People conduct qualitative research for varied purposes, one of which is to inform product development. Datacorp recently conducted in-house usability testing, followed by a focus group, to get user feedback on a prototype version of data management software.
To prepare for the usability sessions, our scientific staff got to work on developing a usability test plan, set of research questions, user task scenarios, and data collection tools. Meanwhile, our technical staff got busy setting up the equipment and the lab itself. The prototype software was installed on a laptop computer that contained video recording software to capture user’s facial expressions and navigation through the software screens. They also checked the ceiling cameras to make sure the video-taping of the sessions would go off without a hitch. Then one-by-one we conducted the usability test sessions. The session moderator was joined by a research assistant, armed with a tablet computer with audio recording and note-taking capabilities that allow linking between the two. On the other side of the two-way mirror, an analyst recorded data and a few observers, well, observed. Immediately following the session, users completed a brief survey to assess their general impressions of the software through Survey Monkey and told us what they liked and/or thought should be improved.
Following usability testing, scientific staff prepared a moderator’s guide for a focus group with our testers. Overarching questions and ground rules for the focus group were established and posted in the lab. Our technical staff was back at it, setting up and testing the equipment. We utilized our large network and PC-connected flat screen monitor so we could refer to the software in this group setting as testers described their user experience and what features and/or navigational elements were particularly helpful, in need of improvement, or on their wish list. Our moderator facilitated the discussion, making sure all topics of interest were covered and that everyone had a chance to speak, while someone else operated the computer that was connected to the monitor. Our note-taker was back with her tablet, and the observers on the other side of the mirror did what they do best…observed.
Through usability and focus group testing, Datacorp was able to evaluate our prototype’s user interface and ease of use and identify specific system issues that may lead to an inability to complete core functions, navigation errors, data entry errors, and user challenges in completing core functions – something we surely wanted to do before going into the next phase of our product’s development.