Think-Aloud Protocols for Website Usability Testing

Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Presenters: Erica Olmsted-Hawala, U.S. Census Bureau
Betty Murphy, Human Solutions, Inc.

On-Demand Webinar

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Usability professionals routinely use the Think-Aloud protocol (TA) during their tests—encouraging test participant to vocalize their thoughts, reactions, and frustrations. It's a great way to find out what your participants are thinking. There are many different kinds of TA protocols, however, and some can have unexpected effects on usability test results.

This webinar will review an empirical, between-subjects study the presenters conducted on the use of TA protocols in usability testing of a federal data-dissemination website. This double-blind study used three think-aloud protocols:

  • Traditional protocol (no comment from facilitator except "Keep Talking")
  • Speech-communication protocol (facilitator can ask for elaboration)
  • Coaching protocol (facilitator can actively probe and offer help if participant is struggling)

What You'll Learn 

  • Different approaches to the Think Aloud method of usability testing
  • How the approach can affect the results

About the Presenters


Erica Olmsted-Hawala leads studies on the U.S. Census Bureau's Web dissemination site and on electronic data collection instruments. She has been working at the Human Factors and Usability Research Lab in the directorate of Research and Methodology at the Census Bureau for more than 11 years.


Her research interests include Think-Aloud protocols in usability testing, strategies for communicating usability results, interface displays for websites, and the usability of handheld devices to collect survey data.


Erica has an M.A. in technical communication.


Elizabeth D. (Betty) Murphy, Ph.D., is at Human Solutions, Inc., where she consults the Federal Aviation Administration on Air Traffic Control (ATC) automation issues. In 2011, Betty and her team produced a comprehensive job task analysis of en route ATC of new tools and technologies planned for the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

Betty has more than 30 years of experience in user-interface design and evaluation, including nearly 10 years at the U.S. Census Bureau's Usability Laboratory. She supervised the experimental research described in the webinar at the Census Bureau. Betty's technical publications include several book chapters and journal articles, as well as numerous conference papers on usability and human-computer interaction. 

Betty has a Ph.D. in cognitive and experimental psychology from the University of Maryland and an M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology from George Mason University. She is a member of the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society and other professional associations.



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Page Reviewed/Updated: August 14, 2013

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