Another critical aspect of user testing is a process that we call the Think Aloud protocol. The Think Aloud protocol is basically asking your participants to say out loud what they're thinking as they're going through and accomplishing the tasks. What we mean by thinking and the kinds of things that you get them to talk about are; when they're looking for something, what are they looking for? What are they hoping to find on the screen? What are they reading? Even having them read aloud so you know what they're looking at. Hypothesizing about how the system might work, are they going through different ideas about how they might accomplish their tasks using the system? Interpreting system options, how are they making sense of the information that's presented to them on the screen? What do I think's going to happen if I click that button? Or what do I think it's going to happen if I enter text in this field right here? Interpreting system feedback when the system provides feedback to them, how do they interpret it? Did going to this other page or going to this other screen appear to be the right thing? Or does it indicate to them that they're going in the wrong direction? So, by thinking aloud, you can hear how they're interpreting it though this seems like I made a mistake. You can get them to explain their decisions, why did they choose to do it this way as opposed to that way especially if they're going in a way that you didn't expect it? It's helpful to know why, what information led them there in that direction, and how are they feeling? Are they feeling frustrated? Are they feeling happy? Are they surprised in a pleasant way by the system? Or are they getting angry and stressed out by using it? So, I'm going to give a quick example of how Think Aloud might work for somebody that was accomplishing a task using Amazon. Let's use the example of finding a gift list that would be useful for buying a present for my 10-year-old nephew. So, I'm looking at the Amazon home page, I'm looking at the links across the top departments, your amazon.com Today's Deals Gift Cards and registry. Well, I don't think that's right but I've been a chair now I don't want to get a gift card for him so I'm gonna go back. You've kind of cell helped none of those seem right. I don't see anything down here that would be useful. Your account. Okay, I'm not signed in. I don't think I would need to do that. Try a prior- lists. Oh here we go lists. So, I'm going to find a list, find a gift. Okay, that might be useful. Who am I shopping for? Am shopping for kids. Okay, that was pretty easy. He definitely doesn't want clothes, maybe electronic toys. Okay, and now I feel like I'm in the right place. So, now and I can go on then to find a particular thing and so on and so forth. But what you've seen in this example is how a Think Aloud ought to work. You saw me thinking through the process, evaluating the different options, and just narrating what was going on in my head. One thing to note about this is when you're conducting a user test, this is not natural for a lot of people. Sometimes your participant will get quiet, they'll get absorbed in what they're doing, and at that point it's okay to just gently remind them to say, "Hey could you let me know what you're doing what you're thinking? Make sure you keep telling me what's going on so that I can understand how you're going about this process." The advantages to using Think Aloud in a user test is that you can hear how the user thinks about the task. Because again they may think about it differently than you did when you were designing it or whoever designed it, and they may think about it differently from what you expect. You learn what the user actually sees and notices. Are they failing to accomplish the task because they saw the right option but they interpreted it the wrong way? Or did they just never see it in the first place? Did they get distracted by something else and go off in a different direction? Or did they not notice it? You can hear how the user interprets options and feedback. So, it may be very clear to you what the right choice is or what this feedback means. But it might be different for the users and so understanding how they interpret it can be helpful for diagnosing problems that you observe. There are some disadvantages to using Think Aloud however. So, one disadvantage is that the timing will not be realistic. It'll often slow people down to have to talk through everything that they're thinking. Attention to detail will also maybe not be quite realistic. People might do things a little bit differently than they would if they're not talking through things. They might actually be more diligent about reading through all of the options on a page before making a choice, when that might not really be what they would do in the real world. It also forces you to have to determine some "rules of engagement" for the conversation that happens. It's very unnatural actually for somebody to be talking and even asking questions, and to have somebody who's standing right next to them, which in this case would be you who's observing the test not answer those questions. So, they might say, what is this supposed to do? Or why did it do that? You really don't want to answer those questions in the context of the test. You want to see how they deal with it if you hadn't been there. So, if you're using the Think Aloud method, and you're not going to behave like a normal person when they're trying to have a conversation with you, you need to make that clear and set expectations up front by saying, "I want you to try to do this task. I'm here if you get stuck and you really need help. But I want to really try to let you go through this to the best of your ability, and we'll talk about questions or problems that you had afterwards." Given those advantages and disadvantages as I said earlier, when you're conducting a user test for the purpose of finding problems, the advantages for Think Aloud clearly outweigh the disadvantages, when the purpose is finding problems. So, the takeaway is for what we're going to be doing in this course and in the assignments that are coming up, we will use Think Aloud, and it's the best thing for what we're trying to accomplish. The Think Aloud protocol is a very valuable tool in UX research, and in user testing it's often going to provide some of the most valuable data that you will get out of your test.