Scavenger hunt


screenshot of a navigation bar, with many tabs and a detailed flyout menuA scavenger hunt involves people looking for a set of objects or information within a defined amount of time. When used for systems like websites, user guides, map interfaces you can learn how easy or hard it is to find things.

A scavenger hunt really is just one form of usability testing. But it should be quick, informal and fun. It is a great, quick game to highlight usability problems to subject matter experts, management and the design team.


Tips for running a scavenger hunt:

  • Provide a set of items or answers for people to find. Allow them to choose which ones to hunt for.
  • Put the pressure on with a time limit and offer a prize for the most accurate answers (awarding for accuracy rather than just number completed means people have to actually think about whether they have the right answer).
  • Increase energy by having a number of hunters all in the room at once.
  • Do this with the design, management or subject matter team as a way to quickly show the usability of a system. If they can’t find answers under time pressure, external users aren’t going to!

How to


You’ll need a system to work with. This may be an existing system (to show its current usability) or a prototype of a new system.

You’ll also need a list of things to hunt for. They should be able to be answered with a simple answer, not needing a lot of interpretation. After all, the point of a scavenger hunt is to find objects. For example ask “How much money should you provide in Divide the dollar” not “What games are good to run with stakeholders”.

Provide a longer list than you may need for the allocated time. This allows people to choose what to look for, and also puts some pressure on them – pressure mimics a real-life situation where people may need to find an answer quickly.

You may need to ask people not to use the search facility. Otherwise they will grab some keywords from the list of items and search. This may not mirror normal behaviour.


Provide participants with some background about what they will be doing, and what system they will be doing. Make sure you clearly explain the reward system and what counts as a ‘correct’ answer. Also tell them about time limits and how you will let them know how time is progressing.

Provide the list of items to look for and the start page of the system they will be using.

Let them go!

At the end of time, go through the answers and score correct answers. Discuss any that were particularly easy or hard, and ask about any they chose not to answer.


You should be able to learn quite a lot from this activity. Look for:

  • What objects were fastest and slowest to find
  • What objects were answered correctly and incorrectly
  • Which things did people not attempt, and why

For the items that were slower or incorrect, analyse why. The labelling might have been poor, the content hard to understand or the participant may not have known enough to complete the task.

2 Responses to “Scavenger hunt”

  1. M.K. Says:

    Hi, this is a great suggestion. I’m a bit confused though on what you have the participants working on. Are they looking at individual paper prototypes, individual systems, one group view and taking turns?

  2. Donna Spencer Says:

    Hi M.K.

    You could do any of those things – as with most games here, there is no one way to do it. You could get them to work with a paper prototype or existing system. And you could have everyone working at once (to see who is fastest) or take turns. If you have everyone working at once, you’ll need a few moderators, as there is no way you can watch everyone at once…