(Post is in draft. This is the beginning. Check back later..)
Everyone wants to build a usability research lab. You don’t always need one. You can do a lot with some low cost equipment.
Building a research lab
I’ve built small-scale labs when I worked in government. They are not a build and forget type of resource. They take time and effort to manage.
It’s very easy to waste £60-80K on something you don’t need. Seriously. Hire another 1-2 user researchers instead.
If you don’t have 1) time, 2) budget to manage the lab, and/or train your staff to use it, you ‘re not making good use of your equipment, or finances!
You can however build a small lab, less than £6-10k. Which is still an investment you need to justify.
The alternative is to provide your user researchers with their own, small portable lab which gives them most of the equipment they’ll need to carry out regular research/testing.
If they need more, there’s always commercial labs.
Portable research lab
Here is my portable lab. It consists of about £/€120 worth of off-the-shelf equipment, mostly bought from Amazon.
(Use the image below as a link and click through to see the annotated version on Flickr)
Nick Fine explained it nicely in a LinkedIn comment:
[…user research, especially lab-based user testing, is HUMAN SKILLS based, not tools. The tool merely facilitates the research, it doesn’t do it for you.]LinkedIn comment