Cingular’s HCD Labs

On my way to a LAN party last night, I stopped by the CHI (Computer Human Interaction) meeting at Cingular Wireless’ Winward location. Her majesty works in Information Architecture there, currently in the HCD group (Human Centered Design) so I managed to chill for an hour. I got a tour of the 4 main rooms they utilize for user testing as well as a good description of their mobile unit.

The first room had like 7 monitors, all viewing & controlling a computer in the other room. One showed you the desktop as the user saw it as well as seeing everything the user was doing. It had 3 cameras in the user testing room that were on the ceiling, masked to not be noticeable and subtle as to not distract the user. These cameras were controllable from the main room, and you could zoom all the way onto a phone interface.

The user testing room had 2 microphones with great pickup, and the testers could talk so the user being tested could hear them on a seperate speaker. The actual testing room itself was comfortable, office like, and spacious; you wouldn’t know you were being studied like a lab rat.

Apparently, the computer in there is not all they use; sometimes they put kioks in there, or actual phones. One of the rooms looked like a mailroom, except instead of mail, there were phones in the slot. Highest it went for Nokia’s was like 6630; 6681 wasn’t anywhere in sight. Japan is so frikin’ ahead of the US.

The other room was merely for watching with a huge monitor to see what the user was seeing with a small part of the screen showing the user themselves.

The mobile unit is actually like an RV with 5 computer stations in it. They wire up the sales staff in a store with mics, and put cameras throughout the store that aren’t very noticeable, and watch for a day.

In the seminar room, they had a few posters showing before and afters; one for a website, and one for a kiosk. They had notes showing what the user said, what was changed based on that feedback, and why. Users’ say the damndest things.

All in all, insane the amount of work that goes behind user testing, and re-evaluation + multiple iterations of interfaces.

One Reply to “Cingular’s HCD Labs”

  1. And the sort of sad part about it is that currently the majority of cell phone users simply pick whatever phone comes free with their plan…

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