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You don’t need a hallway to have a hallway test.

Here at Atlantic BT we take great pride in our User Experience capabilities.  They help guide our designers and developers into making some truly outstanding websites.  We’ve equipped ourselves with a series of tools and methodologies that are proven to deliver delighted users. We rely on user stories, card sorting, site outlines,  interviews and wire-frames to guide our projects to completion.

In between these processes we find ourselves turning, in a pinch, to a great tool.  The Hallway test.

Just yesterday I was working with a designer on a website’s navigation issue.  We discussed what it could be, sketched out our ideas, and the designer crafted a working prototype.  The interface functioned exactly as we had described, but we were both unsure if it would be understood by our users.  Since we had both been involved in the process from idea to near-execution, we were both tainted.  We were no longer impartial about this idea.

To test our navigation scheme we literally stepped down the hall to find another Atlantic BT staffer with no knowledge of what we were working on.  We sat her down in front of the prototype and asked her two seemingly simple questions:

  • Where do you think you are in this website now?
  • “How do you get to a different page within this section of the website?”

Since this was her first exposure to the page, we knew her experience would be similar to that of our users.

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She took glance, made a few guesses, and neither matched up with our plan.

Her answer revealed some confusion about a navigation scheme we thought would work.  We then repeated the same Hallway Test with two other co-workers with the same results.  We knew we had to re-examine our idea and then retest with different people who are not tied to the project.  (Our original Hallway testers were now tainted to what we were trying to accomplish).

This simple act of checking the validity of our ideas early (and often) has saved us from a lot of rework later on down the line.  The Hallway Test isn’t the most accurate or powerful user experience test, but is pretty great for quick checks of new ideas.

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