Setting a usability lab on a budget

13 Jun 2008 - 11:03am
6 years ago
15 replies
2896 reads
oliver green
2006

Hi Everyone,

Can someone please recommend the basics required to set up a usability
lab on a budget? Or the aspects that I should consider to figure out
the equipment that I could possibly need?

Thanks,
Oliver

Comments

13 Jun 2008 - 11:17am
Dante Murphy
2006

With UserVue and Morae, all you really need is a quiet and comfortable
conference room and a couple of computers. Everything beyond that is
gravy.

Dante Murphy | Director of User Experience| D I G I T A S H E A L T H
229 South 18th Street | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA 19103 |
USA
Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com
www.digitashealth.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
oliver green
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 12:03 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Setting a usability lab on a budget

Hi Everyone,

Can someone please recommend the basics required to set up a usability
lab on a budget? Or the aspects that I should consider to figure out
the equipment that I could possibly need?

Thanks,
Oliver

13 Jun 2008 - 2:57pm
Jeffrey D. Gimzek
2007

We used a web-cam and mirrored monitor, ran cables through the ceiling
to the next room.

Total cost: $150.

(well, we already had the computer and we borrowed a monitor from the
CEO's house)

jd

On Jun 13, 2008, at 9:17 AM, Dante Murphy wrote:

> With UserVue and Morae, all you really need is a quiet and comfortable
> conference room and a couple of computers. Everything beyond that is
> gravy.
>
> Dante Murphy | Director of User Experience| D I G I T A S H E A L T H
> 229 South 18th Street | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA 19103 |
> USA
> Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com
> www.digitashealth.com
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
> oliver green
> Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 12:03 PM
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Setting a usability lab on a budget
>
> Hi Everyone,
>
> Can someone please recommend the basics required to set up a usability
> lab on a budget? Or the aspects that I should consider to figure out
> the equipment that I could possibly need?
>
> Thanks,
> Oliver

- -

Jeffrey D. Gimzek | Senior User Experience Designer

http://www.glassdoor.com

13 Jun 2008 - 3:01pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jun 13, 2008, at 12:03 PM, oliver green wrote:

> Can someone please recommend the basics required to set up a usability
> lab on a budget? Or the aspects that I should consider to figure out
> the equipment that I could possibly need?

My opinion: Usability labs are a senseless waste of glass and furniture.

Streamlining Usability Testing by Avoiding the Lab
http://www.uie.com/articles/streamlining_usability/

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

13 Jun 2008 - 11:35am
Tim Au Yeung
2008

> Can someone please recommend the basics required to set up a usability
> lab on a budget? Or the aspects that I should consider to figure out
> the equipment that I could possibly need?
>
> Thanks,
> Oliver

It depends on what you want to do. I've found that for think-aloud
protocols (and especially for constructive interaction), two cameras are
really useful -- one with a looking over the shoulder view and one for a
face view. Screen capture software is useful to supplement the cameras as
you can never get as sharp a view as direct capture from the system.
Finally a decent omnidirectional microphone with a desktop stand so that
you can catch the voices since the cameras are never positioned just right
to catch the person talking and often with think-aloud, people tend to
mumble under the breath. However, most of this is relatively cheap these
days so aside from the computer itself, you could theoretically put
together the kit for under $1000.

Tim

13 Jun 2008 - 4:23pm
Anonymous

Interesting article. It focuses on in-person testing. I'm wondering
what kind of experience you have had with remote testing? This is
pretty easy to do with UserVue and a telephone.

We have done it with the test moderator in one location, observers in
another and the test participant at his or her home or work computer.
It worked fairly well except that the observers tended to goof off
after a bit. They were listening in on a conference call and watching
the user's screen on a monitor.

Brett

On Jun 13, 2008, at 1:01 PM, Jared Spool wrote:

>
> On Jun 13, 2008, at 12:03 PM, oliver green wrote:
>
>> Can someone please recommend the basics required to set up a
>> usability
>> lab on a budget? Or the aspects that I should consider to figure out
>> the equipment that I could possibly need?
>
> My opinion: Usability labs are a senseless waste of glass and
> furniture.
>
> Streamlining Usability Testing by Avoiding the Lab
> http://www.uie.com/articles/streamlining_usability/
>
> Jared
>
> Jared M. Spool
> User Interface Engineering
> 510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
> e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
> http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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13 Jun 2008 - 4:26pm
Nasir Barday
2006

I'm with Jared on this one ...
>> My opinion: Usability labs are a senseless waste of glass and furniture.
>> http://www.uie.com/articles/streamlining_usability/

The linked article says it all, but in short:

-) A formal lab seriously freaks some users out, especially Type A finance folks
-) Same for webcams, though those are useful for documenting facial
reactions (grimacing, confusion, smiles, surprises)
-) Having the observers in the room makes everyone feel more
comfortable and connected. The end-of-test feedback session is a lot
more effective as a result
-) My usability lab fits in my pocket

If you really need to capture screen movements and audio, Morae and
UserVue tend to be the tools to use; you can usually spare a laptop or
other machine on which to perform the tests. Otherwise, the most
stuff you need is a pad of paper, something to pay users with, and
stakeholders to observe and have their minds blown :-).

- Nasir

13 Jun 2008 - 4:36pm
Nasir Barday
2006

>> I'm wondering what kind of experience you have had with remote testing?

For remote tests, even a simple tool like Windows NetMeeting,
GoToMyPc, WebEx, etc. does the trick. It's best if the facilitator and
observers are in the same room to minimize the goofing off you
mentioned. WebEx has the advantage of being able to record the screen
and any audio from the phone. You may even be able to get it to
capture video.

You don't necessarily need recorded footage get the point across,
since the observers see what you see, but they can help when you have
people that don't attend who need proof in the pudding that there is,
indeed, a problem with a product.

- N

14 Jun 2008 - 7:18am
Chris McLay
2005

We've just rebuilt our "Usability Lab" into a "Design Lab". It
still has lots of expensive glass and camera's etc, but it's been
designed to work as two team design spaces as well.

One important part of this upgrade though was to enable
testing/evaluations to be done easily elsewhere in the organisation.
Having lots of good MacBooks makes good screen and user recording
easy and cheap (Silver Back / Screen Flow / iShowU). We also have two
floating camcorders to use for interviews, mobile or paper testing.

Prior to this job, I've never had a dedicated lab space, and I have
to say having a well set up lab is fantastic %u2013 we can run
sessions quickly and efficiently. Most importantly for us, it lets us
get lots of people in the observation room to see how our users
actually use our products.

That said, the ability to run effective sessions out of the lab is a
critical skill for our team. Partly because the lab is often fully
booked, and sometimes because it's better to run sessions elsewhere
for lots of other good reasons.

My best advice is to "design" your sessions to suit your needs and
your products needs. Effective sessions can be run in so many ways,
and always practice makes perfect :-)

Chris

--
Chris McLay. Designer.

chris at eeoh.com.au http://eeoh.com.au/chris/

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30224

14 Jun 2008 - 4:13pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Formal usability labs seem to be like focus groups, they don't get too
much respect in the literature nowadays with so many tools like Morae
around. Usability labs are often strongly associated with usability
testing, but labs (that are not tiny anyway) can be used for many
things including focus groups, participatory design, design
walkthroughs, "war rooms" that exhibit artifacts for projects,
brainstorming rooms and many other purposes. I think that the ROI for
a lab where all you do is testing occasionally might not be too great,
but a lab can serve as a foundation for a team and if used for many
purposes, have a good return. With modern tools, you don't
necessarily need a one-way mirror though that is still useful if you
are testing consumer products or conducting a focus group. If you are
doing testing in your organization's facilities, you can get
frustrated with sharing conference rooms, have problems with privacy
and many other problems that a formal lab can minimize.

Now, testing in the field with laptops and remote testing is fine too.
Both have their strengths.

Chauncey

14 Jun 2008 - 4:26pm
Nasir Barday
2006

I should have added that we have a table set up in our design space
for usability testing, so yeah, I agree that the testing and design
spaces can be somewhat dual-purposed. In our case we use our space
primarily for collaboration and to do our own work "off in a corner"
(literally!).

I've found that people are most comfortable when you do the test at
their desk-- especially useful when you're doing a contextual inquiry,
as you get to see all those lovely pinups of frequently used info,
postits (almost a fetish in this circle), and other useful tidbits. A
separate testing space is still useful for answering those lower-level
questions: "can they find this widget? is the information categorized
in an understandable way?" But for the higher-level stuff, e.g. "Does
this product effectively meet the user's needs? Does it give 'em a
warm-and-fuzzy feeling?" it's better to test in the field.

We're starting to veer away from the original question, tho-- Oliver,
is there enough info for you in this thread?

14 Jun 2008 - 6:18pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

So, back to the original point of the first email. What can you use
for a discount lab?

1. Screen recording software like Morae. The next version of Morae
has some excellent features that make it a much stronger usability
tool for more than just 1-1 testing.
2. Several good types of microphones. A good omnidirectional
microphone, a few lapel mikes, and possibly a semi-directional mike.
3. Extra batteries for any battery powered equipment.
4. A small videocamera that is compatible with your editing software.
5. A full-size portable tripod and a small portable tripod that you
can put into your camera case or briefcase.
6. Adapters for international travel.
7. Subscription to a remote collaboration tool that has the requisite
performance for your studies.
8. A loaded laptop or desktop (lots of memory and fast CPU to handle
screen recorders, remote tools, and your application or Web pages.
9. A digital camera for capturing history and artifacts.
10. A portable disk drive to hold large video files that you might
have using a videocamera or Morae.
11. A plug in tablet that you can use for design session and sketching.
12. A good color printer and a portable printer for field work.
13. Some basic analysis software (StatistiXL).
14. A very good miniature tape recorder that uses a format that you
input into your PC.
15. A box of cables and connectors.
16. Some qualitative analysis software (for example, I like HyperResearch)
17. Some sketching software and prototyping software.
18. Laptop for notetaker
19. A set of templates for all the common documents you need: consent
forms, NDAs, reports, project plans, proposals, best practices, ...
20. A set of small tools for minor repairs.
21. A toolbox full of basic supplies like Post-Its, tape, scissors.
22. A small set of amplified speakers for presenting audio data in a
room that doesn't have a sound system.

Chauncey

> We're starting to veer away from the original question, tho-- Oliver,
> is there enough info for you in this thread?
>

14 Jun 2008 - 1:00pm
Anonymous

I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to user testing -- a good
laptop with a display resolution similar to your target users and a
quiet area are all that's needed.

As for software, I use a pretty old version of Camtasia. I don't use
it as a substitute to note taking - it's a good way to jog my memory
as I'm doing the analysis. The built in laptop mic works pretty well
-- just make sure to make sure to set the correct sensitivity prior to
the session.

Using the speaking aloud protocol, I typically sit at an angle next
to the person such that I can read body language, facial expressions
as well as the screen.

The best part is you can take the whole thing with you if you are
able to visit customers at their site...

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=30224

13 Jun 2008 - 2:29pm
Scott Klein
2008

To add to Dante's recommendations, with a simple inexpensive webcam, you can record the user's video
and audio through either of those software packages. You can also
stream the feed to observers in other locations (pending firewall situations) using Morae. I'm not that familiar with
UserVue these days, so I'm not aware of it's full feature set.

Scott

UX Research Manager - hotels.com

16 Jun 2008 - 7:12am
Todd Warfel
2003

We use an Intel iMac w/a built in camera. To record, we use SnapZ Pro
($69) to record the video and iChat to capture the participant's face.
OS X has built in screen sharing now, so if the participant is on OS
X, we put them on OS X and stream to another machine using remoting.
If they're on Windows, we fire up Parallels, run Windows and the built
in screen sharing in OS X still works to stream to the other machine.

This is not only an inexpensive model, but allows us to reliably test
both Mac and Windows participants.

16 Jun 2008 - 4:31pm
Jerome Ryckborst
2007

One laptop with webcam & built-in mic works better than a webcam and separate headset.

However, ...

I have just come to the conclusion that I need to have a second computer in the room -- networked to the user's computer -- so that I can use Morae Observer to annotate things as they're happening.

I think I'll post a question about that, separately.

-=- Jerome

------
Jerome Ryckborst | Gemcom Software International

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