Guerrilla Testing at OHUG

The Apple Watch came out, and we had a lot of questions: What do people want to do on it? What do they expect to be able to do on it? What are they worried about? And more importantly, what are they excited about?

But we had a problem—we wanted to ask a lot of people about the Apple Watch, but nobody had it, so how could we do any research?

Our solution was to do some guerrilla testing at the OHUG conference in June, which took place in Las Vegas. We had a few Apple Watches at that time, so we figured we could let people play around with the watch, and then ask them some targeted questions. This was the first time running a study like this, so we weren’t sure how hard it would be to get people to participate by just asking them while they were at the conference.

It turned out the answer was “not very.” We should have known—people both excited and skeptical were curious about what the watch was really like.

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Friend of the ‘Lab and Oracle ACE Director Gustavo Gonzalez and Ben enjoy some Apple humor.

Eventually we had to tell the people at our recruiting desk to stop asking people if they want to participate! Some sessions went on for over 45 minutes, with conference attendees chatting about different possibilities and concerns, brainstorming use cases that would work for them or their customers.

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The activity was a great success, generating some valuable insights not only about how people would like to use a smartwatch (Apple or not), but how they want notifications to work in general. Which, of course, is an important part of how people get their work done using Oracle applications.

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Our method was pretty simple: We had them answer some quick survey questions, then we put the watch on them and let them explore and ask questions. While they were exploring, we sent them some mock notifications to see what they thought, and then finished up asking them more in depth about what they want to be able to accomplish with the watch.

At the end, they checked off items from a list of notifications that they’d like to receive on the watch. We recorded everything so we didn’t have to have someone taking notes during the interviews. It took some time to transcribe everything, but it was extremely valuable to have actual quotes bringing to life the users’ needs and concerns with notifications and how they want things to work on a smartwatch.

Most usability activities we run at conferences involve 5–10 people, whether it’s a usability test or a focus group, and usually they all have similar roles. It was valuable here to get a cross-section of people from different roles and levels of experience, talking about their needs for not only a new technology, but also some core functionality of their systems.

In retrospect, we were a little lucky. It would probably be a lot more difficult to talk to the same number of people for an appreciable amount of time just about notifications, and though we did learn a good deal about wants and needs for developing for the watch, it was also a lot broader than that.

So one takeaway is to find a way to take advantage of something people will be excited to try out—not just in learning about that specific new technology, but other areas that technology can impact.

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