Practical and ethical concerns in usability testing with children

Sim, Gavin Robert orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9713-9388, Read, Janet C orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7138-1643 and Horton, Matthew Paul leslie orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2932-2233 (2016) Practical and ethical concerns in usability testing with children. In: Games User Research: A Case Study Approach. CRC Press, pp. 1-33. ISBN 9781498706407

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It is common practice to evaluate interactive technology with users. In industry, usability companies typically carry out these evaluations, and the participants in the evaluation are usually adults. In research studies, researchers who do not do this sort of work on a daily basis, typically perform the evaluation. Complexity can be increased if the researcher is also the developer of the software and if the users are children. This case study explores that space, the evaluation of software with researchers / developers with children. The chapter describes the evaluation of an educational game that was designed to teach Spanish to children. The chapter outlines the planning for, and the execution of, a usability study of the game with 25 children aged 7-8 in a school in the UK. The study used two methods to try and discover usability problems; direct observation and retrospective think-aloud, and also gathered user experience data using the Fun Toolkit. The focus in this chapter is less on the results of the evaluation (although these are presented) but more on the practical and ethical concerns of conducting usability evaluations of games with children within a school setting. Those reading the chapter will gather hints and tips from the narrative and will better understand the use of the three methods included in the study. In addition, the researcher / developer role is discussed and it is shown that the methods used here enabled children to make judgments without the ownership of the product being an issue. To make the main points more concrete, the chapter closes with a set of ‘key points’ to consider when doing usability testing with children in schools.

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