I’m always looking for a way to work smarter so I recently started using mind mapping as a note taking technique during user testing. I’ve found it superior to taking notes in a linear, chronological fashion because it allows use to organize your notes both topically and visually on the fly.
Mind mapping is a visual way of taking notes, capturing ideas, or arranging thoughts around a central idea. It has been around for several decades since it was popularized by Tony Buzan in his 1993 book The Mind Map Book, and has many uses beyond note taking.
Below is an example I created of a mind map for taking notes of observations from a user testing session. It was created with FreeMind 0.9.0, a free mind mapping tool for Mac and Windows. In addition to allowing you to visually organize notes, you can flag notes with icons with one click to mark task failures, successes, user comments, and other observations you want to quickly find later. This is a big time saver when you have notes from many sessions to digest.
Since trying this technique I have not gone back to note taking in a Word document or text file. Give it a try, you’ll be glad you did.