The Usability ABC – part 7
Theory | User Experience

The Usability ABC – part 7

/ by Sabina Idler

It’s Tuesday and I’m back with more definitions for our Usability ABC. This week, I’d like to start with the following terms regarding usability testing: Usability lab, user, task, user case, and think-aloud protocol. As always I appreciate feedback and input to extend our list of usability related terms.

Usability lab
A usability lab is a laboratory set up for usability testing. Usually, a usability lab consists of a test and an observation room. The two rooms are either divided through a one-way mirror, or cameras are installed, so people in the observation room can follow the test. The test room is at least equipped with a microphone and a camera that record how the test person interacts with a system. Usability labs can also be equipped with more advanced material such as an eye-tracker.
A user is a person who interacts with a product or system. The user can also be called end user because he or she eventually purchases, consumes, and uses a product or system.
A task describes the means-ends process users engage in when using a system. Users have a goal which they try to reach by performing a certain task. A task can stand alone or be combined in a series with other tasks. Task oriented user testing includes tasks that are expected to be identical with real world tasks. Users are asked to perform a task, which gives insights into how well a system is designed to meet the requirements users have so they can reach their goals.
Use case
A use case describes a very specific interaction between user and system. It usually includes one or more tasks that a user engages in to reach a certain goal. With use cases, common tasks are identified and functionality, usability, and the UX of a system can be tested.
Think-aloud protocol
Think-aloud protocol is a research technique that is mainly used for user testing. Test participants are asked to verbalize their thoughts, actions and feelings while interacting with a test interface. This way, test moderators for example get detailed information about what participants expect, why they perform certain actions, or what bothers them.
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Article by

Sabina Idler

Sabina is community manager, technical writer & UXer @ Usabilla. She is interested in Usability, User Experience, Design, and everything that makes the Web a better place. Follow Sabina on Twitter.

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