A Home (Usability Lab) of Our Own

Developing wireframe UX/UI mobile application design for mobile user experience.

WickedSciences started as a spark in the heavy-thinking/imagineer culture of CableOrganizer.com (wire covers and label makers) in August 2007. At that time, I (Daniel) was working for Paul Holstein (now one of the churning minds at WebAnalyticsDemystified). One of my first projects working for Mr. Holstein and the family at CO was the construction of a subject usability testing lab (the first of 2 different sites) to be developed for their needs. Piece by piece the lab and the process came together to begin testing random and representative subjects for the CableOrganizer website. When it was time for WickedSciences to become its own thing…Paul graciously offered to allow us to continue to use the facilities we developed for clients wishing to engage us for user testing.

Since Summer of 2008, WickedSciences has been after a space in Scranton, PA to begin building its reach in the area through subject based usability testing. In October, I drove to Scranton (from South Florida its about 1230 miles) in order to do some first hand inspecting of the proposed spot and to look at what else was in the area to begin building alliances. I’m happy to say that, now, all that work, travel, and talking seems to have been worth something as we prepare to enter the final steps of acquiring the space, financing, and begin the hiring process for subjects to provide a service every website can use. The realtor contracted for the job contacted me this afternoon and indicated we’d probably be able to begin building out the space as early as the end of this month.

While we were in Scranton, we met with folks at PepperJam (a full-service marketing company in Wilkes-Barre, PA.) and Solid Cactus (an ecommerce development company just a little further south. Both companies were pretty receptive to us being in the area though I think they may have each been a little apprehensive about a new technology company making its way into the Lackawanna/Luzerne valleys.

About Usability Testing

Usability is concept of designing a piece of technology (software, interface etc) or equipment (controls, dashboard what-have-you) so that it can be easily understood and manipulated in a manner that is naturally responsive to the instincts of its user. For websites this means making pages which can be comprehended by and adhering to the expectations of the site/page’s primary audience. In simple english, it means making web pages so your users get the most from them.

For most companies, usability testing can be cost prohibitive. Getting an expert to review and analyze your website for usability reasons can range between $400-1000 per hour. (Yikes!) Because of our love for tasty nuggets for improvement, we’re trying to make this something anyone can afford. For a short review and analysis of your website, we felt around $20 was enough to ask. For some extras, like website tag validation or some page load analysis for each element on a page we decided to charge additional small fees. No test is more than $150 making the value proposition obvious to anyone who knows how fruitful usability testing can be.

(Just started designing the new labs too, which is really fun — 3200 sq. feet of pure user-centered website qualitative research…)

How We Plan on Providing Usability as a Service

Prior to our full launch of the program in Scranton this April, we’ll be handling requests for usability testing sessions via telephone or email directed to our program(diagnos at wickedsciences dot com). This is so that while this portion of our services still exists in South Florida, we can provide immediate responses and process payments through this venue.

Northeast PA Website Usability Testing Lab Timeline

In February, we’ll begin interviewing our full-time testing subjects in northeast Pennsylvania. In March, we’ll be populating and training at the facility in downtown Scranton. In April, with our subject experts in place and our network of testers running placements and shifts, we’ll be able to fulfill the first contracted obligations to more than 2000 websites from around the continent.

On April 1, 2009, we will begin handling requests for usability testing through the Diagnos™ nameplate domain (diagnos.wickedsciences.com) on our website. A customer can visit, design, schedule, plan and execute a user testing session through the website and receive a full video report of the test, with an analysis and any extra reporting which is purchased at that time. We feel its a great investment for the subjects, the websites, and the people of the city of Scranton.

If you are interested in becoming a test subject (and making a few bucks per test) please contact me immediately…We’re also always looking for good talent in marketing, IT, analytics, or programming. If you have a resume and you want to gain consideration for open spots in the next phases of our growth, please don’t hesitate to get them to resumes@wickedsciences.com.

We’re also willing to hear any ideas or partner with companies who can help us provide more value to our clients. If you have something you’d like to plug into our ‘extras’ please feel free to contact me directly….

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