What is your ideal user research lab set-up?

24 Aug 2010 - 10:59am
3 years ago
7 replies
1915 reads
cneiweem
2010

I am curious to know what type of equipment and technology your ideal user research lab set-up would include. What are you currently using in your lab and what is on your wishlist for in-person, remote, and mobile usability testing?

Comments

24 Aug 2010 - 12:05pm
hnarsana
2010

At my earlier job, this is the setup we had:
1) 2 adjacent rooms, with a 1 way mirror for observing + stake holders to sit in2) 1 workstation where the testing occurs, with no overloaded software.

a) Morae Recorder for capturing screen information + voice.b) A micc) If the user is comfortable with his/her expressions being recorded, use a webcam to sit on top of the monitor or next to it.

3) Another workstation in the observation room, with Morae Observer on it, with the IP address of the recorder tuned in. This allows the note take to see exactly what's going on on-screen and take notes within Morae Observer. 4) If you have the moolah a 2 way communication device with a switch, to field questions to the user. Though I personally prefer to walk over and ask them the question or even sit in the room if they are comfortable with it.
This more than covers it. The Observer logs can be exported via Morae Manager into an MS Excel file. We then used that to analyse each session (via the logs) and refer to the video where and if needed. The final report went out in MS Word.
Hope this helps.
Hemanshu
Usability Engineer / Ph: +91-96861-90892 [new]

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” - Howard Aiken



On Tue, Aug 24, 2010 at 9:49 PM, cneiweem <cneiweem@cars.com> wrote:

I am curious to know what type of equipment and technology your ideal user research lab set-up would include. What are you currently using in your lab and what is on your wishlist for in-person, remote, and mobile usability testing?

(((Please leav
25 Aug 2010 - 12:48pm
Paul Bryan
2008

My ideal user research set up does not include a lab of any kind:

- Pad and pen

- Discussion guide

- Kodak Playsport video camera

- Location is home, office, or public space with a realistic semblance of contextual factors and artifacts that will be present when the system is used live

- User's standard computer or handheld device that they will use the system on

- Laptop for research assistant to capture notes

- Macbook Pro with Final Cut and a very large, fast hard drive

What this user research setup lacks in precision, it gains many times over in accuracy.

If all the big design issues have been solved and I only want to tweak a few interactions, or if the above approach is not feasible because of time constraints, then I like to use an office with several plants and comfortable seating and lighting, and a screencast p-i-p package with some usability measurement stats built in. 

Paul Bryan

Blog: http://www.virtualfloorspace.com

Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

 

25 Aug 2010 - 4:50pm
Mathew Sanders
2009

I'm going to agree with Paul, the best lab is no lab!

When you think about it, the traditional idea of a usability lab - with intentions to minimise external distractions - is really the worst distraction of all. It places people in an artificial situation where they are constantly given cues of the unusual situation they are in.

For me, the one-way mirror is the worst because it recalls an interrogation room - even I start to feel nervous after a while in there. It also depends on what you're testing. The BART Kiosk project is an example that shows this perfectly - the prototype was testing at a downtown station - imagine the differences between testing this in context compared to testing in a lab.

Sometimes there are good reasons to use a 'lab', an example that comes to mind is when the research touches on sensitive topics - perhaps health, finances, or romance. In these situations a private environment would be a good idea.

But instead of making it sterile to remove distractions, I would try and make it familiar so that people feel relaxed and comfortable - maybe model it off a lounge/living room or kitchen bar with a TV, sofa, coffee table, desk. Then when it's not being used as a research space it can also be a breakout space for your team :) (increase ROI haha! :)

25 Aug 2010 - 8:05pm
mdostert
2010

I have to agree. a lab is too contrived and artificial.

----- Original Message ---- From: Mathew Sanders To: mdostert2002@yahoo.com Sent: Wed, August 25, 2010 6:30:52 PM Subject: Re: [IxDA] What is your ideal user research lab set-up?

I'm going to agree with Paul, the best lab is no lab!

When you think about it, the traditional idea of a usability lab - with intentions to minimise external distractions - is really the worst distraction of all. It places people in an artificial situation where they are constantly given cues of the unusual situation they are in.

For me, the one-way mirror is the worst because it recalls an interrogation room - even I start to feel nervous after a while in there. It also depends on what you're testing. The BART Kiosk [1] project is an example that shows this perfectly - the prototype was testing at a downtown station - imagine the differences between testing this in context compared to testing in a lab.

Sometimes there are good reasons to use a 'lab', an example that comes to mind is when the research touches on sensitive topics - perhaps health, finances, or romance. In these situations a private environment would be a good idea.

But instead of making it sterile to remove distractions, I would try and make it familiar so that people feel relaxed and comfortable - maybe model it off a lounge/living room or kitchen bar with a TV, sofa, coffee table, desk. Then when it's not being used as a research space it can also be a breakout space for your team :) (increase ROI haha! :)

26 Aug 2010 - 1:06pm
pnuschke
2007

I agree in general that no lab is necessary, unless you have clients who insist on watching in person. 
Having a dedicated/private/quiet space that you can use for up to a week at a time is very helpful. Lugging around all that equipment can be annoying.
Paul


----- Original Message ----
From: Mathew Sanders
To: mdostert2002@yahoo.com
Sent: Wed, August 25, 2010 6:30:52 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA] What is your ideal user research lab set-up?

I'm going to agree with Paul, the best lab is no lab!

When you think about it, the traditional idea of a usability lab - with
intentions to minimise external distractions - is really the worst distraction
of all. It places people in an artificial situation where they are constantly
given cues of the unusual situation they are in.

For me, the one-way mirror is the worst because it recalls an interrogation room
- even I start to feel nervous after a while in there. It also depends on what
you're testing. The BART Kiosk [1] project is an example that shows this
perfectly - the prototype was testing at a downtown station - imagine the
differences between testing this in context compared to testing in a lab.

Sometimes there are good reasons to use a 'lab', an example that comes to mind
is when the research touches on sensitive topics - perhaps health, finances, or
romance. In these situations a private environment would be a good idea.

But instead of making it sterile to remove distractions, I would try and make it
familiar so that people feel relaxed and comfortable - maybe model it off a
lounge/living room or kitchen bar with a TV, sofa, coffee table, desk. Then when
it's not being used as a research space it can also be a breakout space for your
team :) (increase ROI haha! :)

(
26 Aug 2010 - 11:05pm
hnarsana
2010

I forgot to add that most of our testing (despite the 'lab' setup) happened remotely, and the setup just helped us have all the equipment in one place. :)
But I have participated in multiple studies, sometimes with users visiting the office.. and in those cases the observation deck has been priceless.
Hemanshu
Usability Engineer / Ph: +91-96861-90892 [new]

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” - Howard Aiken



On Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 8:11 AM, mdostert <mdostert2002@yahoo.com> wrote:

I have to agree. a lab is too contrived and artificial.

----- Original Message ----
From: Mathew Sanders
To: mdostert2002@yahoo.com
Sent: Wed, August 25, 2010 6:30:52 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA] What is your ideal user research lab set-up?

I'm going to agree with Paul, the best lab is no lab!

When you think about it, the traditional idea of a usability lab - with
intentions to minimise external distractions - is really the worst distraction
of all. It places people in an artificial situation where they are constantly
given cues of the unusual situation they are in.

For me, the one-way mirror is the worst because it recalls an interrogation room
- even I start to feel nervous after a while in there. It also depends on what
you're testing. The BART Kiosk [1] project is an example that shows this
perfectly - the prototype was testing at a downtown station - imagine the
differences between testing this in context compared to testing in a lab.

Sometimes there are good reasons to use a 'lab', an example that comes to mind
is when the research touches on sensitive topics - perhaps health, finances, or
romance. In these situations a private environment would be a good idea.

But instead of making it sterile to remove distractions, I would try and make it
familiar so that people feel relaxed and comfortable - maybe model it off a
lounge/living room or kitchen bar with a TV, sofa, coffee table, desk. Then when
it's not being used as a research space it can also be a breakout space for your
team :) (increase ROI haha! :)

(((Please
25 Aug 2010 - 8:48pm
Zelbinian
2010

Agreed, although a separate room for observers is a great thing. People seeing user reactions in real time is priceless.

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