I undertake a lot of usability studies as part of my job, interviews, observations, surveys etc. I really enjoy it. I really believe that effective evaluation techniques are required to determine the usability of web sites, projects, museum exhibits, just about everything should undertake some user testing before it is released out to the public masses. Otherwise what is the point, right? If its not fit for the end user, then there is no point in doing it. If sites, projects, exhibitions are not usable/audience friendly, users will leave and find others which better cater to their needs.
User requirements studies are so important. I could wibble on forever about them. I mainly focus on User centered design, which explicitly and actively includes users in the development process form an early stage. My aim is to ensure what ever project I am working on is owned by the users, specifically designed to the requirements of the end users.
Today I undertook a bloody brilliant user observation session! It has left me feeling enthralled and invigorated about what I do, and more importantly has left the user participant feeling happy and positive about the project! A win win situation.
Today involved a think aloud observation session, the aim of this was to hopefully understand the use, opinion and information behaviour from a participant interacting with a specific site. This aim was driven by the motivation that in order to ensure that interactive systems truly support their users, it is necessary to gain a detailed understanding of how people would use the site in their everyday work. So off I went, got a bit lost, but eventually found the office I was looking for and sat in a very comfy chair and set a couple of exploratory tasks, encouraging the participant to think aloud as much as possible. I have done hoards of these think aloud sessions, and they are really insightful, none more than today. It was absolutely brilliant being able to be a part of a positive experience, where the participant was so bright and bubbly and passionate. I love it when I meet with someone who has a similar personality to me. Despite the session being difficult for me to stay quiet, it was very difficult for me to remain unobtrusive, but I managed, I could not help but feed off the happy vibes coming from the participant. A good mornings work.