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HHS Usability Lab

The Digital Communications Division at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) operates two usability labs. These labs are free of charge for other federal agencies to use. They are located in rooms 453G3.19 and 637F of HHS’ Headquarters:

Hubert Humphrey Building
200 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20002

The labs are open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. They are closed on federal holidays and follow the Office of Personnel Management’s guidance for closures and dismissals.

Usability Lab Set-up

The usability labs consist of two areas, the testing room and the observation room. The testing room accommodates 1-3 individuals, typically a test participant and a moderator. The observation room holds up to nine individuals. Use it to observe testing, participate in a focus group, or hold a pre- or post-session meeting.

On the left is a diagram of the HHS Usability Lab Testing Room (436H) set-up. On the right is a diagram of the HHS Usability Lab Observation Room (453G3.19436H) set-up.

What am I Responsible for and What will the HHS UX Team Take Care of?

To assist in the process, the HHS UX Team will take care of a number of things; however, prior to making a reservation, please be aware that there are also certain things that you will need to take care of:

When using the HHS Usability Lab:

You Need to: HHS UX Team will:
  • Provide staff to set up and conduct tests
  • Recruit participants
  • Compensate participants from your own funds, if compensation is planned
  • Follow the rules of the usability lab that are noted below
  • Familiarize visitors with the lab
  • Train you and your staff on the equipment
  • Act as a liaison with HHS Security
  • Ensure you are able to access the site or resource you are testing
  • Provide technical support during testing

Reserving a Usability Lab

The labs are available for all HHS divisions and programs as well as other federal agencies to use. To reserve a usability lab, please contact info.usability@hhs.gov at least 30-60 days in advance of your desired test date.

All reservation requests must include:

  • Federal employee POC / Name
  • Department/Office/Agency
  • Requested test dates
  • Test methodology
  • Technical requirements

Please note that scheduled sessions are subject to change should urgent Secretarial priorities arise.

Usability Lab Rules

When you plan to use the lab, please keep in mind the following rules:

  • Users must be trained to use the equipment.  Training is provided to all users undertaking usability testing and takes approximately 1-2 hours.
  • Federal contractors must perform testing under the supervision of federal employees.
  • Test team members must be in place 30-minutes before their first tester is due to arrive.
  • The user is responsible for providing recording media (Flash drive, external drive or CDs) for Windows media and/or Morae recording files.
  • Rooms must be kept neat and clean.
  • No food or drink allowed in the lab.

Preparing to Test

Once you’ve booked a lab, there are several things you need to do to prepare for your test.  All agencies must:

  • Complete pilot testing prior to using the usability lab. A pilot test:
    • Involves a full run through of all test materials and technology supports
    • May take place during training or prior to the agency’s first test. At least two members of the test team—typically a moderator and note taker—should be present for pilot testing. Allow 60-90 minutes for pilot testing.
  • Seven days prior to a test date, all agencies must provide a detailed list that includes dates of testing
  • The name of the testing agency
  • The arrival time of the team
  • The time testing will begin and end on each day
  • Primary point of contact and two alternate contacts
  • The arrival and departure time of participants, team members, observers, and escorts

No exceptions are made for late lists. You may revise your security list up until 48 hours before the day of testing. Please also ensure that all members of your party are notified to bring a valid Government-issued photo ID. It is required for entry in the Hubert Humphrey Building.

Additionally, please review HowTo.gov’s policies and guidelines for usability testing on federal public websites. Note that federal agencies do not need OMB clearance to conduct usability testing if the testing is conducted on nine or fewer users.