Ten Tips for User Experience Lab Design
When designing User Experience (UX) Labs, it’s not just the user who should be considered. Together, UX and Makers Labs have a cultural influence on workflow, collaboration, and problem solving. With the right planning and design, these influences can benefit not just product developers, but every employee.
The Workplace Team at DLR Group has designed UX labs for some of the tech industry's most recognized names. Here are our ten tips for UX success.
- Testing Environment: Simulation, observation, and testing all have distinctive value in the UX evaluation process. Testing suites should replicate the type of environment that the user experience would happen in natively. If you are testing a personal device, a home setting will produce more reliable results than a sterile room. If it’s a business product, a more formal office setting may be appropriate. The goal is for user to feel like they are in a natural setting, not in a lab environment where Big Brother is watching.
In both cases, natural light is a priority. Simulation areas should allow for component specific mockups, which may necessitate that large equipment be brought in. Observation suites should maintain a neutral environment with easily accessible technology and a simple interface. This keeps the observer’s focus on the tester, not on figuring out how to properly see, hear, or record the tester’s reactions.
- Technology: Non-invasive observation technology is critical. Invest in subtle tech that is integrated with the suite’s design, rather than obvious two-way mirrors or obtrusive cameras.
- Security: Discrete security is a primary concern. Guests should feel like they’re in a comfortable environment, yet know that they are participating in a confidential activity. Clear delineation of secure and non-secure spaces helps underscore the program’s integrity.
- Welcome: Activate the main entry sequence with clear, welcoming reception, and a lounge area where participants’ comfort is the chief consideration. These are non-secure areas.
- De-mystifying the Process: From the welcome area, make visible a small scale lab where waiting participants can ease their curiosity and potential nervousness with a preview of non-sensitive UX testing. From here, the participant will be ushered into the secure areas.
- Creature Comforts: Make sure a restroom is located near to formal observation rooms for minimal interruption during sessions.
- Circulation: Observation rooms and Testing Rooms should have separate circulation to not allow testers and observers to cross paths. This guarantees a neutral environment where observers cannot challenge a tester who is not using the product the way a designer/developer intended.
- Disruptions: Acoustic and visual separation from Testing and Observation Rooms to adjacent interior spaces prevents any disruptions or distractions in the Testing Room environment.
- Dual Purpose: Even high-volume developers are rarely observing 24/7. Observation spaces can be dual-programmed, reconfigurable space that can work for training team members when observations are not occurring.
- Complementary Program Components: Consider adding complementary program components adjacent to UX suites, such as Hackers / Makers / Fab Labs. By allowing testers to get a glimpse into how the products they are testing may be made humanizes the task at hand. Maintaining acoustic separation from this potentially noisy space to Testing / Observation environments is critical. In this instance, specifying materials that have an inherent second use helps minimize investment and maximize impact. Examples include pegboard wall covering, moveable partitions, or space dividers / wall coverings made of acoustic foam.