6 Usability Research Tools for UXers

Posted 6/26/2014 1:40 PM by Curtis Lauterbach

The purpose of UX is to provide a great and enjoyable experience while allowing the user to efficiently accomplishing their goals. Usability testing provides feedback from users to meet UX’s goals and keep the project on track. I have posted six software programs that I’ve used with pros and cons so you can match a program to meet you individual needs.

OptimalSort by OptimalWorkshop

It’s difficult to develop a website’s navigation if you do not have any knowledge of what content and layout the users want.

Pros

  • OptimalSort allows the creation of cards with website concepts (i.e. Tools) that users drag and drop into groups that either you or they name.
  • Results show the frequency of individual cards in groups. The higher the frequency, the more users want that content to be located there. Ultimately, the information will decrease development time as a better idea of how users conceptualize your site’s content is obtained.
  • Questions can be asked before or after a card to ensure those who meet your demographic requirements will be analyzed.
  • Manual card sorts can be completed by printing them, then scanning the barcode or entering the number for the data to be recorded by OptimalSort.

Cons

  • You won’t be able to answer questions, unless performing moderated card sorting.
  • Doesn’t automatically require users to sort all cards into groups, which can lead to inaccurate results.
  • Users can’t create subgroups, and the algorithms don’t function well with small user numbers.
  • For physical card sorts, you either enter the number on the bar code or have a SKU scanner.

Morae

Usability testing is a long process that produces a lot of information. It’s hard to remember exactly why a user performed as they did on specific tasks and stakeholders may not accept your results without seeing the user’s behavior and comments.

Pros

  • Captures video, audio, and screen behavior (mouse tracking, clicking, and scrolling).
  • Create specific task tags and take notes describing behaviors and user comments.
  • Allows recording the screen in conjunction with a smaller picture of the user’s face. It provides valuable insight of where and why users performed as they did.
  • If you have difficulty getting stakeholders accept change, create highlight reels showing users’ difficulty and thoughts of the product. Customizable reports which can be exported in different video formats can assist in the process.

Cons

  • Getting performance data, such as, time on task and the number of clicks reports is a little confusing.
  • Need to have another person start and stop times for each task. Otherwise you will have to go back to log them manually. I have logged them myself once, but it disrupts the participants’ thought process and makes them conscious of what they say and do, which affects results.

SPSS

SPSS is the go to program for data analysis. It is flexible and can perform any test needed to get the results to show one design’s effectiveness over another.

Pros

  • Give variables names that make sense to you, and label them as specific types of data (interval, ordinal, or nominal). This assists in analysis by telling you what tests can’t be run with certain types of data.
  • Copy and pasting data from excel makes analysis smoother, as long as the column titles match in SPSS.
  • Collaborate by exporting results in other formats to those without SPSS.

Cons

  • Knowing which options to choose for specific tests takes some time at first. However, the help feature provides quick step-by-step guides which are easy to remember for later use.
  • Some of the graphs make the data seem skewed.

Camtasia

It’s normally used as video editing software; however, I have used it when I didn’t have access to Morae. It provides the ability to record audio and video of the user interacting with the product.

Pros

  • While users are interacting, you can select a portion or the entire screen, then make edits for highlight reels that can be exported in various video formats.
  • Cross Platform support for Windows and Apple.
  • You can add callouts to highlight specific user behaviors.
  • Add titles to sections, such as, what user’s liked/disliked about prototype A

Cons

  • Unlike Morae, Camtasia doesn’t allow task markers or highlighting mouse clicks, tracking, scrolling, or note taking.
  • There’s no option to have an image of the user inside a smaller picture, which makes changing stakeholder’s opinions more difficult.
  • It automatically zooms to the region of the user’s mouse, unless this setting is unchecked.
  • Researchers must watch the entire user video to collect performance metrics.

Google Drive

When doing usability testing by yourself or when you want users to provide feedback remotely, Google Drive allows for the creation of forms users complete can automatically saves the results.

Pros

  • Results can be download in different formats, copy them into SPSS, and/or get descriptive statistics with graphs of each and every question.
  • Create unlimited questions and use different question types (multiple choice, text box/area, and scales).
  • Reduce dropout rates by providing a progress bar and have users respond to questions that pertain only to them, depending upon their previous responses.
  • Collaborate with others with a link to the results and export them to a format they can use.

Cons

  • Takes up a lot of room, if everything is saved. I recommend saving the data and removing the form and spreadsheet.
  • Sensitive content, should be encrypted.
  • Some documents don’t have all the formatting options like their Microsoft counterparts.
  • Difficult to use on a mobile device.
  • It doesn’t automatically copy the form. This has to be done separately.

5-Second Test

With new designs, they may not make sense to users. Knowing the concept makes sense and where users search for specific information assists developers strategically place information.

Pros

  • Users are given five seconds to view screenshots of the website, then provide feedback on a form.
  • Users can click the five most interesting points to strategically determine placement of information.
  • Provides feedback on your brand, first impressions, and what users like/dislike the most.
  • Create unlimited tests.

Cons

  • Performs only public tests, unless you have a public account.
  • Provides demographic information about the user only if they have a completed profile.
  • The free public account’s users are members of the Usability Hub community, and not necessarily allows users of the website.