User Research Lab
Who We Are
The User Research Lab is a high-tech research laboratory specializing in human-centered research studies.The lab is led by Kathryn Summers who has over 15 years of experience teaching interaction design and usability, designing and conducting research studies, and evaluating user interfaces.
The lab was designed as a teaching and research facility supporting students enrolled in the UBalt's Doctor of Science in Information and Interaction Design program, Master of Science in Interaction Design and Information Architecture program and various information design certificate programs.
In addition, the User Research Lab and research services can be rented by outside businesses and organizations seeking a professional environment and expert assistance for their studies. Rentals can be on a full-day or half-day basis.
The mission of the lab is to provide an environment for understanding the user experience in various contexts; to provide usability services to academic researchers, graduate students and businesses; and to contribute valuable research findings to the professional user research community.
What We Do
During a study, we bring participants into the User Research Lab and ask them to complete a series of tasks. We collect observational and performance data which are analyzed and used to make recommendations for product designs. Some of the data collected includes:
• task success and/or failure
• time to complete tasks
• number of steps to complete tasks
• user confusion with tasks
• product satisfaction
• product usefulness
• user eye movements (specific to computer-based testing).
Our testing room is outfitted with a 17-inch monitor integrated with the Tobii T60 Eye Tracking system, which collects participant eye gaze data during testing. The user's eye movements are sampled 60 times per second while they complete tasks. The Tobii Studio software allows researchers viewing the observation monitors to see exactly where the users are looking on the testing screen in real time.
Our laboratory is also outfitted with the Tobii X120 Mobile Device Testing Solution. It is designed to capture user eye movement in more flexible scenarios such as testing with smartphones, tablets and e-readers.
We evaluate websites and software for adherence to usability standards, accessibility, information architecture and aesthetics. Recommendations for improvement are made based on our analysis.
Other Research Activities
We routinely conduct other research activities that are coordinated and supervised by Kathryn Summers, the University of Baltimore's resident expert on user research and usability testing. Many of these other activities include, but are not limited to:
• card sorting
• image collaging
• contextual inquiry and field studies.
Students who have completed the Research Methods for Interaction Design course often have the opportunity to participate in industry projects in collaboration with Summers.
Our Newly Renovated Facilities
The reception room is an open, inviting space at the center of our research lab suite.
The observation room features a one-way mirror view into the testing room, a professional sound system with audio mixer, synchronous audio/video control and recording, and multiple large monitors for group or class observations.
The testing room can be set up for different types of studies including eye tracking and paper prototyping. It is outfitted with audio and video recording equipment and the Tobii T60 eye tracker, which can unobtrusively sample the position of the user's eyes and record that data alongside the video of the user's interactions.
The mobile room is a secondary testing room. It can be configured to test the usability of various types of mobile devices.
This room was created for focus groups, and can comfortably accommodate six people at a large center table. It has also been used for card sorting and image collaging activities. It is outfitted with a whiteboard, flat screen monitor and Polycom conference phone.
The analysis room is an extra workspace for graduate students and researchers. It is outfitted with both Mac and PC computers and white boards.
Our facility has a kitchenette for the convenience of our researchers and clients. It includes a mini-fridge, microwave and sink.