Friday, May 20, 2011

Week Seven

The seventh week here in the UX lab has been a pretty busy one. Most - nay, all - of my time this week has been setting up the second version of our usability test for the NFA project. This time around, we had the chance to show it off for a few of our outside-of-school stakeholders, so we wanted to gussy it up a bit.

This gave me two goals for the week - revamp the test to take into account the feedback we received from the previous test cycle, one, and make the physical testing setup look a little more exciting, two. The first is a relatively straightforward task in its implementation, although it did require some time and testing. The second required a little more creativity - part of the goal for this was to set up a testing environment that would be a little closer to what would ultimately take place in the NFA experience. The real challenge there is creating something - something that works like a real flight simulator console might work - in a small computer lab that doesn't have any big 'ol flight simulator constructs sitting around for us to use.

Fortunately, I was able to scrounge together enough necessary material to create a slapdash pseudo-simulator cockpit (as seen below). We created a four-screen configuration that allows the pilot a panoramic forward-looking view on three screens and a below-mounted instrumentation panel for the fourth. In the center we had a joystick with throttle, and it was surrounded entirely by a makeshift cockpit shroud. It wasn't pretty, but it was functional and fit our purposes, and I think it'll be useful in the future as much as it was useful this week in administering our test.

And the test - this was Thursday. Our test was set up, as before, to examine the relationship between the JOC (radio officer) and the pilot in terms of communication, but we were able to do it in a way that created some more realistic challenges - among them were actual radio communication (versus the face-to-face communication of last week) and the introduction of other moving elements to the arena (aircraft that the pilot had to interact with). I think it went well; we were able to sort've show off what this project might look like in its implementation (and in doing so light some fires in people) at the same time as we were able to use the test to gather some useful usability data. I know that we have some plans to move forward with this, and I think that we can get some really useful front-end design information out of this as we move forward.

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