Monday, December 1, 2008

Usability Survival Kit - Be prepared

We all know the scout motto: be prepared. And having grown up in Girl Scouts, I like to think that I stay prepared for whatever life might send my way. For example, when traveling to conduct usability sessions, I always drag a copy of the project folder from the server to the local drive on my laptop. I also bring hard copies of critical documents for the study.

However, during usability sessions last month, life threw me a curveball I wasn’t ready for: The power went out to the entire building. There were no lights. No microphones. No recording. My laptop had limited battery supply, and there was no internet because the routers had no power.

Luckily this happened on the first day of a two day study, and we were able to reschedule the remaining participants for the next day. We had a marathon second day, but we successfully completed our study.

Having gone through this experience, I’ve compiled a “survival kit” for usability sessions that should get you through a power outage.
  1. Mobile broadband card – plug it into your computer, and you have internet access
  2. Portable power supply – power your computer through the rest of the sessions
  3. Digital audio recorder – hit record and capture the conversation from the session
Those three pieces of equipment should get you through usability sessions without power. Now, how you would travel with a portable power supply in addition to everything else you’re already carting around is another story.

What about you? What unexpected events have you encountered while doing research? How did you cope with them or resolve them?

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