✔ Ask for feedback

Doing something different and new can be overwhelming. You might be uncertain how people will take it and how they'll react. The best thing you can do is ask for feedback. You can do this the day of and collect it anonymously or send a feedback survey after the session.

For example, after usability Bingo with new teams, I've asked questions such as:

  • How effective or ineffective was that approach in sharing research?
  • How much did you learn about the insights?
  • Were some clips too long? If so, which?
  • Were some clips too short? If so, which?
  • What's one thing you would change for next time?
  • What would you improve about usability bingo?

The feedback will help you fine-tune how you run these sessions and get your team even more engaged.

Overall, I believe we should fill part of user research with creativity and fun. Usability Bingo is a great way to bring some of that excitement into your practice and your teams.

Nikki Anderson-Stanier is the founder of User Research Academy and a qualitative researcher with 9 years in the field. She loves solving human problems and petting all the dogs. 

To get even more UXR nuggets, check out her user research membershipfollow her on LinkedIn, or subscribe to her Substack.

Subscribe To People Nerds

A weekly roundup of interviews, pro tips and original research designed for people who are interested in people

The Latest