At UxPA this year, I attended a presentation titled: “C(ollab) RITE: How to run impactful iterative studies in a fast paced environment” by two researchers from Google. My team at Autodesk already conducts quick, collaborative, iterative, formative usability tests similar to RITE, so for me the question was: what’s the difference between traditional usability testing, RITE, and C-RITE?
Traditional or summative usability testing involves recruiting representative users, defining key tasks, determining a test protocol, testing with users utilizing think-aloud protocols, and recording observations. Brainstorming solutions to problems and re-testing or redesign work feed into the next design cycle rather than into the current usability test phase. Collaboration between stakeholders may also be quite limited.
RITE (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation), developed by Microsoft® Games Studios and Microsoft Research (2002), like traditional usability, involves representative users engaging in real tasks with the product. Test sessions are observed by product team stakeholders. Users ‘think aloud’ as they interact with the product. Observations are recorded and following each test session, are discussed and agreed upon by all product team stakeholders.
Unlike traditional testing however, all stakeholders are involved in prioritizing problems observed and identifying solutions to usability issues. Moreover, problems are identified, iterated upon and fixed quickly within the current usability test phase.
For more on the RITE process, how and when to use it to find and fix usability problems, refer to Chauncey Wilson’s recently published DUX article on this topic.
C(ollab) RITE or C-RITE is an extension of the RITE method that uses stakeholder collaboration throughout the entire user-centered cycle vs. just observing and discussing test sessions and brainstorming solutions as they would using RITE.
C-RITE maximizes the impact of RITE by ensuring cross-disciplinary collaboration on planning, research observation, analysis, and design exploration within an agile, user-centered development framework.
Given C-RITE’s extensive collaboration throughout the user centered design process, Google can recruit representative users, plan tests, design and test their content, iterate it and prototype designs for their next cycle within a week or so. This is much faster than both traditional usability methods and RITE.
Traditional usability timelines compared to RITE and C-RITE:
Most of us likely engage in some combination of traditional and RITE methodologies as needed to ensure we get user feedback to inform our design decisions. Given that traditional usability testing is summative or ‘out of box’ and thereby tests an entire application, the testing and design process is quite involved and time consuming.
With RITE methodology, collaboration during the test and design phase allow for that part of the process to be completed more quickly than with traditional testing. A potential problem with RITE though is how challenging it can be for stakeholders to commit to 1-2 weeks of involvement.
C-RITE addresses this issue by reducing the collaborative work into 2.5 days per week. In that time, design problems are researched, analyzed, reported, prioritized, designed for and prototyped. If a cyclic C-RITE process has been adopted, i.e., repeating it weekly or biweekly, the planning and recruitment phase of the process can be shortened, further shrinking the timeline.
RITE and C-RITE have distinct strengths and weaknesses over traditional usability testing.
- Gets the entire team engaged in the process
- Allows for quick design iteration, reducing ‘fear of failure’ that designers may hav
- Stakeholders will be highly motivated by the opportunity to express opinions on what they’ve observed
- For the Design Lead/Owner, being able to listen to and build on others’ insights makes for richer design discussions
- Full time recruiting support is needed to ensure a continuous pool of participants
- Involves a time commitment and steady involvement from all stakeholders
- Some changes may not be possible in the short iteration timeframe based on software/UI architecture
RITE and C-RITE provide a quick feedback loop where user insights are adopted quickly, product teams are provided with a clear sense of progress, and user centered design advocates are born.
Medlock, M.C., Wixon, D., Terrano, M., Romero, R., & Fulton, B. (2002). Using the RITE method to improve products: A definition and a case study. Presented at the Usability Professionals’ Association, Orlando Florida.
Roeber, H., Jain, J. (2013). C(ollab) RITE: How to run impactful iterative studies in a fast paced environment. Presented at the User Experience Professionals’ Association, Washington DC.
Shirey, J., Charng, A., & Nguyen, Q. (2013). The RITE way to prototype. UX Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2013 from http://uxmag.com/articles/the-rite-way-to-prototype.