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Determining Goals, Needs & Resources for Building a Usability Lab – Part 1

Building a usability lab, whether you are new to the field or leading a team, can be quite an undertaking. Recently a lot of you have reached out to our team to learn about our lab at HHS  and find out about how you can build one of your own.  We thought it might be a good time to put together a series dedicated to usability labs.

We are basing these recommendations on our own experiences—not only starting our own program but in helping to ramp up programs elsewhere.  You may have your own experiences and we hope you’ll share those with us.

Understanding Your Goals

To get started, it’s important to understand your organization and client needs. As with anything, knowing why you’re starting goes a long way in saving time and money in the long-run.  It also helps you to determine the scope of your project and the goals for building the lab. Look to both lessons learned and future needs to determine the resources and equipment necessary to ensure your program is a success.

Drawing of hand holding magnifying glass over Earth with arrows pointing at bulls eye, power button, pencil, light bulb, and arrow rising.

Kickoff meetings are a vital part of planning to build a lab, setting up a program, or just running a test. To set expectations and gauge what you have to work with, here are some starter questions for your team to answer the following:

  • What is your organization’s testing history?
    • Is testing new at your organization?
    • Are any reviews/testing/results/recommendations already done?
  • Which resources are already in place?
    • People?
    • Equipment?
    • Software?
  • Which types of testing will you do?
  • How often will you test?
  • What space is available for testing?
    • A dedicated testing room?
      • With a dedicated observation room?
      • With a one-way mirror?
    • Multi-purpose rooms like a conference room?
    • Currently no space is available for testing?
  • Will you test in more than one location regularly?
  • Who will observe?
  • Who is on your team or available to your team?

What's Coming

In some of our upcoming posts in the series, we’re going to be exploring how to equip a fixed lab, when deciding to go with a portable lab might be the way to go, and recruiting and working with participants in your lab.

We encourage you to choose the advice that suits your needs and to share your experiences in the comments.