For the last decade the Usability Research Lab (URL) has provided a wide range of usability-related services to clients from different industries. The URL's work is affordable compared to similar for-profit labs, but at the same time offers equal if not better resources, as well as access to relevant user test populations. User discovery, early stage prototyping, team UX training, and user-centered design are our specialties. If you're interested in what the URL can do for you as you work to understand your users better or make better, more usable products for them, contact Dr. Abigail Selzer King.
Listed and described below is a sample of the client services the URL provides:
- URL Evaluation Packages
- UX Evaluation
- In-Situ, Field UX Testing
- UX Iterative Testing (Comprehensive Evaluation Package)
- Touchpoint Analysis
- Additional UX Evaluation Packages
- User Discovery and Analysis
- Heuristic Analysis
- UX Modeling, Ongoing Monitoring
- User-Centered Design Packages
- Rapid UCD Low Fidelity Prototype
- UCD Research
- Iterative UCD Design
URL Evaluation Packages
UX Evaluation (Recruiting and Testing Representative Users)
- Early stage testing (paper prototyping, low fidelity)
- Wireframe testing
- Beta testing
- Live product evaluation (user validation)
- Comparative testing (testing 2 or more versions of the same product or comparing a company's product to competitor products via user testing)
This package involves
· User, task, and environmental analyses, using a variety of methods, during the discovery process that lead to the development of user profiles and prioritized tasks for testing
- User recruitment
- Test plan development and implementation
- We develop test scenarios, create a representative testing environment, and then we evaluate the product by having recruited, representative users perform typical tasks
- User data, including performative data (time on task, mouse clicks, dwell time, and other quantitative data) are collected along with verbal feedback and expert observations
- Data collected are analyzed using standard UX measurement formulas along with any other custom metrics we develop to meet testing goals
- We then report findings and recommendations, supported by pertinent data in the form of graphical representations and audio/video clips of users in action
Limited Discovery Required: 2-4 weeks (2 for discovery, 2 for evaluation, analysis, and reporting)
- Extensive Discovery Required: 4-8 weeks (4-6 for discovery, 2 for evaluation, analysis, and reporting)
In-Situ, Field UX Testing
This package mirrors the UX Evaluation Package above except for the fact that we conduct testing in the field, which adds some time and expense because of logistics. We strongly recommend this package for medium to high fidelity testing (wireframe or already digitized products), and we regard it as absolutely crucial for mobile device or mobile application testing because so much of the user's environment is influential on product use.
Limited Discovery Required: 2-4 weeks (2 for discovery, 2 for evaluation, analysis, and reporting)
Extensive Discovery Required: 4-8 weeks (4-6 for discovery, 2 for evaluation, analysis, and reporting)
Environments for testing need to be selected and testing will need to occur in those, requiring us to test on location.
UX Iterative Testing (Comprehensive Evaluation Package)
We test the product at least three times, typically once during early stage (low fidelity development), then at a wireframe stage (medium fidelity), and then later in a more advanced stage of development. Nielsen has argued that iterative testing like this, which builds upon knowledge gained and the improvements that follow through each successive round of testing, will ultimately allow us to discover roughly 80% of the major UX issues of a product. For a new product, or one that is undergoing a major revision, targeting new users in the market, or which has known UX issues, iterative testing like this is worth the investment.
As part of the total package we also provide training to staff and put in place an effective product post-release monitoring system (akin to what EBay calls “360 degrees of usability”) so that the company can continue to evaluate and improve the product even after it becomes available on the market.
Limited Discovery Required: 2-4 weeks for first test, 2-3 weeks for all future tests (6-10 weeks total)
Extensive Discovery Required: 4-8 weeks for first test, 2-3 weeks for all future tests (8-14 weeks total)
People who make contact with companies along multiple touchpoints spend 82% more than those who only engage a single touchpoint. Further, customers spend as much time after buying a product interacting with its touchpoints than they do before
Companies must engage in ongoing, agile touchpoint analysis to determine
- Total touchpoints
- Touchpoint prioritization (valuing touchpoints)
- Touchpoint success
In fact, we know that successful companies
- Identify the most important customers
- Concentrate investment on customer touchpoints that will do the most to raise profitable demand (which touchpoints will have the greatest impact)
- Set realistic goals for implementation
- Constantly review their success
The URL offers to companies a comprehensive touchpoint analysis package, enabling it to determine its high priority touchpoints and then implement strategies or making these touchpoints successful interfaces for the company's brand and ROI.
- Touchpoint chain analysis
- User profiles
- User Journey maps
- Focus groups, surveys, observation, purchase stats, analytics
- Touchpoint hypotheses, model
- UX Evaluation of Touchpoints to test hypotheses
- Balance organizational goals, customer needs
- UX evaluation, iterate additional prototypes
After evaluation we recommend how to improve the high priority touchpoints, and as part of an additional package we can even help to redesign them.
This is an intense, comprehensive package, recommended for companies who wish to understand their brand, the success of their user relationship continuum, and how to craft future products that improve the company's bottom line.
Discovery is the largest part of this package and cannot be limited even if the company has existing data. A thorough touchpoint analysis is a 10-12 week process.
Additional UX Evaluation Packages
These are other packages the URL provides, generally smaller in scale than the ones previously discussed.
We will provide certified training in UX evaluation and design to company staff so that they can begin to implement UX internally. Often this is included as part of one of the larger evaluation packages, but we can do it separately.
2 or 3 days of training.
User Discovery and Analysis
We can use shadowing, contextual inquiry, cognitive walkthrough, as well as other methods to develop user profiles for a company, in the process creating user journey maps that offer a realistic, accurate portrayal of who the users are of a company's products, and, just as important, what they need from the products (affordances) to be satisfied and to use them effectively. Effective user discovery analysis sets the stage for future UX design and evaluation because it helps a company establish clear requirements for what is required to make current and future products usable for their intended users.
We can provide fast feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the UX of a company's products by conducting a heuristic analysis. We draw on industry-standard heuristics as well as customized evaluative metrics. The products are scored by specific area and in total and qualitative comments are also provided so that the company receives a full picture of the health of their products, and the things that need to be done to remedy problem areas.
UX Modeling, Ongoing Monitoring
Very often companies have products that cannot undergo major revision because they are so heavily used, and they certainly cannot be taken down for evaluation. But companies want to know what will happen if they do make changes, just as they want to know when changes are required. They want to be proactive because that results in fewer UX issues.
Modeling is an important tool the URL provides to companies. First we craft user profiles and then lay out clear UX requirements. After task and environmental analyses we are then able to create an environment identical to the product's present environment. We recruit users and have them carry out tasks within this environment, but as necessary, based on the company's new initiatives, on new knowledge about users or about UX standards, we introduce changes to the product inside the model. From the data we collect we can determine whether the product in real environment can be improved by introducing the changes we experimented with in the model.
Each model we create is unique to the company's needs as well as to the product in question and its users and environment of use. As part of the modeling package we also provide a custom metric that allows the company's staff to conduct ongoing monitoring on their own, similar to how Google Analytics works, so that it is easy for them to introduce change, test it, and then receive results that can be acted on quickly.
Ultimately, modeling is an ideal package for a company with mature UX practices that wishes to do more than just evaluate a product before making it go live. The company understands the value of UX and wants to maximize it.
User-Centered Design Packages
In addition to offering standard and customized UX evaluation packages, the URL has the talent and experience on-staff to provide companies with user-centered design (UCD) solutions. Our UCD approach is thorough, just like our UX evaluation approach. We implement a strategy we call RABBIT for every UCD project:
- R esearch users,
- A ssess the situation (competitor analysis, environment analysis, company goals, materials analysis, etc.),
- B alance needs (filter company and user wants with possibilities, budget, timeline, standards to determine the necessary affordances that must be part of the design),
- B uild an operative
- I mage (prototype creation)
- T est the prototype, iterate changes, create another prototype via agile UX design methods
We can provide the prototype design for the company, we can assist the company's on-staff talent in developing a UCD-driven prototype, we can conduct the critical research about users, competitors, and other key elements to determine what is required to fashion a successful UCD product, or we can offer a combination of all these services.
Rapid UCD Low Fidelity Prototype
Again, the discovery process will take the longest time, but because is, by its nature, less scientifically driven than evaluation, we can provide design services much faster to companies. Along those lines, we can turn around a low fidelity prototype of a new or redesigned product for a company that meets its goals and the needs of its targeted user community.
In two weeks, with the first week spent on researching users and other factors, we can rapidly develop a UCD prototype for a company.
If a company has designers on its staff but requires a thorough analysis of users, the competitive landscape, and the affordances required to make a planned product successful, we can conduct UCD research that provides, at its conclusion, recommendations to company designers for crafting an effective product.
Iterative UCD Design
We can research and then develop a low fidelity prototype of a new or redesigned product, and then we can test it, iterate a new, higher fidelity version of it, test it again, and then iterate a better, even higher fidelity version of it. We can literally design a brand new product for a company from inception to go live, or we can work with a company's designers to do the same thing. The project can be as straightforward as three iterations that increase in fidelity each time, or we can build out the product, using agile, iterative UCD design, so that the product can go to market at the conclusion of our work.
The URL has a team with decades of combined experience in systems, application (mobile and web), software, and also hardware, development. Many of our team holds US and international patents for software design, including algorithms. We can build the UCD product for the company or assist their efforts at every level possible.
This depends on the scope of the project