Lightweight usability testing

The client:  our client was the Wealth division of one of the “big four” Australian banks.

The brief:  In this stage of our project, we had worked to iteratively develop a high-fidelity clickable prototype of our tablet app. We had previously used simple clickable wireframes to test the design concepts with users (Financial Advisers), and now it was time to get something more realistic in front of them, and see how they might use the app in their interactions with their customers.

My role:  I led the usability testing effort during this stage of the project.

Activities:  I need to set up a usability testing approach which was cheap, flexible, and fast to set up. No big expensive lab, no two-way mirrors. As a consultant I need to keep the process nimble. And not cost the customer a fortune. We needed to test our app with real Financial Advisers, but also simulate what it would be like for them as they used the app while they talked to their customers.  The best reason for this type of testing is that the team get to meet their users: they observe their users with the solution, and they develop a deep understanding of what their users need from the it.

The set up I chose involved using a large, well-appointed conference room on the client site, together with an adjoining small meeting room. In the small room we had the Financial Adviser, who would use the app, and a client stakeholder or project team member playing the role of “customer”. I ran tests with a total of 10 Advisors. In the large conference room we gathered my user experience team to observe remotely, take notes of issues during live sessions,  and identify potential solutions.

To record the usability tests, I used:

The observation room
The observation room
  • My standard-issue IBM laptop, running Skype and Camtasia (screen recording software)
  • My iPhone, running a Skype call back to my laptop
  • A wifi dongle thingy, so the iPad, phone and laptop could all share a connection
  • My old tripod, and a big chunk of bluetac (to attach the phone to the tripod. You could also go crazy and buy a proper tripod mount)
  • iPad running the prototype application
  • Software for mirroring the iPad to my laptop
  • Camtasia software, to record the laptop screen & audio, showing the user’s iPad, the user, and audio from the test room
  • Some desktop speakers, so the people in the observation room could clearly hear what was happening in the test room (computer speakers aren’t up to scratch)
A peek into the testing room

I developed a usability test script so that the Adviser testing participants could take their “customer” through a simulation of a typical insurance needs discussion, while using the iPad app.
The team were able to watch each session live, and rapidly identify design improvements.

The outcome:  By being able to observe how Advisers used the prototype app while they interacted with their “customers”, the design team gained further insight into the practical realities of the task, and how the app design helped or hindered the interaction. The fast & lightweight setup meant that we gained a lot of useful feedback very quickly and inexpensively. By participating with the design team, client stakeholders also came to understand the intended user experience more deeply.