Cambridge University Design / UX group

Usability testing

On Wednesday, I went to a good TechLink talk on the University’s Streaming Media Service (SMS). Julian King explained how he and his team manage this service, and what we can expect from it.
If you want to know more about the SMS, Julian’s presentation is available online [PDF].

Something that got me really interested, though, is that staff who want to make their own video or audio recordings can unofficially borrow recording kit from UCS as part of a pilot scheme. The thing is that the kit looked perfect for carrying out some simple usability testing…

Discount usability testing

Usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, wrote ages ago about how you don’t have to spend lots of money to carry out effective usability testing. Steve Krug expanded on this, and added a lot to the idea of ‘discount’ testing in his book, Don’t Make Me Think.

This is a camcorder

This is a camcorder

The video/audio kit that staff can borrow (*) includes the following:

  • 2 good quality camcorders
  • 2 wireless microphones
  • a handheld stereo audio recorder
  • tripods
  • MacBook Pro + editing software (e.g. iMovie and Audacity)

(*) As yet, I am not entirely sure who one should approach about borrowing stuff, but I think Julian and the other SMS guys are probably the first port-of-call.

This equipment is all you need to carry out and record usability testing sessions, guerilla or otherwise! It is certainly something I will consider using. For a useful round-up of how to proceed, have a look at Jeff Atwood’s article on Lo-Fi Usability Testing. Something to think about over the bank holiday weekend.


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