Session type:
Tutorial

Session duration:
60 minutes

Presented by:

Dr Nikiforos Karamanis

European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI)

About this Tutorial

Traditional usability testing, as advocated by usability testing guru Steve Krug, is a brief one-to-one session with a user giving you feedback about your product. Krug contrasts usability testing with focus groups, in which a group of people are asked for their opinions about a product.

As a lead UX designer at EMBL-EBI, I had the opportunity to attend events in which we could ask 5 to 10 target users for feedback on new or existing features. The problem was that traditional usability testing requires about 60-90 minutes per participant. But I only had 60-90 minutes with the whole group to get their feedback…

So together with the developers and senior stakeholders of my team, we developed the group usability testing method: book a meeting room, pair each user with a developer or manager who acts as the facilitator and ask them to try out the feature and think aloud in parallel while the facilitators take notes of their feedback.

The initial pairing allows us to capture individual feedback and overcome the perils of groupthink. Having everyone in the same room opens the opportunity to then work together with the facilitators and the participants and consolidate their feedback, all in 60-90 minutes.

I was initially very sceptical about this method but it turned out to be a great way for our team to collaborate and become exposed to user feedback. It gave them the chance to talk to more users than traditional usability testing and has the added advantage that users are also exposed to each other’s views, so we could spot common issues and individual preferences more easily. Participants loved it too and they kept asking for more - so much so, that some of them later became our facilitators. And it takes much less time!

We tried this method with varied numbers of people and time periods: 5-10 participants within 60-90 minutes worked best. In the workshop, I will walk through the nuts and bolts of group user testing and discuss in more detail what worked best as well as its limitations.

In particular, I will guide participants through one of the projects in which we applied this method and explain how we combined it with more traditional user research and one-to-one usability testing, to better understand people’s motivations and get more in-depth feedback respectively. I’ll also give people the chance to practice group usability testing so that they are ready to do a few days’ work within a couple of hours immediately afterwards!

Through the UX for Life Sciences initiative, I came across other colleagues who needed to get feedback from several users in a similar setting. So I talked to them about the benefits of this method and how it can be best applied within an iterative and lean approach to UX design like the one we follow at EMBL-EBI.

By running this workshop in UX Cambridge, I want to give product managers, UX designers and front-end developers working outside the life sciences the chance to try out group usability testing and then leverage user feedback without compromising on its quality.

To get the most out of this session, you should bring a laptop. And worry not, group usability testing is not a focus group!

About the Speaker

As a senior user experience designer at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), I am leading our UX design training programme, through which we are mentoring data scientists, curators, developers and team leaders working for EMBL-EBI on how to apply UX design methods to their practice. I am also contributing to courses organised by EMBL-EBI for external participants, such as Data Visualisation for Biology and our Bioinformatics Summer School. As well as this, I am providing bespoke internal UX consultancy to our service teams, helping them better understand the needs of their users and design and develop intuitive applications.

Before this role, I was the lead UX designer for the Open Targets web Platform, which supports researchers in identifying early drug targets faster and with more confidence (Karamanis et al, 2018). Prior to joining EMBL-EBI, I worked as a freelance UX consultant and as the UX lead of SwiftKey. I hold a PhD in informatics from the University of Edinburgh and worked as a research fellow at Cambridge University and Trinity College Dublin on user-centred design and evaluation of novel technologies for a variety of settings.

I enjoy spending time with users, developers and other stakeholders and helping them work together to achieve their goals using lean UX methods. And I love running workshops!

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