Usability testing methods have always been needed to test the performance of new or existing products and services. When deciding which usability testing method route you want to pursue, it is always good to consider what your audience is, what needs they have, your budget and available time, as well as what you would like to test.
Even though we believe that all services and products should undergo a usability evaluation before they are launched, it can be said that some products require more extensive and accurate usability testing such as usability testing for medical devices.
With the new decade, the complexity of new products and services has risen, as the needs of different target groups are changing and increasing. Complex technological developments have given rise to the need for more modern and reliable testing methods to accurately evaluate these complex scenarios.
In general, when it comes to usability testing methods there are two different approaches: remote and in-person.
In-person usability testing is usually almost always moderated by an expert researcher who exposes the users to the product or service and observes how they are responding to it. He or she then asks questions, asks participants to fill questionnaires or carries out in-depth interviews with them. This is a qualitative usability testing.
- An expert is present that can ask follow-up questions and carry out in-depth interview sessions
- An expert can observe the users while using the product and service, and also decipher their bodily gestures and facial expressions
- A more costly and lengthy procedure
- Human biases cannot be completely eliminated
- Deciphering bodily and facial expressions is often done subjectively based on the interpretation of the expert
Remote usability testing is usually considered as a less costly and time-efficient method of testing, where the participants are not required to attend a session with an expert but can do the test from their homes. These tests can be done over the internet or via phone – and as it can be correctly guessed, they are not as accurate as in-person sessions.
- Users in different geographical locations can be tested
- A bigger sample of users can be acquired since the process is less costly
- Not very accurate method if the product or service is complex as everything is narrated in retrospect
- There is not an expert present to analyze responses and ask follow-up questions
- No in-depth analysis
So let’s assume that you want to continue with in-person usability testing. We identified the 3 best methods that can be used.
3. Heuristic Evaluation
This usability evaluation process involves human factors experts that measure the efficiency and usability of a product or services, most often based on these 10 usability heuristics originally defined by Jakob Nielsen in 1994.
- Visibility of system status
- Match between system and the real world
- User control and freedom
- Consistency and standards
- Error prevention
- Recognition rather than recall
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Aesthetic and minimalist design
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
- Help and documentation
In this process, participants are recruited and asked to perform and evaluate certain tasks with a product or service. On the other end, experts or moderators observe and take notes. Participants are asked to do the scoring, explain their experience and provide feedback as well as delineate any issues they faced.
2. Think aloud protocol
The think-aloud protocol is widely used in product design and development – and as the name suggests, it is a process where participants are asked to describe their experience and feelings while using a product out loud. During the evaluation process, the participants have to say out loud anything that comes to their mind while being observed by experts. This method helps researchers and experts to understand the cognitive load of users as they express their thoughts, their doings and feelings. Experts are asked to note down whatever occurs during the session, without interpreting the participants’ actions at the time of the session. These sessions are recorded in audio or video so that they can be also analyzed retrospectively to avoid biases.
1. Brain-Computer Interface methods
The above two evaluation methods have been widely used by experts in the past, to test products and services at their early development stages. However, in recent years, the use of Brain-Computer Interfaces to test usability failures is becoming more and more popular.
This is because, in contrast to other usability testing methods, BCI derive data directly from the brain signals of participants, measuring their cognitive load and emotional states with Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience.
In contrast to other traditional methods, BCI tends to be more accurate and less biased – often, in other usability testing methods, participants are asked to narrate their experience in retrospect which means that important details might be missed out. Even when participants have to express their thoughts and feelings out loud, this can be tricky as there is the possibility that a participant will only say what is expected of him or her to say – thus limiting the accuracy of the testing. In addition, human biases are always present when humans are involved. When an expert or moderator is asked to analyze the responses of users there can, of course, be unwanted biases and subjective inputs.
By using BCI (EEG, Eye Tracking, Facial Recognition etc.) these biases are eliminated, results are derived faster in real-time, and participants with physical impairments or with other limitations can be included in the process.
So which method is the most suitable for your business? That is really up to you to decide, according to your current needs and resources.
We at InnoBrain can help you to derive unbiased, objective, fast results with our BCI platform that features EEG and Eye Tracking technology, eliminating usability failures early on during the development process.