Short Assignment 3: Think-aloud Session

ASSIGNED: Thursday, February 8, 2007
DUE: Thursday, February 22, 2007 in class


You will conduct an interview and think-aloud session with a typical computer user as they use a common software program or interactive web site that they normally use in their everyday work. The interviewee must be someone from outside of the class who meets the requirements for informed consent discussed in class.

You will first need to spend some time interviewing them to discover some typical tasks that they use the system for. Once you have determined some typical tasks, you will ask them to carry out one of these tasks using the think-aloud protocol discussed in class. The situation should be as real as possible; if there is a real task they can work on, then they should do so. However, if for some reason they cannot (for example, if the task requires working with confidential information) then you may need to use another task, or ask them to perform the task with fake data.

While they carry out the task, you should take notes on their interaction with the system. Where do they run into trouble? What does the system do that they don't expect or have to work around? If an error occurs, how do they recover? Do they diagnose the problem correctly? What are the root causes of their problems?

It may happen that you can assist them with some of their interaction issues. For example, you might know how to change a program setting that would prevent a problem they are having. You should share this information with them, but not until the END of the session. Resist the urge to "help" them while they are performing their tasks.

You will need to download this informed consent form and fill in your name in the location indicated. You must hand in a consent form, signed by the interviewee, with the rest of your assignment. If you fail to do so, you will receive a zero on the assignment.

You will write a brief summary of the session, up to 600 words (+/- 10%), that describes the system used and task(s) performed (e.g., what job is the person doing? What is the task? How does the task fit into their overall job?) and documenting the results of the session. What problems did the users have? What was the root cause of those problems? What aspects of the interaction were particularly fluid? Why? If you have more material than you can fit into the document, choose the most interesting or unexpected results. Note: at this stage you are not re-designing the interface, you are only identifying good and bad aspects of the existing design.

On a second sheet of paper, write a few paragraphs describing the interview process itself. How do you feel you handled yourself? What did you forget to do? What did you do particularly well? What could you have done better?

Submission Procedure

This assignment will be handed in at the start of class. Be sure your document includes your NAME and STUDENT NUMBER.