Retrospective vs. concurrent think-aloud protocols: Testing the usability of an online library catalogue

Maaike J. Van Den Haak*, Menno D. T. De Jong, Peter Jan Schellens

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    Think-aloud protocols are a dominant method in usability testing. There is, however, only little empirical evidence on the actual validity of the method. This paper describes an experiment that compares concurrent and retrospective think-aloud protocols for a usability test of an online library catalogue. There were three points of comparison: usability problems detected, overall task performance, and participant experiences. Results show that concurrent and retrospective think-aloud protocols reveal comparable sets of usability problems, but that these problems come to light in different ways. In retrospective think-aloud protocols, more problems were detected by means of verbalisation, while in concurrent think-aloud protocols, more problems were detected by means of observation. Moreover, in the concurrent think-aloud protocols, the requirement to think aloud while working had a negative effect on the task performance. This raises questions about the reactivity of concurrent think-aloud protocols, especially in the case of high task complexity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)339-351
    Number of pages13
    JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
    Volume22
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2003

    Keywords

    • Usability
    • Think aloud method
    • Concurrent think aloud protocols
    • Retrospective think aloud protocols

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