Real world usability

In the Field

  • Why and When

    Although we believe that our lab based usability testing is still the best way to test many websites, especially on desktop devices, some mobile sites and apps are better tested in a real-life situation. For example, a shopping app could benefit from being tested in store, or a restaurant booking app could be better tested out and about, rather than sitting at a desk. (Some other apps or mobile sites are best explored in a relaxed, home-like setting, and for that we have our Living room lab setup).

    Through the use of eye-tracking glasses and recording software, we can now record what users see and do in a real-world environment. The recording shows both how they use their device and how they interact with the surroundings, and allows a multi-channel usability evaluation.

    This kind of testing works best when:

    • The website or app would naturally be used in a specific environment, e.g. an instore shopping app
    • The website or app will only be used in specific environments or at specific times, e.g. an interactive sports app for use during live matches
    • It is important to see how users will interact with the app or website and their environment at the same time, e.g. holding the device while carrying a shopping basket
    • Any basic usability issues with the app have already been identified, either in normal usability testing or in our Living room lab
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  • Our Approach

    Obviously this kind of testing requires a fairly different approach to normal lab-based usability; however, we try to retain the key values from our moderated testing process to ensure that our clients get the most value possible out of the testing:

    • We observe and record users’ behaviours – ‘what they do’ rather than ‘what they say’, which can be quite different
    • We can understand users’ goals better – often we want a tester to explore a site or app in line with their own interests
    • We can probe – testers do things you don’t anticipate; they also do things and it’s not clear why
    • We can guide (if necessary)

    Typically, our in the field testing sessions are conducted as follows:

    • Testers arrive at the testing location and are briefed and familiarised with the eye-tracking glasses
    • The testers then move around the location, using the site or app in a fairly natural way, accompanied by the facilitator
    • The facilitator adopts a facilitation ‘lite’ think-aloud approach
    • When the test is complete, the tester is debriefed and their impressions captured
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  • Testing and Outputs

    Our overall process for the testing programme and the final outputs are usually similar to those of our lab based Usability Testing.