The Usability ABC – part 7
Theory | User Experience

The Usability ABC – part 7

on / 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.
User
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.
Task
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 was technical writer & UXer @Usabilla for 5 years before she started her own UX research and consultancy firm; UXkids. With UXkids, Sabina leverages her academic research expertise, know how in child development, and strategic vision to help companies build successful digital products for children. You can connect with Sabina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.

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