University of Aizu (JAPAN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 138-147
ISBN: 978-84-614-7423-3
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
This article is designed to explore how systematic use of specific usability testing methods could be taught in methods-based usability courses in computer science, psychology, communications and other related disciplines.

Eye tracking is a new area of research in usability testing of web interfaces. Broadly speaking, eye-tracking enables experimenters to determine if some regions in the task environment (e.g., website, software interface) were attracting too little attention while others are attracting too much. Eye tracking has the unique advantage of being able to capture reader’s eye fixation and movement (duration) data in the work space while the think-aloud methods can help readers verbalize their impression of the specific approach undertaken during the task. However, the major concern with eye-tracking method seems to be that eye fixation and duration data might not help understand the cognitive process behind readers’ actions.

This article argues that specific usability testing techniques if used additively to complement each other can help capture readers’ exact thought process during task completion. Readers often fail in verbally narrating the process of mentally animating complicated procedural instructions. In other words, there remains a gap in what readers think they did and what they actually did. However, if usability techniques like concurrent and retrospective think-aloud protocols are used in conjunction with eye-tracking method in a systematic way, and if readers are asked to narrate the tasks in a detailed manner with leading questions with visual cues about the undergone process, it might help explain the exact manner in which readers approached the task.

This article analyzed physical tasks for procedural design as examples of complex usability testing scenario and explained how think-aloud protocols could be used to understand the cognitive process. This study considered eye-tracking and think-aloud protocols from a theoretical standpoint of studying readers’ mental models. The focus here is primarily on comprehending readers’ ability for mechanical reasoning and self-reporting of task approach. The paper will also include a solid review of literature in support of the proposed recommendations on how to use think-aloud protocols as a support case for cognitive information processing during usability testing.
Eye-Tracking, Usability, Think-aloud protocol, design, interfaces.