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Field usability testing takes research out of the lab and into real-world, interactive environments.

Field usability testing: Why do it?

Taking testing out of the lab and into real-life situations can sometimes offer additional insights into user goals and behaviours. This kind of testing works best when:

  • The website or app would naturally be used in a specific environment e.g. an in-store 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 in lab based usability testing

How we do it

Although this kind of testing requires a different approach to normal lab-based usability, we aim to retain the key values from our moderated testing process to ensure that the client gets the most value possible:

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

Each project follows the following rough structure:

  • Project preparation – We work with you to plan the research, so you get the right solution – not an ‘off the shelf’ one. We are very flexible in our approach to ensure you feel you are getting value for money.
  • Testers and Recruitment – we conduct all our recruitment in house. We believe this allows us to recruit more accurately to your specification, provide greater flexibility, and treat testers in a decent and ethical way. Our tester no-show rate is less than 1% (normal market research no-show rates are about 10%).
  • Usability testing – In the field, testing is very bespoke to each project. Examples of field research we have undertaken:
    • Supermarket self-checkout behaviours using eye-tracking glasses to record what users see and do in a real-world environment
    • Home décor discovery and usability testing in testers’ living rooms, recorded using a pop-up usability lab

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