New Conclusions in Usability Testing

July’s issue of the UI Design Newsletter looks at how recent usability research is leading to new conclusions which may have implications for tried-and-true usability testing techniques.

In particular, a couple of questions they posed and their answers caught my attention:

Does it matter if you test with lo-fi or hi-fidelity prototypes?

A recent study suggests neither but instead to use a mixed fidelity approach based on the application of 5 ‘dimensions’ to your prototype:

  1. level of visual refinement
  2. breadth of functionality
  3. depth of functionality
  4. richness of interactivity
  5. richness of data model

In this way, the purpose of the test determines the level of fidelity used as far as each of the above attributes is concerned.

It forces the usability tester to hone in on what feature(s) of the design they are seeking to test, and thus to ensure that the level of fidelity of the prototype in that ‘dimension’ is as high as is necessary.

Should you test one design or many?

Another study looked at whether it was better to test one design or several (PDF).

It concluded that users were ‘nicer’ with their comments when evaluating a single design whereas they were more critical when presented with alternative designs to choose from.

To quote:

By exposing users to multiple designs, we give them the opportunity to express which is their favourite, as well as reject designs that they would not consider, in light of the alternatives.

Interesting stuff.