Day#174: The Hawthorne effect and how it can affect usability testing

Day#174: The Hawthorne effect and how it can affect usability testing

I absolutely love learning about the effects and laws that display key principles and mannerisms in human behavior, today I will be looking at the Hawthorne effect, the study was conducted from 1924 and the initial study had the goal of identifying if lighting could increase productivity. What the researchers found after changing the lighting and eventually having the lighting the same as it was initially after various levels, the employees were still showing signs of increased productivity. Why would this be? The same reason when you do something and someone is watching you, you tend to do it better than if someone was not watching you. This will happen irrespective of it being in a professional space, however I can see how it would influence employees if it was perhaps individuals tied to senior management that were assessing them. Check out the video I found below, this seems to be the best video out there, it does not reference how the Hawthorne Effect relates to UX, but I will get to that once you watch the video so enjoy!



Now that you have watched the video, because I know you would just never dream of lazily scrolling on, let me explain how this relates to UX. In usability testing we often have participants come in and we ask them a range of questions on our products, the goal is always to never make them feel as if we are testing them. However naturally because we are watching them it may just change their mannerisms, because let’s face it nobody wants to seem silly. The aim is to constantly make the user feel comfortable and not let other variables like your staring gaze influence their snap judgments that you actually need. I am sometimes two minded about the beautiful usability labs I sometimes see and drool over, they look stunning but it really must be stressful for someone who is not used to the process to be sitting in front of a one way glass knowing that their may perhaps be 10 people watching their every move. I personally love doing the informal guerrilla testing methods, I often go to coffee shops and hangouts of my users and approach them with bribes of coffee and muffins. However in the event that these are not places your users would frequent it may be the only option to bring them in, you also have to prepare for very intricate products that would need concentration and a special skill set so having a coffee sit down may not always be the solution I know. All in all be aware of the Hawthorne effect and how it can change your findings, and work on ways to make your users feel comfortable in your next usability test, happy researching until next time!


Bye for now

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