Saturday, March 29, 2014

Institutional review

When you do your own usability tests, it's a good idea to gather some information about who is doing the test. Are your testers mostly men, mostly women, or a mix? What are the ages of your testers? (Sometimes, programs that are easy for one age group to use may be difficult for another age group.) How much previous knowledge do your testers have about the programs they will be using during the test?

And when you ask these questions in a higher education research setting, as mine is, you need to go through what's called an Institutional Review Board. As the name implies, the IRB reviews your research project proposal to make sure it doesn't harm the participants, and that any information that you gather doesn't put the participants at risk. My IRB review was pretty straightforward: a usability test doesn't harm the test participants or put them at risk, and I'm only asking a few informational questions that don't identify the person participating in the test.

Here are the questions I'm asking each tester to answer, before we do the test:
1. Your age: (please mark one)
  • 18 - 24
  • 25 - 34
  • 35 - 44
  • 45 - 54
  • 55 - 64
  • 65 - 74
2. Your gender: (fill in the blank)
3. Please indicate (circle) your level of computer expertise:
  1. I know very little about computers
  2. I know some things, but not a lot
  3. I am pretty average
  4. I am better than most
  5. I am a computer expert

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