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User Experience Testing

User Experience (UX) testing is a way of learning about how your customers experience your software, in their natural environment. UX testing techniques developed from the idea of tracing cognitive processes as methods to study actual behaviour at an atomic level, the use of verbal reports and protocols for their analysis in data collection has evolved largely from efforts at understanding human problem solving in the field of psychology (Ericsson & Simon, 1980; Newell & Simon, 1972).

How UX is conducted

The UX testing technique most often used today is the Think-Aloud Protocol (TAP) method developed by Lewis (1980) at IBM research. In think-aloud protocol (TAP) sessions, the participant is asked to vocalise their thoughts, their actions, their expectations of the results of those actions and, any confusion or concerns arising, in the presence of a facilitator. This facilitator also observes the session and may prompt the participant in order to keep the commentary alive. There are two distinct types of TAP, which produce the best results when used in conjunction - Concurrent Analysis and Retrospective Analysis.

 

Figure 2-1 from Sharkey, U., T. Acton, et al. (2012). Concurrent and retrospective think-aloud protocols for information systems research. 25th Bled eConference, eDependability: Reliable and Trustworthy eStructures, eProcesses, eOperations and eServices for the Future. Bled, Slovenia.

 

What UX testing with TAP finds

TAP is designed to find problems with your software. The usefulness of what is found depends on how representative your sample is, how much testing is conducted, and how well that testing is conducted. Guerilla testing techniques espoused by authors such as Steve Krug (2000,2009) can quickly find some of the more important issues with a system. Often this flavour of usability testing – expedient, low-numbers, qualitative testing, suits just fine where there is a need to find and prioritise the most serious of the issues. Further, more detailed TAP sessions can be conducted for testing on a more quantitative scale. A more comprehensive approach like this results in a detailed list of all the issues encountered as well as the suggested fix to be applied.

How to contact us

To learn more about UX testing and what we can do for your web presence or software systems, please contact us using the information in the footer.

References

  • Ericsson, K. and H. Simon (1980). "Verbal reports as data." Psychological Review 87(3): 215-251.
  • Krug, S. (2000). Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Berkeley, CA, New Riders.
  • Krug, S. (2009). Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems. Berkeley, CA, New Riders.
  • Lewis, C. (1982). Using the "thinking-aloud" method in cognitive interface design, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center.
  • Newell, A. and H. A. Simon (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.
  • Sharkey, U., T. Acton, et al. (2012). Concurrent and retrospective think-aloud protocols for information systems research. 25th Bled eConference, eDependability: Reliable and Trustworthy eStructures, eProcesses, eOperations and eServices for the Future. Bled, Slovenia.

 

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