Our team has a wide experience designing and conducting user studies tailored to the specific requirements of different target groups, with an emphasis on persons with special needs like older persons and people with disabilities. The gathered experience with these user groups enable us to have a unique perspective in environments where users are handicapped by the operational environment, such as a user driving a car.
In all our Research and Development and consultancy projects end users are involved from the beginning within the development cycle to ensure that the resulting ICT systems are usable. For instance, in case of an Ambient Assisted Living application the system shall be usable for the older user herself and for her caregivers.
For this purpose we use established methods from usability and accessibility testing and deploy them in a variety of complex environments. Among these methods, we can highlight:
- Scenario-based user testing with
- standard tasks designed to represent a typical usage scenario of the envisioned ICT system to ensure that test results will match with the application’s context in the real world, and that they are reliable and valid. Because of our research projects experience, we can address issues even when users with cognitive impairments such as dementia are involved in a user study, and define a standard task whose imaginary power is strong enough to overcome the reduced cognitive capabilities of the target group;
- structured questionnaires to gather thorough and comparable information, e.g., about the opinion of test participants about the design of a certain feature of an ICT system. These questionnaires can consist of closed questions, questions with enhanced lists or open questions depending on the objectives of the study;
- "Thinking-Aloud" as a technique where test participants are asked to express their thoughts while fulfilling a standard task, thereby providing more information about the feasibility of a system design;
- participatory observation to note possible obstacles a test participant encountered with a system and their severity, and comments made by users on the system;
- sensor-based physiological measurements to enrich test results by, for instance, measuring of positive and negative stress when achieving a certain step of a standard task; and
- Assistive Technologies to evaluate the status of an ICT system in regard to conformance with accessibility guidelines and an accessible user experience when using a certain type of assistive technology like a screen magnifier or a screen reader.
- Heuristic evaluation of an application by usability experts who also have a deep knowledge about the domain of the application. The goal is to examine the compliance of the application with worldwide acknowledged usability principles (like the heuristics developed by Jacob Nielsen).
- Interviews with (semi-)structured interview guides to gather information about, for example, how web commissioners ensure sustainability of their website and which problems remain unsolved.
- Accessible online surveys to reach wider audiences and to facilitate the participation of people with special needs, whose requirements are not normally included in the design of online questionnaires.