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  1. #1
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    Usability Lab Setup

    Hello. My boss wants me to put up a usability lab with minimize cost. I have proposed a 2 video (handy) cam setup (1 focused on the user, the other one focused on the keyboard and mouse activities), a software will be used to capture the screen activities. He kinda said that it was an expensive setup. I said we could trim down to 1 video cam (focus on the user and the keyboard) but he said it was still expensive. He suggested to use 2 web cams. I tried recording using the web cam we have and the recorded activity was very slow. Is there a way to speed this one up which would look like it was taken from a video cam? My boss suggested hardware compression but I don't know if this would yield same result as using video(handy) cam? Please help. Thanks.

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    ~amberrv~

  2. #2
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    Follow up question:

    Is it advisable to use a web cam in conducting usability tests?

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    ~amberrv~

  3. #3
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    Basically the goal of a good usability lab is to get you the information you need that will allow you to determine a good understanding of how usable the product is. If that means using video cameras, that is what you should do. If that means using Web cams, that is what you should do. How well they work relative to your needs is what should determine if you utilize that solution.

    You can also offset the lack of some camera ability by having screen recorders or keyboard recorders active along with observations. You can also have the participants speak out loud while they do things. You can also position the lab in such a fashion that you can watch events directly but without being in the person's direct line of sight. (You would do that in tandem with the recording type software.) I tend to avoid things like scan converters, if at all possible, unless you have a really good one. A place I was at used NetMeeting on the machines and used that to watch from other computers what was going on along with the direct line of sight approach. (We did not have direct line-of-sight of the keyboard and mouse but based on the screen actions recorded I was able to write them an algorithm that basically replicated what the person typed and how long it took between actions.) Where cameras are really handy, of course, is for facial expressions and eye movements (critical in full usability studies) - and this is particularly good for participants that do not speak out loud as much as you would like.

    Overall you (and your boss) have to balance the needs of the budget with having an effective usability lab. As far as video recorders and web cams, there are a lot of varieties out there to choose from (all of different cost and quality) so answering this question generally is very difficult to do. The fact is that you really should most likely invest in a camera unless you have a good Web cam that has a wide angle view. The whole point of this is to capture any visual events (such as looking at documentation), posture, and the expressions and movements that I mentioned before. If you can get that out of the Web cam, then that should be fine.

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  4. #4
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    You could just use one video camera with an "over the shoulder" view of the monitor. You can get a view of how much the user is typing and using the mouse, see the screen, and use the camera's microphone to record the user's comments.

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    Charles Reace (charles{DOT}reace{AT}verizon{DOT}net)

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    if($QA != $Testing) { printf "Right\n"; }
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    web site | [url=http://www.ebookworm.us/[/url]

    [i]...Sound trumpets! Every trumpet in the host! / Sixty thousand, on these words, sound, so high the mountains sound, and the valleys resound.</i] (The Song of Roland)

  5. #5
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Charles Reace:
    You could just use one video camera with an "over the shoulder" view of the monitor. You can get a view of how much the user is typing and using the mouse, see the screen, and use the camera's microphone to record the user's comments.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    The only problem I see with this is that you miss the crucial aspects of facial expression and eye movements - again, crucial elements of a good usability study. This is particularly true when the participant does not speak out loud as much. (Some of them are more uncomfortable doing that than they are being recorded.) If there is one camera I would opt for the best side-angle possible where you can still see what the hands are doing but also the above mentioned aspects. (You can use screen recorders and key recorders to then compensate for the the lack of direct viewing of the screen or use the approach of something like NetMeeting to directly watch the screen.) If, however, you have a participant that is quite vocal, you then have much less of a problem with the "over-the-shoulder" viewpoint.

    All of this also depends upon whether or not someone sits with the participant while they are working. This is another approach that some groups use.

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  6. #6
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JeffNyman:
    The only problem I see with this is that you miss the crucial aspects of facial expression and eye movements - again, crucial elements of a good usability study. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    Agreed, I was just trying to find the cheapest solution I could. How about putting a mirror next to the monitor?

    Frankly, with the prices these days on home consumer video equipment, I can't see arguing against buying (or renting?) two cameras if it's decided that is what is needed, unless your budget is really tight.


    ------------------
    Charles Reace (charles{DOT}reace{AT}verizon{DOT}net)

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    if($QA != $Testing) { printf "Right\n"; }
    else { printf "Wrong\n"; }
    web site | [url=http://www.ebookworm.us/[/url]

    [i]...Sound trumpets! Every trumpet in the host! / Sixty thousand, on these words, sound, so high the mountains sound, and the valleys resound.&lt;/i] (The Song of Roland)

  7. #7
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JeffNyman:
    Overall you (and your boss) have to balance the needs of the budget with having an effective usability lab. As far as video recorders and web cams, there are a lot of varieties out there to choose from (all of different cost and quality) so answering this question generally is very difficult to do. The fact is that you really should most likely invest in a camera unless you have a good Web cam that has a wide angle view. The whole point of this is to capture any visual events (such as looking at documentation), posture, and the expressions and movements that I mentioned before. If you can get that out of the Web cam, then that should be fine.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I agree with you. Since it was the budget that was important, I guess usability goals will suffer maybe not that bad but not as good as what is expected that should come out of it. I think so too, that video camera is a good investment especially if you are going to market your usability lab. But right now, it is not possible. I have discussed the pros and cons with my boss but still he said that web-cam would do. I also raised the issue of not having clear picture because web cams are not as wide-angled as video cams. And also the issue of speed.

    He suggested to use hardware compression(?), which I am researching right now because I'm not actually familiar with it. He said that the speed of the recording can be faster when you have a card that is inserted in pci slots. My problem is that is there a way that a do web cam have uses cards? Not USB, parallel or serial but those that can be inserted in the motherboard slots?


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    ~amberrv~

  8. #8
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Charles Reace:
    Frankly, with the prices these days on home consumer video equipment, I can't see arguing against buying (or renting?) two cameras if it's decided that is what is needed, unless your budget is really tight.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    You're right. But my boss says we should not spend a lot for the lab (which i disagree because lab is an investment). Imagine me doing a marketing presentation for the usability lab which uses 2 web cams. Do you think I can market it?

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    ~amberrv~

  9. #9
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by loujean:
    Do you think I can market it?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    You can market anything, if you put a good spin on it. The real question in this is: is a usability lab with two Web cams going to be effective for you and your organization?

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  10. #10
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    Re: Usability Lab Setup

    <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JeffNyman:
    The real question in this is: is a usability lab with two Web cams going to be effective for you and your organization?
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I guess we'll have to see that. I don't really agree with the idea using web cams.

    When I tried recording video from web cam, it was very slow. Is there a way to speed up the recording?


    ------------------
    ~amberrv~

 

 
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