How do you minimize work in usability testing?

Posted: November 4, 2010 in Food for thought
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You’ve read in Cooper ch. 8 that one of the main goals of applying design principles to interfaces is to minimize work. This is, indeed, consistent with the assumptions about humans of information foraging theory. The same principle, sometimes simply referred to as “make it easy” applies to many other domains, such as persuasion, marketing, fundraising. In general, if you hope people will do something, you have to make it easy for them to do so. The same does not apply to professors… It is our job to make it hard 🙂

Now, think about your usability testing instruments and protocol: How do you minimize work? How do you make it easy for the research participant? How do you make it easy for the research team? Can you point out some of the (many) specifics things you do to minimize work?

  1. msvanessab says:

    I think some of the biggest things are just being prepared; we’ve discussed personally how to minimize work later down the line [from the researcher’s perspective] by just having everything together and ready. it doesn’t seem like much, but having all of the files for the tasks compiled into one file to print just once actually saves a lot of time, and prevents a great deal of excise tasks. I didn’t notice it until we actually ran our pilot: it’s faster to wait on 17 pages to print at once than it is to go back to the computer and print each individual file 5 times, generating 5 prints at 3 pages a piece, which also allows the printer to cool down, restart, potentially jam more frequently-it adds up.

    For the research participants, it’s somewhat hard to tell, given that each individual person will behave in a different fashion. Some simple things though would just be on a consideration basis: being available for them when they finish tasks, rather than wandering around not paying attention, resetting tasks for them as needed rather than making them do it, adhering to the protocol rather than stating one thing and adding more on when they get there, having everything set up for them upon entering, and even staying on top of your own work.

  2. narayun says:

    From my observation, a lot of bad usability survey ask too many task/question to the participant. Being extremely stingy on how much questions/work supplied is crucial.
    If the task/question provided does not provide significant information needed it should be eliminated in the spot.
    The the instruction language should be very straight forward as also. Any ambiguous meaning written would potentially hinder the process.

  3. […] where there is a producer, on the one hand, and a consumer, on the other hand. As exemplified in Dr, V.’s post on chapter 8, this could be the interaction between a researcher and a research participant, a writer and a […]

  4. I do agree that clarity and simplicity of instruction is important in eliminating or minimizing participant burden. In some respects, I also do agree with Dr. V. that it is the professor’s job to make things difficult for students. However, I would say this is more of a msiconception than a fact if we analyze the professor-student relationship in terms of design principles such as minimizing work load. I guess the essence of Dr. V’s posts is to make it easier for students to understand course readings and execute the nanoHUB usability test with reduced excise. Though some of the emails and course readings may appear burdensome, the purpose still remains clarifying and simplifying work for students. As trainees, students would always consider work as an overload. However, once they graduate and become professional designers (or the final product of professors), the principle of reduced woadload would have been part of their worklife and it is only then that one can look back and appreciate the present efforts in seeing excise-free designers tomorrow.

  5. korash says:

    When we need to print out the testing documents including interview forms and observation coding form. We always have to figure out how many pages will be required for the next coming usability test. We can have a different number of researchers based upon the their available schedule. In the meantime, the roles could be changed in every single sessions. And we decided to bring all the required test instrument document papers individually. For instance, if I am going to be an observer, I will need observation coding form and interview form. That means I will have to open the test instrument word document file to find out where the pages are to print out those forms. And we also have to know how many pages will be needed. The way that I used to minimize the work is to create those form as individual pdf files naming as FORMATNAME_NUMBERofPAGESrequired.pdf.

    So “Obsrvation_Coding_Form_15.pdf” file means that this file is Observation Coding Form and the maximum number of required pages is 15. By doing so, I can simply click the file that I want to print out and do need to spend time on finding out page numbers or the location of the form in a test package file.

    I have also shared these files with my group members uploading on SharePoint. I am pretty sure this can help to minimize the printing work.