This is one of a special series of unboxing posts exploring the different options available for usability testing, covering the relative benefits of each as well as when to choose one approach over the other. From low-cost rapid remote testing through to moderated lab-based testing, there is no reason why some form of iterative improvement through user testing shouldn’t be a key part of every one of your digital projects, in order to create best-of-breed user experiences that deliver the highest levels of customer satisfaction and return on investment. For more information, take a look at our post comparing the various approaches on offer.
Laboratory usability testing is a ‘qualitative’ research method where participants are recorded as they attempt to complete a number of tasks on a website or application.
Taking place in a purpose-built laboratory, each session is facilitated (or ‘moderated’) by a User Experience (UX) consultant and normally lasts between 45 minutes and one hour. A camera records the participant’s actions and audio (as they speak aloud), while specialist software records screen activity (and finger gestures if touchscreen devices are used).
Recordings of the sessions are saved for further review and analysis, but can also be relayed in real-time so people can observe from a dedicated viewing room or from any PC or tablet anywhere in the world. At Box UK we encourage client and project teams to visit our offices during usability testing where possible, to observe the sessions as they happen; this also allows for discussion sessions after the tests, to gain richer and clearer insights about the users’ behaviour, expectations and where they may have struggled.
The number of participants can vary from between 6 to 12, but it’s very much dependent on where and when the sessions are conducted. Participants are carefully selected based upon a number of key criteria in order to be as representative of typical end-users as possible. The UX consultant will also work closely with the client team beforehand to define (and refine) the user tasks and script for the sessions, ensuring that priority user journeys will be well-tested, without any unintentional bias or leading of users.
Usability testing deliverables will vary according to the nature of your project but at Box UK typical outputs include:
Before the test:
After the test:
You should consider laboratory usability testing if:
An investment company wanted to test their website with new and existing investors to see how it performed. Five existing and five new investors were asked to complete a series of tasks and answer questions.While existing investors enjoyed the website experience it was evident that the inexperienced users struggled to understand the content and suggested more videos, comparison charts and a wizard. Having addressed content gaps, the company saw an immediate increase in conversion rates.
Due to the careful planning and selective recruitment process required to ensure representative end-users are involved, setting laboratory testing sessions up can sometimes take longer and cost more than some of the other options. Similarly, for some tests, the ‘lab’ environment may be too formal, or you may need immediate ‘quick and dirty’ insights right now – in which case guerrilla testing might be better. If getting representative end-users to travel to the laboratory in person is not possible, remote testing might be more appropriate. The trade-off for all of these considerations, however, is that moderated laboratory-based testing arguably provides the highest levels of insight and control compared to some of the other approaches discussed.
At Box UK we have a strong team of UX consultants with hundreds of hours’ testing experience, and a state-of-the-art lab set up to provide the best environment for the participant, facilitator and observer. If you’re interested in finding out more about how we can help you, get in touch with us by calling +44 (0)20 7439 1900 or emailing email@example.com.