I am looking for a methodology for interaction testing of a physical product / interface.

I am thinking something like expert testing (Heuristics) but just not for digital interfaces. Are there any predefined heuristics for testing physical products that can be used?

  • What sort of product is it that you need to test against? Is it electronic? Mechanical? More details about this will help you to get more accurate answers to this question. I've also removed the request for books about such testing - you should ask for the actual answer, not for links to where you could possibly find the answer. (Don't ask for the middle-man, ask for the actual answer itself!) That's how this site works better. Acting as a book recommendation site isn't really the purpose of the Stack Exchange sites.
    – JonW
    Sep 3, 2013 at 15:40
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    The product is mainly electronic but has some mechanical parts too it. I am sorry for the book request, won't happen again.
    – Jon Madsen
    Sep 3, 2013 at 20:17
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    I think the question needs clarification: you can either get some interface experts to look at it and check it off against a checklist (Heuristic Evaluation) - or you can test it with representative users carrying out representative tasks. They're not the same method of evaluation. nngroup.com/articles/how-to-conduct-a-heuristic-evaluation
    – PhillipW
    Sep 4, 2013 at 10:36

2 Answers 2


If you are trying to user test a physical product (or anything for that matter) make sure to first and foremost give the user tasks to undergo.

For instance, if you are trying to get a user to test a new hard line office phone you would want to create tasks such as:

  1. Go to your directory and call John Doe
  2. You just received a call from a co-worker, and you don't have the number, how do you redial?

Make sure the tasks are simple and straight forward, but are exactly for what you want to achieve. For instance, the above tasks would provide answers whether or not your interface is clear and concise. Also it could provide some insight on how users handle the phone.

Here is a good resource to use for user testing and other matters concerning usability and the like: http://www.nngroup.com/topic/user-testing/


Further more, you need to be specific with your question so we can give you a specific answer. Instead of asking us about user testing methods for physical objects or items, you should say for example: "user testing methods for a mobile phone." This allows us to give you better feed back since I can tell you weren't satisfied with my or anyone else's answer. Help us help you! :)


A quick breakdown of how to do simple user testing no matter what your product is:

  1. Before hand, make sure to compile a list of tasks.
  2. Make sure to then find people who fit in your user base
  3. Make sure to vividly record (whether by camera, notes, screen capturing, etc. I prefer videos, it helps way more and miss way less... Actually you miss nothing)
  4. Remind the user before hand that this is not testing them, it is testing the application or product.

These are incredibly simple however, I suggest you also take a look at these articles because they deliver vivid points on what to do and how to make the whole testing process way more efficient. This way of testing works for all forms of testing, just adapt to your needs: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/authentic-behavior-in-user-testing/ http://www.nngroup.com/articles/recruiting-test-participants-for-usability-studies/

Everything else you can find are on the site. This site is phenomenal. Best of luck!

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    The actual method is the same as for a purely digital interface. However recording the data for later analysis is trickier eg issues such as people standing in the way of the video camera; and say you're doing a washing machine interface, you'll need to build up some expertise on the 'world of clothes washing' in order to interpret why people do things / what they are talking about.
    – PhillipW
    Sep 3, 2013 at 16:32
  • I completely agree @PhillipW! The link provided should help him. I was just hoping to give him some sort of guidance as to how he go about usability testing in the specific product.
    – UXerUIer
    Sep 3, 2013 at 16:37
  • Thank you for your answer, and the link to Nielsens site, I will have a more thorough look there and maybe buy an article. If I were to ask a more precise question, it would be "Is there a specific method for testing physical products usability and their perceived efficiency". What i was hoping for was a method consisting of a framework, a step by step method, with scoring in different categories for each step and so on. I can see that you can do what you are suggesting, with giving the user a goal, but what i was looking for was more of a "expert test".
    – Jon Madsen
    Sep 3, 2013 at 20:34
  • Continued: And in the 10 heuristics there a definitely shortcomings when it comes to physical products, for example would would you need a heuristic on affordances and use cues.
    – Jon Madsen
    Sep 3, 2013 at 20:36
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    I think the question isn't clear about the method of testing / evaluation to be used. Regarding physical interfaces I work on the basis that an 'interface is an interface is an interface' (basically person : world ) However you have to do more thinking / research up front about the 'context of use' - ie mobile devices may be used in bright sunlight - so screen visibility in bright sunlight might be part of the scope of the test.
    – PhillipW
    Sep 4, 2013 at 10:43

Maybe You should start with: The Design of Everyday Things Paperback by Donald A. Norman ?

  • Thanks for the suggestion, i already have this book and as far as i remember it doesn't offer a method of testing. Feel free to correct me, if you remember differently!
    – Jon Madsen
    Sep 3, 2013 at 14:06
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    The answer should be complete in and of itself without referencing to books. Can you please quote the related section?
    – rk.
    Sep 3, 2013 at 15:19

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