is a combination of art and science in creating positive emotions through product usage
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Thinking Aloud Protocol

Synonyms: 

While creating another product it is vital for us to receive feedback and get to know the user’s opinion about the service, understand the problems which the user can face and outline features that he or she could like. This is the information you can get with a little help of Thinking Aloud Protocol.

Thinking Aloud Protocol is a usability study where participants are asked to interact with an interface while continuously thinking out loud, so designers and developers could analyze users’ verbalized thought flow. Potential users should not only share their thoughts, but comment, explain and justify every action they do (unlike the «talk-aloud» testing, when participants can only comment on their actions and not to explain them). Along with Think Aloud and Talk Aloud protocols there is a Retrospective Think Aloud Protocol: form of think-aloud testing performed after the session, often supported with a video replay, to gather additional information about users behaviour. 

This approach can provide valuable results on how to improve each detail of the interface mentioned in the user’s speech, understand the logic behind the user's choices and show the difference between developers’ perception of the product and user experience.

Before implementing Thinking Aloud Protocol in your design process, don’t forget to check if you are acquainted with these 3 simple steps:

  1. To begin with, it is essential to find and invite representative users - you cannot handle any test without participants. 
  2. Give the picked users no less representative actions to perform through the test. You can think about a list of actions based on the questions you have and purpose you want to achieve, before the test.
  3. Lead the research, collect and analyze the data.
Illustration by Ksu Angeltseva

Thinking Aloud Protocol has its pros and cons. As for the advantages, it is the best ability to learn what people really think and what their behaviour is based on, see their reactions and get them interpreted. It is also one of the cheapest ways of research: no extra tools needed, except the actual participants. Thinking Aloud testing is flexible, it can be used at any step of the interface development: to avoid risks on the start or to improve the product after launching. This kind of study is very convincing as well, since you can provide your team with the user's thoughts literally. 

However, each approach has its downsides. In this case, it is obviously not typical for users to be in such a situation — nobody tends to speak to themselves and comment on their actions in normal life. In addition, you cannot check if the statements are filtered, as users tend to think before they speak, even when we need their immediate reaction. Biasing user behaviour can also take place with an inexperienced facilitator, that is why it is so important to only help the participants, not lead them to conclusions.

Thinking Aloud Protocol is an excellent opportunity to interact with clients, see their simultaneous reaction in real time and gather valid data based on the study results. Despite the disadvantages you can try and make a research right now for one of your projects. Don’t be afraid to check with this article in any unexpected situation!

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