ASU Usability Testing Lab
Who can use the ASU Usability Testing Lab?
Anyone on campus or off campus who is interested in conducting their own tests can reserve the lab and its technologies between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Friday by contacting the lab director. Also, each spring semester, students at ASU can enroll in ENG 4365: Usability Testing in Technical and Business Writing and conduct usability tests for ASU and local clients. Potential clients who would like students in ENG 4365 to conduct tests on their products/documents should contact Dr. Kevin Garrison at firstname.lastname@example.org and download the Client FAQ.
What is usability?
Usability is defined by how effectively users can use a product, a brochure, application, website, software package or video game to achieve their goals. If you have ever been frustrated when putting together a bookshelf because of poor instructions, then you have encountered a document that is not usable. Usability allows people in our information and technology-driven society to live with less user frustration and make more efficient decisions.
What is usability testing?
Usability tests are both formal and informal attempts to gather data about how users experience interfaces. Testing can be quantitative (i.e., measuring the number of mouse clicks to find a website, the number of mistakes that a user makes, surveys and questionnaires) or qualitative (i.e., interviews, site visits, online tests, heuristic evaluations, speak-aloud and more).
What is a usability testing lab?
Many formal usability tests are conducted in a lab environment. A lab is a physical space where a single tester or a group of testers work with a client to conduct tests on actual users. The ASU lab has powerful technologies, such as eye tracking, remote viewing, data collection/analysis, and video technologies to observe and measure the way people interact with information for the sake of making productive changes.
What is the end result of a test?
The end result of a test is to compile the test data into a plan of action to improve usability. Findings can be presented in several formats: 1) a presentation to the client; 2) a report of the findings; and/or 3) a video of the findings. Listed below are some sample videos from tests conducted at Angelo State University during the spring 2011 semester.
- Findings from a test on the ASU Technical and Business Writing brochure
- Findings from a test on the ASU Writing Center website
- Findings from a test of Moodle—an open source course development software
- Findings from a test of the ASUFit brochure
Are there careers in usability testing?
Yes. Students of usability typically come from cognitive psychology programs or technical writing programs, and they can have successful careers as usability engineers, usability testers or usability evaluators of websites, products, interfaces, technologies, documentation materials, games and more. Salaries range from approximately $50,000 or more per year.
Students interested in usability can seek unpaid internships with the ASU lab during each spring/fall semester.
What technologies are in the lab?
Our Usability Testing Lab has an office space with the following available technologies:
|2 Desktop Computers||4GB of RAM, 256MB video card, dual core, 500GB hard drive, DVD rewritable drive, memory card reader|
|1 Laptop Computer||Available for check-out. 4GB of RAM, 1GB video card, dual core, 1TB hard drive, DVD rewritable drive, built-in webcam|
|Dual Monitors for both computers||For an extended monitor|
|Eye tracker||Hardware and software that allows testers to “observe” and film what the user is seeing by tracking their eye movements|
|Morae Usability Lab||High powered software that can run both moderated and unmoderated tests; useful for extensive data analysis|
|Camtasia 7.0 Software||Screen capturing software with the ability to do simultaneous screen-capturing and “picture in picture” of webcam footage|
|Adobe Software||Adobe Premiere Elements for video editing and Adobe Photoshop for image editing|
|Smart Sync Software||To allow testers and clients to remotely view tests|
|Microsoft Office 2010||Word, Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint|
|2 Camcorders||Sony Handycams with tripods and 720x480 resolution for widescreen filming|
|2 Webcams||Logitech cameras with 1280x720 resolution for high definition filming|
|iPad||Available upon request for testing of applications and websites via touchscreen surfaces|
|Wi-Fi Connectivity||Available upon request|
|Textbooks on Usability||Includes the latest information about how to conduct a usability test|
|Printer||For printing documents|
|16GB Flash Drives||Available for checkout|
|Whiteboard||For brainstorming or informal testing|
|Tables, Desks and Chairs||Two desks, a round table and five chairs|
|Seating in the hallways||Available for those waiting to use the lab|
What are some resources for usability?
- Jakob Nielen’s website—the “guru” of usability
- U.S. Government website on usability
- Usability Professional’s Association
Usability Testing in Texas
- Texas Tech University
- Southern Methodist University
- University of Texas
- Austin, Texas: ThinkGroupAustin
- Austin, Texas: Human Interfaces
- Handbook of Usability Testing—Rubin and Chisnell
- Eyetracking Web Usability—Nielsen and Pernice
- Don’t Make Me Think!—Krug