Usability testing resources for hardware products?

18 Dec 2007 - 10:51am
6 years ago
4 replies
1280 reads
Fred Beecher
2006

Hi all,
My company is currently working on a project in which usability testing of a
hardware device will be required. While we have deep experience with
usability testing for the Web, Web apps, and desktop apps, none of us have
much experience working with hardware devices.

Do any of you who have such experience have any recommendations about books
to read, Web sites to look at, or best practices you've discovered through
trial and error?

Thanks for any help,
Fred

Comments

18 Dec 2007 - 11:19am
Alexander Baxevanis
2007

Hi Fred,

it's a bit difficult to comment without knowing the nature/function of
the device, but most usability testing principles should be the same
no matter the target platform. Specifically for hardware devices I can
thing of the following:

* Ergonomic issues with the device interface (buttons, displays,
sounds etc.). Try testing in the *natural setting* where the device
will be used. You may be able to hear an alarm in a quite setting of a
lab but maybe not in a busy street. Same for reading displays
(problems with sunlight or other ambient lighting) or pressing buttons
(people wearing gloves, sweaty hands etc.)

* Out-of-the-box usability: if the device needs to be
set-up/installed, especially by non-trained users, I suggest you test
this phase, rather than have the device fully functioning at the start
of the test. There's a great website on out-of-box usability by IBM:

http://www-03.ibm.com/easy/page/577

* Power issues: what happens when the device runs out of battery or if
the power is interrupted. Is the behavior consistent to what users
expect, do they get a timely warning for almost empty battery etc?

* Portability issues: can/will it be somehow carried by users? Where
will it be placed while carrying? You may see users carrying devices
in unexpected ways that may damage the device etc.

Hope this helps -- of course, not all of the above will probably apply
to your device, and hopefully most of them have been considered during
the design phase :)

Cheers,
Alex

On Dec 18, 2007 3:51 PM, Fred Beecher <fbeecher at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
> My company is currently working on a project in which usability testing of a
> hardware device will be required. While we have deep experience with
> usability testing for the Web, Web apps, and desktop apps, none of us have
> much experience working with hardware devices.
>
> Do any of you who have such experience have any recommendations about books
> to read, Web sites to look at, or best practices you've discovered through
> trial and error?
>
> Thanks for any help,
> Fred
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

18 Dec 2007 - 2:23pm
pnuschke
2007

All good suggestions.

I would also add that recruitment is different for devices than it is for
websites. For instance, some people simply refuse to setup any electronic
device they buy- they have someone else do it. The same people may
eventually use that device often but you may or may not want to test them,
depending on what you are looking for.

Also, watch out for fingernails- it sounds silly but people with long
fingernails have a really difficulty time using devices with lots of
buttons.

Paul Nuschke
Electronic Ink

On Dec 18, 2007 11:19 AM, Alexander Baxevanis <alex.baxevanis at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Hi Fred,
>
> it's a bit difficult to comment without knowing the nature/function of
> the device, but most usability testing principles should be the same
> no matter the target platform. Specifically for hardware devices I can
> thing of the following:
>
> * Ergonomic issues with the device interface (buttons, displays,
> sounds etc.). Try testing in the *natural setting* where the device
> will be used. You may be able to hear an alarm in a quite setting of a
> lab but maybe not in a busy street. Same for reading displays
> (problems with sunlight or other ambient lighting) or pressing buttons
> (people wearing gloves, sweaty hands etc.)
>
> * Out-of-the-box usability: if the device needs to be
> set-up/installed, especially by non-trained users, I suggest you test
> this phase, rather than have the device fully functioning at the start
> of the test. There's a great website on out-of-box usability by IBM:
>
> http://www-03.ibm.com/easy/page/577
>
> * Power issues: what happens when the device runs out of battery or if
> the power is interrupted. Is the behavior consistent to what users
> expect, do they get a timely warning for almost empty battery etc?
>
> * Portability issues: can/will it be somehow carried by users? Where
> will it be placed while carrying? You may see users carrying devices
> in unexpected ways that may damage the device etc.
>
> Hope this helps -- of course, not all of the above will probably apply
> to your device, and hopefully most of them have been considered during
> the design phase :)
>
> Cheers,
> Alex
>
>
> On Dec 18, 2007 3:51 PM, Fred Beecher <fbeecher at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Hi all,
> > My company is currently working on a project in which usability testing
> of a
> > hardware device will be required. While we have deep experience with
> > usability testing for the Web, Web apps, and desktop apps, none of us
> have
> > much experience working with hardware devices.
> >
> > Do any of you who have such experience have any recommendations about
> books
> > to read, Web sites to look at, or best practices you've discovered
> through
> > trial and error?
> >
> > Thanks for any help,
> > Fred
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> > February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> > Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

18 Dec 2007 - 12:35pm
Min Lin
2007

My company develops both software and hardware products. So I spent quite a
chunk of my time doing usability testing on hardware designs. Alexander
already gave a good list. I will just add some quick points to it.

If it is a handheld, industrial design is very important. A list of items
you may want to check:
- the holding grip
- the reach of all the buttons
- the feedback of button press
- the weight
- the feel of balance when holding it
- the perception of labels
- the perception of indicators (e.g., LED)
- is it one-hand operatable?
- is it sliding?
- fatigue

if it needs power, some additional items here:
- how to change battery? / how to recharge?
- help info on battery installation / charge status
- power indicator, if any
- low power strategy

The out of box experience is critical but hard to test because (1) users
will pay more attention to everything than they normally will do when on
their own and (2) you may not have all the pieces (packaging, documentation,
etc.) ready when you are testing it. If you have some important information
that you want to tell users, carefully test the methods used to deliver it
(the medium, the placement, the message, etc.). Always keep in mind that
people don't read manuals and paper manuals are only useful for the first
user (if he/she reads it). So depends on your device, you also may want to
test it in a multiple people situation.

Hope this helps.

Min

19 Dec 2007 - 8:13am
Rob Tannen
2006

You may also need to consider data capture methods. If you are
planning to video-record, then a camcorder will work better than a
web-cam (of course screen-capture software won't work). Depending
on the range of movement, you can have a fixed position camera, or
may need someone moving the camera, or sometimes multiple cameras for
simultaneous detail.

Also, again based on what you are testing, your recruitment may need
to accommodate a range of participant physical criteria. Some of
these characteristics were alluded to in the preceding posts. For
example standing or sitting height, eye height (literally height of
the eyes), reach, grip span, etc. These are examples of factors that
you may want to measure, if not actually attempt to recruit for in
your study.

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