Current think aloud practices

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Gill, Amy

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University of Guelph

Abstract

Think aloud is a usability technique commonly used during user testing. While the psychologists Ericsson and Simon developed a highly prescribed version of think aloud for use in laboratory situations, it is unclear whether this version or other research-based guidelines are followed in practice. To understand how usability practitioners use think aloud, 20 usability professionals were interviewed. Results indicate that goals and methods of interviewees are markedly different from Ericsson and Simon. Interviewees use think aloud to inform product design by testing hypotheses and convincing people whereas Ericsson and Simon use think aloud to capture thought processes. Unlike Ericsson and Simon, interviewees do not follow a standard method and their practices vary widely; a comprehensive think aloud model was developed to describe the variation in practice. In addition, current research-based guidelines do not account for factors based on social interaction and the pressure to meet product deadlines.

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Keywords

think aloud, usability technique, user testing, usability practitioners

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