Chapter 15: Evaluation Studies: From Controlled to Natural Settings

Chapter Introduction | Web Resources | In-Depth Activity Comments | Teaching Materials


The main goals of the chapter are to accomplish the following:

  • Explain how to do usability testing.
  • Outline the basics of experimental design.
  • Describe how to do field studies.


Imagine that you have designed a new app to allow school children ages 9 or 10 and their parents to share caring for the class hamster over the school holidays. The app will schedule which children are responsible for the hamster and when, and it will also record when it is fed. The app will also provide detailed instructions about when the hamster is scheduled to go to another family and the arrangements about when and where it will be handed over. In addition, both teachers and parents will be able to access the schedule and send and leave messages for each other. How would you find out whether the children, their teacher, and their parents can use the app effectively and whether it is satisfying to use? What evaluation methods would you employ?

In this chapter, we describe evaluation studies that take place in a spectrum of settings, from controlled laboratories to natural settings. Within this range we focus on the following:

  • Usability testing, which takes place in usability labs and other controlled lab-like settings
  • Experiments, which take place in research labs
  • Field studies, which take place in natural settings, such as people’s homes, schools, work, and leisure environments