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Imagine you are training the next generation of UI designers and UX experts at a university, and the department just gave you a big pile of money to spend. How does the ideal testing lab look? (I gladly take literature recommendations, of course.)

The room(s) would be primarily intended for practical teaching, but may be used for actual research, too (both by computer science, engineering, psychology and linguistics staff). You would want to do many different kinds of user tests and experiments there. Some require a table for several people to sit around and chat, probably also a whiteboard. Others need a computer on a desk or a handheld device, all remotely monitored digitally and directly. You would even want to simulate familiar settings sometimes, e.g. a workplace, cockpit or kitchen.

I am thinking of four rooms:

  • preparation/waiting area
  • test room
  • observation/tech room
  • prop storage room

I have no good idea how big they should be, though. The test room would be accessed from the waiting area (which could also be used for group sessions and theory teaching) and there would be a one-way mirror at the sound-proof wall next to the observation room. At least two walls in the test room would be used as projection screens edge-to-edge to create immersive scenarios. Everything could be recorded automatically, of course. The waiting area might have a tea kitchen and a shower.

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The anwser will be determined by what your designer will design.


Testing

If they are designing only digital support rooms do not need to be huge :

ObservationRoom_TestRoom

EDIT : as @Majo0od said, the rooms should be separated, with the user not being aware that he is watched/recorded.

If you need to test smart-objects by example, you may need more space depending on the context where the objects will be used.


Conception

For the brainstorming, you will need a big room with a table around which you can sit 8 to 10 people, a board where you can draw ideas, a big notepad on feet (don't know the name) and maybe a computer to handle video projection. The meeting room.

You may either need a room to create prototypes and PoC, with a workbench, tools and stuff, in a word : a workshop.


Facilities

You may need a room for tester to wait, eat something, talk with you (don't forget good seats and sofas)...


Space lacking

I find another schema where you can see an example if you don't have a lot of space.

3rooms_observation_evaluation_control

  • I don't know if I'd connect the test room to the observation room like that. Having the test subject know that people are peering over his shoulder could make him/her uncomfortable. – Majo0od Apr 23 '15 at 13:17
  • @Majo0od Yes you are right, I though the two doors were opening the same, on a corridor for example, the rooms being independent. – Yohann V. Apr 23 '15 at 13:21
  • The designers in this case would be students with varying majors who are learning how to do user tests etc. Some will be testing webpages or apps or even services, others physical objects. The lab might also be used by psychology students for other experiments, by the way. – Crissov Apr 23 '15 at 13:40
  • You need somewhere for people you are testing who turn up too early to sit. – PhillipW Apr 23 '15 at 22:25
  • @PhillipW It is what i'm talking about when I wrote You may need a room for tester to wait in Facilities – Yohann V. Apr 24 '15 at 6:20
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Since that graphic in Yohann V.'s post was taken directly from our old brochure (circa 2005), I can attest that with three ceiling cameras and a mirror behind them, the user's knew they were being observed. enter image description here

The door connecting the Evaluation and Control rooms made it much easier to get to the Control room after the usability moderator read the introduction to the user, as well if there was a mechanical breakdown in the Evaluation room. There was no door connecting the Observation room to the Evaluation room however, so from the user's perspective, only the usability moderator was watching behind the mirror: They did NOT know there were also people in the Observation room (or that the Observation room even existed).

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I'd say this depends a lot on what you are testing - If you're testing an iPad app then you just need 2 rooms: one with wifi, a sofa and a camera/mic setup and another where you can monitor the testing (via the camera and mic).

If, however, you're testing cockpit instrument layouts under combat conditions then you're going to need something more complex potentially involving hydraulics and sick bags!

I don't think you're going to find a catch-all answer going down that route. You'll end up needing to have a series of testing suites that might include the basic two-room set up, a full apartment, a flight simulator, etc. Plus a storage centre for any props, decorations, or consumable you might need.

The catch-all solution is likely to be just a very large space, like a warehouse, with some big doors and a soundproof booth so that you can construct what ever scenario you wish whenever you need it by bringing in walls or flight sims or other facilities.

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