What is the appreciate scenario to have a task in a usability test be focused on evaluating participant recollection of content on a page?

I recently what a user test where participants where asked to recall content on a page but I don't understand what you could learn from that if the content is really small or just a few links on the page.

  • What do you want to measure from ux perspective? Sep 6, 2019 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


It all depends on what you are trying to achieve/measure, which is unclear from your post. Hence, I'll talk in more general terms in hope that you can still find it useful. I'll try and keep my answer short.

In general, there may be two ways to perceive the term "recollection" depending on which mental and/or perceptual processes you want to test:

1. Recollection through memory

Here I'll simply mention that recognition memory, which can involve recollection or familiarity, is suggested by psychological research to be a faster form of memory retrieval than recall because recognition through familiarity does not demand as much processing as recalling details without any hints. From a UX point of view, triggering recognition is also preferrable than recall when designing a product or a new feature, to reduce users' effort. A usability study may be employed that evaluates participants' experience on how easy and useful they consider a product or feature to be by completing a set of tasks (e.g. making an online purchase). By providing users with meaningful information aimed at helping them in completing their task (instead of expecting them to remember certain things from memory), is one approach that may help trigger their recognition process rather than recall.

Additionally, implementing some of the Gestalt principles may help provide further context, which in turn may also aid in recognising certain objects and their purpose or meaning. You might find this article an interesting read.

2. Recollection through attentional systems

However, another association with what you have used as "recall", might be more in regards to visual attention and visual search, and less so about memory (even though both of those aspects could be linked during mental processing).

Key areas of visual attention in psychology revolve around theories on participants' range of focus (how narrow or wide our attentional field can be), the capacity on how many elements they might be able to focus on, and the meaning that can be associated with what they've just seen. It is a common misconception that we can grasp everything that passes in front of our eyes. There can be many factors influencing what objects may grab our attention, or how we might interpret their meaning.

In UX, one approach to examining the above concepts might be in the form of shorter usability scenarios (e.g. '5-second' and 'first-click' tests). Such tests attempt to evaluate, in a few seconds, participants' first impressions on what they've just seen or searched on a page or product (e.g. what is the purpose of that page, or the brand's message), and what might their next move be. They usually do so by testing the visual style, prominence of certain elements, wording and organisation of content (Gestalt principles come in handy here too). Participants' initial expectations or bias might contribute to misinterpreting the information on a page (regardless how minimal the page content might be), or even direct their attention like a 'spotlight' on a different area on the page, failing to notice page-elements outside their field of focus. Here's another article that might interest you.

Keep in mind that there is no clear cut approach whether one mental process is used instead of the other - due to the high complexity of such mental processes there may be overlaps in what our mind employs to carry out a task.

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