UIEtips: Testing in the Wild, Seizing Opportunity

Jared Spool

August 12th, 2009

A few years back, Google put up a small internet cafe in the public lounge of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal One. Passengers, awaiting their next flight, could use Google’s laptops to get maps, check flight information, read email, and any other internet-related activity. Partly a mechanism to introduce the public to Google’s broad array of applications and services, it was also a way for Google to see people use computers in a more natural environment than their in-house usability labs.

Google made a big investment in the Heathrow Google Space project. However, you don’t need Google’s large bank account to pull this off. It’s really quite simple and inexpensive get great insights by conducting field-based research. 

In today’s UIEtips, we have a great article by author and usability testing expert, Dana Chisnell, explaining how you can easily conduct usability tests “in the wild.” She shares some of the trade offs between field-based testing and more traditional lab-based tests. (And she should know! She wrote THE book on usability testing – The Handbook of Usability Testing.)

By the way, Dana will be one of the great speakers sharing her wisdom and experience at this year’s User Interface 14 Conference. I’m very excited about her full-day workshop, Advanced User Research: Dirty Little Secrets, where she’ll reveal oodles of tricks and techniques that nobody ever talks about. I’ve reviewed the course outline and you’re going to love the advanced techniques she’s covering. 

Have you brought your user research efforts into the wild? What’s worked and what hasn’t? Share your experiences with us below.

2 Responses to “UIEtips: Testing in the Wild, Seizing Opportunity”

  1. Mark Pawson Says:

    Great article. I wish I had this two years ago when I was asked to run usability tests at a trade show. I did an extensive literary search then to find pointers on how to do this and could find nothing specific to my situation. I did find articles on how others had modified UX techniques for their particular ‘Wild” environment. Thank you for this article. It validated that we took the correct approach. Keep it hgh level and go for the quick wins. I published my work in the hopes that more will write about their experiences.

  2. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Hi Dana, good reading and like the idea of regular, iterative testing as the product design rolls along to inform product strategy.

    Questions –

    1) Do you think that the term “testing” carries some misconceptions. For example, the user is being tested, the designers are being tested, the team is being tested, the product manager is being tested – someone, somewhere is being tested 🙂 – resulting in people feeling defensive about the process? Does the term “usability testing” put us on the same page as the product team or does it create defensiveness?

    Which leads to question 2 …

    2) How important is it to brief all members of the product team about the testing process and what is actually being tested? Is it time to change the name of this method?

    Thanks, Dan

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