Join Chris Nodder for an in-depth discussion in this video Running studies in real locations, part of UX Foundations: Usability Testing.
- Sometimes you're going to want to watch users working with the system in its actual environment. For instance, people use their mobile phones when they're on a train, in a waiting room, or sitting in front of the TV. They don't use them so much in an office where they have other tools available to them with bigger screens and faster data access. Early in a product development cycle, you might need to see naturalistic behavior so you understand how people's environment affects how they work with your product. Again, near the time you release, you'll want to see how well a system performs in its real location.
That means taking the usability test to the user rather than bringing the user into your artificial environment. It's a good idea to save these types of site-based studies until you've done a couple in a more controlled environment. Get some practice at moderating and observing a session before you add the extra randomness of a live environment into the mix. However, there are some real benefits to seeing how people behave in a naturalistic setting. So I really encourage you to do this type of study once you've got some experience.
When you go into users' environments, less is more. What is important is to note down behaviors and quotes. All you really need for that is a notepad and pen. Any other equipment just becomes a burden. Sometimes it's good to have a still camera with you so that you can take photos of the things that participants interact with, the paper forms they use, or the other systems they work with. But audio and video recording are very unlikely to help you. Trying to take notes on a computer is going to be very unwieldy, especially if you are balancing on the corner of someone's office cubicle, or you're joining them on their journey to work.
Running studies in real locations is one of the best ways to find the surprising things that can really lead to great product insights. The things you didn't know that you didn't know. Finding solutions to even just one or two real-world problems that users face can be enough to differentiate your product in the marketplace and really delight your customers.
- What is usability testing?
- Finding the right participants
- Making a screener
- Asking the right questions
- Avoiding bias
- Making a task list
- Creating the test environment
- Running a pilot study
- Moderating sessions
- Capturing real-time observations
- Analyzing and reporting your results