Is Lab Usability Dead?

I was having a, um, disagreement, with a coworker just today about why we should stop doing so much lab usability and focus groups as we do research for our web projects. I was trying, not very eloquently, to say something to the effect of “the web is typically used on the run or as part of some other task (like, say, trying to figure out which 529 account to open for their kids), so to get a sense of how the site works, you need to go to where users use the web: at home, or the office. Not the lab”. Of course, Merholz says it so much better. I think a lot of the decision makers we work with feel better about lab research because, well “lab” implies control or even “science”. Jared Pool suggests another alternative, doing the tests in your conference room where the developers can watch. Another great idea for getting research done better, faster, cheaper. I’m sure there are tons more.

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