Usability testing can be set up pretty much anywhere your users are available. Formal settings like usability labs or market research facilities are best if you want a controlled environment and expect to have many people from your team observe the sessions. (Check out Centralis Lab.) Testing can also take place on-site at your offices with our mobile lab if you have a quiet, out-of-the-way space for testing and a nearby conference room for the observers. We've also set up our mobile lab at annual meetings, conferences, training centers and user group meetings to take advantage of many users gathering together in a single location.
Another alternative is in-context testing, which involves going into the users' actual setting and asking them to perform a series of tasks with their own equipment. (This type of testing is often combined with field studies.) In-context testing gives you the added benefit of seeing the environment in which your product is actually used, enabling you to assess the impact of factors like lighting, noise levels, temperature and the availability of other tools. (If you've ever tried to use your iPhone with gloves on, you can appreciate how important these factors can be.) In-context testing is valuable if you're studying a product that is highly customized or touched by a series of users, such as manufacturing software or ERP systems.
Finally, remote testing is a possibility for incorporating feedback from worldwide users while minimizing travel costs. In our opinion, remote testing yields less data than face-to-face sessions, but it's an acceptable option if in-person testing is not feasible.
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