Stop your usability lab from feeling like one.

A good design process includes testing with real users. Most usability labs are cold, artificial, and clinical. These are three ways to make your lab more realistic.

Your environment should feel like your home.

People are more likely to surf the internet while sitting on a sofa than on an Aeron chair that costs $1,500. The first thing you should do is create an environment that feels like a living room.

It can be daunting to attend a user testing session. You want everyone to feel at ease during these sessions. Evidence also shows that context can significantly affect memory and behaviour. This environment makes people feel better and leads to more accurate test results.

Hardware that is representative of reality

The closer you are to the natural environment, the better. When testing web-based software, you should get as close to the average computer as possible. What is an “average” computer? You might be surprised.

Keep the most recent technology in the background, but use it to observe.

Your test PC doesn’t have to be high-tech. We use the best recording software and a remote observer in separate rooms. To observe people’s reactions, we use webcams that have facial recognition. A multi-directional microphone captures audio.

However, participants should not be intimidated by this technology.

Hardware recommendations

  • The fastest computer that can meet the specifications above.
  • There are many common mobile devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet. iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet etc.) Android fragmentation is a danger.
  • Mr Tappy to attach cameras to mobile devices.
  • Webcam to record the screen during mobile testing. Logitech’s HTML615 is a good choice and easily attaches to Mr Tappy.
  • Another webcam to record people’s faces for mobile testing is the Logitech QuickCam orbit. It’s discreet, remote-operable, and includes facial recognition software.
  • A microphone for recording audio. This option is not required. We prefer to use the microphone built into the webcam for mobile sessions.

Software recommendations

  • Morae is a tool for recording and analysing sessions. The interface is terrible, but it’s otherwise a great product. You can also have an additional observer in another area, reducing common biases such as the observer expectation effect.
  • Silverback can be used as a cheaper alternative but is only compatible with OSX (problematic for testing sites or desktop software).

What about eye tracking?

This is a complex topic that others have covered well. However, we have found the disadvantages of this technology outweigh any benefits.

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