Technology for User Research

3 Sep 2006 - 7:16pm
8 years ago
6 replies
649 reads
Rob Tannen
2006

I'm in the process of looking at the past, present and future of technology used for conducting user research/usability analysis of products and digital interfaces. I'd appreciate any publicly shareable examples of innovative tools that you may have used/built to conduct user research. I may include certain examples for a NYC Usability Professionals Association presentation scheduled for October.

Thanks.

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Comments

5 Sep 2006 - 9:55am
Peter Merholz
2004

Adaptive Path is a big fan of Ethnio, a tool for remote user
recruiting and usability testing:

http://www.ethnio.com/

I hate lab usability, for reasons cited here:
http://adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000569.php

--peter

On Sep 3, 2006, at 6:16 PM, Rob Tannen wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> I'm in the process of looking at the past, present and future of
> technology used for conducting user research/usability analysis of
> products and digital interfaces. I'd appreciate any publicly
> shareable examples of innovative tools that you may have used/built
> to conduct user research. I may include certain examples for a NYC
> Usability Professionals Association presentation scheduled for
> October.
>
> Thanks.
>
> This e-mail is intended solely for the above-mentioned recipient
> and it may contain confidential or privileged information. If you
> have received it in error, please notify us immediately and delete
> the e-mail. You must not copy, distribute, disclose or take any
> action in reliance on it. In addition, the contents of an
> attachment to this e-mail may contain software viruses which could
> damage your own computer system. While Electronic Ink, Inc. has
> taken every reasonable precaution to minimize this risk, we cannot
> accept liability for any damage which you sustain as a result of
> software viruses. You should perform your own virus checks before
> opening the attachment.
>
>
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5 Sep 2006 - 10:09am
Mark Schraad
2006

Maybe I am out of the mainstream, but usability seems to be cropping up as a common denominator for anything user centered. Traditionally, usability testing is something that the human factors of HCI folks had done after the product was finished. It has always seamed too late.

User experience or user interface research, on the otherhand is proactive. It occurs prior and during the problem definition. It also occurs during the design process in small incremental stages. Are we all using this word "usability" as a catch all for everything user centered? I know my clients are - which causes me to stop and ask for clarification just to make sure we are speaking the same language.

Mark

>
>I hate lab usability, for reasons cited here:
>http://adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000569.php
>
>--peter
>

5 Sep 2006 - 10:47am
Barbara Ballard
2005

On 9/5/06, mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:
>
> Maybe I am out of the mainstream, but usability seems to be cropping up as a common denominator for anything user centered. Traditionally, usability testing is something that the human factors of HCI folks had done after the product was finished. It has always seamed too late.

>
> User experience or user interface research, on the otherhand is proactive. It occurs prior and during the problem definition. It also occurs during the design process in small incremental stages. Are we all using this word "usability" as a catch all for everything user centered? I know my clients are - which causes me to stop and ask for clarification just to make sure we are speaking the same language.

"Usability testing" can be of several varieties. If the testing
happens at the end of the product development cycle, then it is
frequently used for benchmarking and finding issues to fix with the
next release. That's when you get some 20+ participants and shoot for
statistical validity.

Prototype usability testing is done much earlier in the cycle, on
prototypes or partially developed code. The question you are answering
here is "is there a problem with the design?" This is where you only
need some 4 participants because if any of them have a problem, then a
portion of the population has the problem and you should perhaps fix
it.

Wizard of Oz usability testing is done earlier still, and can be done
either with paper prototypes or with a package like DENIM. This can
be done before the development team is even hired. If you use DENIM,
you can use Peter's remote usability testing.

Usability testing is a mechanism for testing a design's usability and
other attributes with users (you just have to ask the right
questions).

User research is a collection of techniques for understanding users.

--
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-550-3650

5 Sep 2006 - 10:57am
John Schrag
2005

Mark Schraad wrote:
> Maybe I am out of the mainstream, but usability seems to be
> cropping up as a common denominator for anything user centered.

I've been doing this work for about 20 years now -- research, ix design,
validation, iteration, all that good stuff. And I've noticed that every
few years, the field seems to make some new decision about what to call
things. When I started out, we all called it HCI or CHI. Then someone
decided that HCI only referred to one small part of the job, so we (at
my company) started to call ourselves "Usability". Then someone decided
that 'usability' only referred to verification, so we started to call
ourselves 'interaction designers' --- same deal; now we call ourselves
'user experience'. Note that the job hasn't changed; we still do the
whole process. It's just the terminology shifting around. It's no
wonder that every few months on some mailing list an argument arises as
to what all the terms mean. (In fact, I bet someone will respond to
this with a note telling me what the "real" meanings of all the terms
are. In fact, I notice that frequently someone will invent a new term
for an existing activity to try to differentiate their incremental
process improvement from standard practice.

> Traditionally, usability testing is something that the human factors
> or HCI folks had done after the product was finished. It has always
> seemed too late.

If a professional is doing usability testing after a product is
finished, then their goal is probably to convince management that they
have made a terrible, terrible error by leaving it so late. :-)

-john

5 Sep 2006 - 11:12am
Jostein Magnussen
2005

Not very innovative, but some technology I have used:

USORT/EZCALC from IBM ease of use group
Many bugs but somewhat useful for doing card-sorting with many users
simultanously and getting these wonderful dendograms. Lost 5 of 20
datafiles during one sorting excercise due to bugs. Not around anymore:
http://www.maadmob.net/donna/blog/archives/000595.html

CARDBOARD CARDS
Used in card sorting. Better than software.

CAMTASIA
Screen capturing software from Techsmith. Used in usability testing
before Morae

MORAE
Usability testing screen capturing, note-taking, analyzing and
presentation software from Techsmith. Quite usable and useful

CONFIRMIT www.confirmit.com
Norwegian-produced tool for doing advanced online surveys. Surveymonkey
and 100 others do a good job for less advanced surveys.

ETHNIO
For Remote usability testing. Getting better and better. Closer to the
users own computer, but remote from the user.

MACROMEDIA BREEZE
The alternative for remote usability testing before Ethnio. A lot more
hassle.

PEN AND PAPER
Maybe the most useful tool. Used when meeting customers face to face,
doing usability tests etc.

Tested, but never used in client projects:

Metrixlab's products: http://www.metrixlab.com/site/uk/home.asp
Mindcanvas: http://www.themindcanvas.com/ (looks good!)
Eye-tracking from Tobii http://www.tobii.se/ (coming soon to our new
usability lab)

Jostein Magnussen
www.netliferesearch.no

------
Rob Tannen wrote:
I'm in the process of looking at the past, present and future of
technology used for conducting user research/usability analysis of
products and digital interfaces. I'd appreciate any publicly shareable
examples of innovative tools that you may have used/built to conduct
user research. I may include certain examples for a NYC Usability
Professionals Association presentation scheduled for October.
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5 Sep 2006 - 9:42pm
John Monberg
2006

I have a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies and much of my
research is ethnographic. I am now an assistant professor in
Communication Studies with a focus on new technology. Before my
academic training I was a computer programmer/systems analyst so I've
done a lot of thinking about the role of research in interaction
design.

I've tagged a collection of resources and examples of user research
here:
http://del.icio.us/jmonberg/TechnoEthnography

Please let me know if there are other important resources I should add.

My homepage is here:
http://people.ku.edu/~jmonberg/

Cheers,
John Monberg

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