Why User Lab Tests May Not Be Reliable

Why user lab tests might not yield the most reliable results

Why User Lab Tests May Not Be Reliable

Why User Lab Tests May Not Be Reliable

By this stage of the digital era, most everyone knows what usability and user experience (UX) are. Usability testing, on the other hand, is not nearly as common as it should be. Testing usability is all about getting real people to interact with a product you’ve built – be that a website, an app, or a physical product.

Usability testing can take a variety of forms, but the two main categories are user lab tests and remote user testing. The difference between these two is obvious as well.

A usability lab test involves a user coming to an environment controlled by you. And remote testing is when a user performs the test in their chosen environment, such as at home or in the office.

Now, a lot of people in the analytics industry will advise that a lab usability test with a focus panel is the best option when it comes to content testing. Here’s why we think that isn’t always the case.

High costs mean a small focus panel

User experience lab tests can get quite expensive, and the costs and logistics involved only increase as you add more people to the focus group. You are expecting hundreds, and hopefully, thousands of people to interact with your product regularly. And each one will have their own unique experience.

A lab test will often, if not always, involve a single device connected to one network and running from the exact same place every time a user test is underway. So how can you expect truly accurate results from such a small sample size?

You control all the variables in a lab

In a lab environment, you control every single variable except the user – the device they use to interact with your product (the model computer or phone and operating system as well as extra software), the time of day, even the interruptions. There is also a moderator on hand to clarify any questions a user may have.

In a remote environment, a user may get interrupted for hours, may not have the most powerful device, and may not fully understand the instructions for a question. Each person is unique and with unique circumstances, and a lab test can never provide an accurate measure of the real world.

Lab usability testing tends to have a wide scope

Because setting up a lab usability test involves a lot of work and expenses, and everyone with a stake in the design of a product wants the chance to measure whatever aspect they’re responsible for, a product development lab test will often cover a wide scope.

This can include everything from the visual design to the word and text content to the actual usability flows, and more. So your test user’s focus is divided across all these things, and a test might require a fair amount of time to be completed. With a remote test like Easy User Test, which is designed for on-demand feedback on text and design, you can focus your attention on just one thing at a time.

There is a place for both user lab testing, moderated remote testing, and unmoderated remote testing. Each one comes with its own challenges, benefits, and costs. It will be up to you to decide which of the many options out there suit you and your product the best!