February 27, 2016

Interrupted UX

Five participants will help you find 80% of your usability problems. So why would it be valuable to add realism to your usability testing? Two years ago, I saw Eric Meyer deliver a speech called Designing For Crisis that focused on keeping in mind the worst case scenario when you are building your website. His speech inspired me to take his story and apply it to usability testing.

Typically usability tests are built around required tasks. The subjects are asked to complete the test without interruptions in a comfortable pristine, white room. Even if the subjects are taking your test remotely, generally the participants are asked to find a quiet place without minimum interruptions. The reality is that office workers are interrupted every three minutes. So why not make usability tests more realistic? I decided to run experiments to discover if running usability tests with interruptions would lead to more realistic results.

In an in-house laboratory, I administered users non-required tasks, visual distractions, and required task switching. Some examples of these tasks are completing a text message, shaking the screen with CSS, and doing two tasks at once. After running multiple tests; I discovered that adding realism to your tests improve the accuracy of results, validate worst case scenarios, generate more questions from participants and make it fun.

Interrupted UX is adding multiple & repetitive distractions as tasks that are related to the personas into usability testing that allow for participants to lose their train of thought. What realistic office interruptions can you build into your usability tests to make them more realistic? Please share your discoveries and let us know what you've learned.

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Marc A. Majers

User experience leader, author, and DJ that is collaborative in each moment to inspire continual learning and positive feelings
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