Discoveries at the Usability Lab

by Susan Spraragen
 
Project team members observing usability test from next room

The Usability Lab has been open for 10 months now and we have experienced many enlightening moments with our colleagues through our design discussions and usability testing sessions. The fun part about practicing user centered design at the Lab is all about coming upon design gaps and fits that would not have been revealed otherwise.  By interacting with the user community through usability tests and other design activities, we are able to foster a welcome place for authentic and informative feedback to emerge. Throughout our interactions our assumptions are tested, our users are verbally expressive and frank, and their interactions with the interfaces are dutifully and respectfully noted.  This discourse provides a valuable opportunity to build customer relationships as the customer’s input becomes central to the project’s progress.

Here are some highlights from conversations I have had with stakeholders during their Lab experience, and from end-user responses noted during usability testing facilitation:
 
User remarks about various digital interfaces:
 
Look and feel:
  • “The screen is very dead. I don’t know where to start.”
  • “It’s pretty clunky.”
  • “I like how it looks. I like the font.”
Ease of use:
  • “Do you expect me to use this without training?!”
  • “It’s not horrible.  It might be smoother.”
  • “That wasn’t so bad!”
Discoverability:
  • “If I knew where to find things it wouldn’t be too hard… it’s not very easy to tell what views you are in… “
  • “I think it’s pretty user friendly. I found things I was hoping to find.”
 
Observer and project manager remarks about the Lab, usability testing, and observing:
 
  • “The lead up to the testing was very intensive, but quite worth the effort. You made us THINK! And we needed to do that!”
  • “As I observed a test, I felt myself getting frustrated with the participant because they did not understand a part of the site that to me seemed simple. However, Susan's calmly asked probes lead to insights that never would have come about if I were conducting the test myself.”
  • “How can we streamline process? Maybe we can reduce number of screens from 3 to 2?”
  • “How can we reduce scrolling?”
  • “If only one user had trouble with a feature – should we address it?”  (answer: it depends!)
  • “This place is great!”
  • “It is very useful & fantastic set up! Great job.”
 
Come see what the buzz is all about!
 
If you have a prototype to test, or an idea to develop, or some curiosities about design or how to conduct a usability test or an accessibility review – we can help.  Our collaboration will undoubtably lead to more discoveries about your users and the systems, websites, and services you provide for them!
 
Reach out with your questions and comments by emailing ux@princeton.edu
 

Discoveries at the Usability Lab

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