The Human Factors Usability Lab at Tufts University forms an integral part of the Human Factors Program at Tufts. It provides the facility to build and test prototypes (both physical and computer-generated models), evaluate user interface designs, and validate performance results in more formal settings.
The Usability Laboratory gives all human factors students an opportunity to perform hands-on experimentation and usability evaluation of their design projects and honors thesis projects, ranging from consumer products to software interface to protocols for managing information systems. It enables students to put into practice the theory and methodology they learn in class.
In addition, the facility can be of benefit to students, faculty and staff from other departments on campus (e.g., mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering/computer science, Academic Technology, Libraries) who require human factors input and usability evaluation of their design projects. UIT Academic Technology developed a data logger for the Usability Lab system.
The facility aids in evaluating user interface design and validating performance results in formal settings. It is useful in projects that require evaluation of human factors and usability. The facility has hardware such as video cameras, audio recorders, computers, monitors and software to perform usability evaluation.
The software for the usability lab can be found at AT Usability Lab Web-site. Professor Caroline Cao of Mechanical Engineering Department manages the Usability Laboratory.
Caroline Cao, Mechanical Engineering
Phone: (617) 627-2484
The lab or facility can be used to
- Learn methodology for acquiring data for usability study
- demonstrate the value of human factors and usability
- learn about usability engineering
- acquire hands on experience in usability testing
The field of usability testing is a mature science and requires training to make good use of the software and hardware available in the laboratory. Universities and companies provide basic training which is recommended before using any usability lab. Professor Cao can provide information about getting starting with a usability study.
The lab is a mean for instructors to teach usability and human factors involved in design products, including software using the principles of active learning and collaborative learning. Students not only learn the science of designing usability experiments by following standard good practices but also improve and brainstorm in the lab.
Users of the lab are allowed to change the setup when the design new experiments, unlike labs in which the equipment is fixed and cannot be moved. It gives them an opportunity to actively design new experiments. The lab also promotes collaboration and working in teams on projects or problems. Learning or performing an experiment in the usability lab may improve the depth of understating of human factors and usability in product design, critical thinking, creative problem solving skills and the level of confidence.