For each of 2 techniques (user observation, thinking-aloud)

  1. What kind of information and insights did it give you about the usability of the prototype?

User observation addresses the physical behaviours of users in the interactions with the product. For instance, in the task of booking tickets, we utilized user observation to evaluate the website Seymour. From recording the verbal and non-verbal behaviours of the user, which part of the website is well or poorly designed can be explored. When our tester entered the website and smiled with positive comments, it revealed that the homepage catered to the user’s preference. Meanwhile, the user moved her head closer to the screen when she saw the ticket information, which pointed out the font size of the website was small for her.

Thinking-aloud only focuses on the verbal behaviours of users. Through recording their descriptions of what they are doing, thinking and feeling, where users are satisfied or dissatisfied with the product can be reflected. We used thinking-aloud to perform the Officeworks exercise. Following the user’s verbal behaviours in each step, we got feedbacks of the actual experience of using the website Officeworks. For example, “why the search results show me computer accessories after I typed ‘tablet’ in”, said the user. It provided the clue that there might be some issues in filtering and sorting search results.

  1. What aspects of the technique worked well or were frustrating?

Both the techniques (user observation, thinking-aloud) provide an easy way to help evaluate the usability of the product. As useful techniques, user observation and thinking-aloud both work well in understanding user’s feelings, thoughts, and demands.

User observation shows its superiority in visualizing user feelings compared to thinking-aloud. With vivid images of non-verbal behaviours and simple note-taking mode of verbal behaviours, user observation makes the product evaluation easier. As for me, it is hard to write a lot in a short time especially when I do multitasking (observe the user and take notes at once). So, user observation does well in recording the user feedback of the product in shorthand.

Thinking-aloud provides more details than user observation in user’s thought processes. But a shortcoming of the technique is that if a user speaks less and cannot provide enough verbal behaviours, the evaluation might fail. Because thinking-aloud relies on the act of describing, how the participant acts will greatly impact the outcomes of the product evaluation.

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