Ever heard of Improv Everywhere? This was the UX equivalent. Researchers just appeared out of the crowd to ask people to try out a couple of designs and then talk about their experiences. Most of the interactions with participants were about 20 minutes long. That’s it. But by the time the sun was over the yardarm (time for cocktails, that is), we had data on two designs from 40 participants. The day was amazingly energizing.
What an amazing idea! Using "flash mobs" and other on-the-spot venues for usability testing is a great innovation. If your test subject is willing to spare a few minutes, and with a "mob" of individual testers and evaluators, you can glean valuable information in a short amount of time.
The article lists ten suggestions to making "flash mob testing" work well:
- Organize up front
- Streamline your data collection
- Test the data collection forms
- Minimize scripting
- Brief everyone on the dos and don'ts of usability evaluation
- Practice intercepting people
- Do an inventory check before starting
- Be flexible!
- Check in
- Reconvene on the same day for a wrap-up
This idea of "flash mob" usability testing can be extended to other domains, too. You can do this type of impromptu usability testing on website visitors. Chad Fennell shared a few links with me, including a software package "Ethnio" that allows you to intercept visitors so you can recruit them for live UX research.
Ethnio and other similar packages will likely be used more frequently in future by web designers as they seek active usability feedback from users. It doesn't take much for a usability test, only 5 or so testers can identify usability issues or positive trends. Imagine a design team setting aside a day to intercept web visitors, asking them to respond to a quick (5 minute) usability scenario. How many visitors does your site get in a day? How many visitors are on your website right now? Even if only 1/4 of your visitors give you their 5 minutes, it won't take long to get useful feedback.