James reflects on the UPA sessions by Rolf Molich, Whitney Quesenbury, Jakob Biesterfeldt and Karen Bachmann that challenge us to question nine ‘myths’ in the UX field.
Every year we watch hundreds of people in our labs and in the field using websites, mobile phones and other interactive devices.
Usability testing uncovers problems that impair the way users interact with the product.
We have two dedicated user testing labs in our Bristol offices. They have been set up to provide the best environment to conduct this type of qualitative research.
Each lab is split into two parts. There is an interview/testing room where our invigilator will conduct the test, and a separate viewing room, where clients can watch video feeds of the test in comfort.
The advantage of having a two room set-up is that there is no two-way mirror to intimidate participants, and clients are free to talk as loudly as they wish, without the worry of being heard in the testing room.
cxpartners has configured flexible video feeds that enable people viewing the tests to see everything that is going on. Depending on the nature of the test taking place, different camera arrangements can be made to ensure nothing is missed.
This facility can also be used to conduct other forms of user research, such as task analysis interviews and card sorting exercises.
In addition to the main lab, cxpartners also has three portable user testing kits that allow usability interviews to be conducted in almost any venue, anywhere in the UK or further afield.
We want to make user testing a relaxed and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Our test plans are written as drafts so that our clients have the chance to input and ensure they’re getting the information they need.
Typically, cxpartners uses a very loose listening lab style approach to user testing; talking to people about real experiences, then getting them to replay those experiences. We use think aloud analysis to get the users to open up about what’s happening and throughout we observe what they’re doing. The viewing facilities allow clients to observe all the tests – we’d really recommend that you do.
cxpartners uses the latest eye tracking equipment, enabling us to show you what your users are looking at. It helps us to give you more informed design recommendations.
Guerrilla usability testing involves similar techniques to standard usability testing, but with a quick, informal approach to get rapid answers.
Guerrilla tests are short, typically lasting between 15 to 30 minutes, and look to test fewer areas of a product or website.
cxpartners generally does not recruit participants to take part in guerrilla tests. Instead, we take one of our portable usability kits out and run the test wherever suitable participants may be.
In the past, this has included cafes, train stations and offices.
Guerrilla testing works well to give quick validation – to check how effective a design is on its intended audience. For instance, it’s a cost-effective method of ensuring your brand’s message is clear on a new website design, if a specific piece of functionality is working in its intended way, or if your special offers seem ‘special’ enough to potential customers.
cxpartners tests accessibility by working with disabled users. While checklists are helpful, the most important test of accessibility is: can someone use your website or mobile experience in real life.
Disabled people use a wide variety of ‘assistive technologies’ that help them use a site. For instance, screen readers, such as Jaws, will read out the contents of a web page; screen magnifiers will zoom in to a particular part of the page to make it easy for users with impaired vision to use. cxpartners has experience testing with these technologies.
Because disabled users often have things set up to suit their individual needs, we offer user testing in a participant’s home or place of work. This way, you get a better insight into the kinds of problems that disabled users have in the real world.
Accessibility doesn’t just mean ‘making the web work for blind people’. It’s important to take a range of disabilities into account when you test.
Testing with disabled users helps your project in unexpected ways. As well as giving insights into how to make your site accessible, it can help to improve usability for other types of user (for instance making a site work well for dyslexic users will also make it easy for other users to read the text in a hurry). Additionally it provides a valuable audit trail that may help prove you’ve taken the needs of disabled users into account, in line with UK disability law.
cxpartners is one of the few usability consultancies in the UK and internationally who regularly work with children and teenagers.
We work with children at all stages of product development from requirements gathering and task modelling (often through diary studies) to testing wireframes and validating designs.
We test games, learning tools, mobile applications and websites. And we’re currently working on our own educational iPhone app – ecoBugs . We’ve also tested tricky subject matters such as drugs, sexual health and puberty.
As with all our projects we spend time understanding what insights you want to gain from the research as well as understanding the wider business context and how you’ll measure success. We’ll also talk in detail about the children you want to recruit, and advise on the best ways and locations to test.
Sessions are normally run in friendship pairs to encourage the children to talk about what they’re experiencing. And we’ve moderated classroom sessions with 20 – 30 children.
All our consultants are CRB police checked and we’re used to asking for parental consent.
Communicating The User Experience is a wonderful new book by cxpartners' Richard Caddick and Steve Cable, available now.
We have put together a collection of essential Keynote, Omnigraffle and PowerPoint stencils in our Resources section for the UX professionals and enthusiasts out there