Automated Lab Based Usability Testing

Jeff Sauro, PhD

Facilitators in usability tests are highly variable.

The results of many studies, including the well known Comparative Usability Evaluations (CUEs), have consistently shown that different usability facilitators are inconsistent in how they interact with participants in a usability lab, producing dissimilar results.

What’s more, testing more than a few participants a day leads to facilitator fatigue, introducing further variation even when a single facilitator runs all the sessions.

In a unique cross-industry effort, Measuring Usability has partnered with, Optimal Workshop, and Loop11 to create Cindy (Consistent INterview Drone for usabilitY), the first autonomous usability test facilitator.

Cindy dutifully administers tasks to participants in a perfectly timed and natural cadence.

When participants ask questions, she deftly deflects them with appropriate responses such as, “What are your thoughts on that?” and “What would you do if no one was here?”

Cindy elevates think aloud protocol to a new level by properly prompting participants to articulate their thoughts at precisely timed intervals.  Cindy works with desktop, web and mobile usability testing.

Hear what the leading usability gurus are saying about Cindy and automated lab based usability testing:

Jakob Nielsen: “Automated Lab Based testing has rendered traditional human lab based testing 99% bad.”

Jared Spool: “If we can’t use automated lab based testing, then I’d rather have a Ouija board

Steve Krug: “Finally, I don’t have to think!

Here are the benefits of Automated Lab Based Testing

  • Consistency between participants: You never have to worry about a facilitator getting too chatty with a participant or texting their friends and family during a study
  • Pack participants in all day: With no facilitator fatigue you can count on tight schedules.
  • No need for lunch breaks: All you need is 120 volts, no need to cater expensive food or worry about the facilitator consuming expensive chocolate and premium coffee
  • No bathroom breaks mean back-to-back sessions: We’ve found that we can now get 30% more participants in per day with the digital precision Cindy offers.
  • No ongoing payroll costs : Need we say more?  And hey, that means no worrying about having to come up with new and creative job titles either.

Even Rolf Molich, the perennial planner of Comparative Usability Evaluations, has announced that he no longer sees a need for the CUE with the introduction of Cindy.

We have high expectations for Cindy and the field of Automated Usability testing. In a nod to its potential to change the industry, Louis Rosenefeld has obtained the rights to document how designers can work with Cindy to improve their designs. While a table of contents is still in the works, we do know it will have really cool looking cover and excellent layout.

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