Usability Testing and Design Inspection Methods

Usability testing evaluates a site by collecting data from people as they use the product. A group of people are invited to attain a session where they are asked to perform various tasks while moderator makes notes about problem areas, other difficulties encountered. Various techniques are available for UIT (Usability testing). Lets have a look at each one of them & their significance.

1. Think aloud protocol: This method of UIT, involve participants thinking aloud as they are performing a set of specified tasks. Users are asked to say whatever they are looking at, thinking, doing, and feeling, as they go about their task. This enables observers to see first-hand the process of task completion. Observers at such a test are asked to objectively take notes of everything that users say, without attempting to interpret their actions and words. Test sessions are often audio and video taped so that moderator can go back and refer to what participants did, and how they reacted. The purpose of this method is to make explicit what is implicitly present in subjects who are able to perform a specific task.

Application Stage: Design, coding, testing and release of application

2. Talk aloud protocol: This involves participants only describing their action but not giving explanations. This method is thought to be more objective in that participants merely report how they go about completing a task rather than interpreting or justifying their actions.

Application Stage: Design, coding, testing and release of application

3. Remote testing: In this method, a tracking software is installed on users computer. Moderator can view users activity by logging into the software. There are various Remote Monitoring softwares available in the market.

Application Stage: Design, coding, testing and release of application

Think aloud protocol

4. Focus groups: A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their attitude towards a product, concept or idea. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members (i.e. participants) to share their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and ideas on the given subject.

Focus groups are most often used as an input to design. They generally produce non-statistical data and are a good means of getting information about a domain (e.g. what peoples’ tasks involve). It’s necessary to have an experienced moderator and analyst for a focus group to be effective.

Application Stage: Before creating prototype, Conceptual stage, Testing and release of application

Focus Groups

5. Card Sorting: This is a method for suggesting intuitive structures/categories. A participant is presented with an unsorted pack of index cards. Each card has a statement written on it that relates to a page of the site. The participant is asked to sort these cards into groups and then to name these groups. The results of multiple individual sorts are then combined and analysed statistically. Usually this is used as an input to Informtion design. It’s an excellent way of suggesting good categories for a site’s content and deriving its information architecture. Card sorting can be used generate statistical data.

Read “Definative Guide to Card Sorting” written by Dona Spencer for detailed description on card sorting.

Application Stage: Before creating prototype, IA level

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