Usability Study on the Cheap 1

Every quarter the squads in the IBM Marketplace perform a “squad health assessment”.  The 2Q squad health assessment for the My Products and Services revealed that there was a desire and a need to get some direct user feedback of some designs that were in our pipeline.  We were quoted $150-200 per participant for incentives and other expenses.  We thought we could do better and get the added benefit of direct feedback. And so we did.


My Products and Services is part of the My IBM family of components.  Our target audience is the technical influencer (eg. developers & IT administrators).  There is a conference that comes to Raleigh, NC each year called All Things Open.  It is a two-day conference about open source, development techniques and tooling, and the attendees represent the core users of IBM Marketplace and certainly My IBM / My Products and Services.

This is not the first time this squad has done a usability study at a conference.  We did it at ATO in 2015 and got 20-25 participants for their study. We decided to try it again this year with the goal of getting 30 participants. With that said, we planned for 60.

As the dev manager, the first thing I did was to reach out to the coordinators at ATO. I wanted to see if we could set up a table for free. That was clearly not going to happen.  But I did learn that another team from IBM, developerWorks, was setting up a booth, so I reached out to their coordinator.  DW was incredibly gracious and willing to share space. However, after some discussion we realized that both parties needed more space than just one table would provide.  But we did decide to have both of our tables moved so they were located in such a way that we could provide a single IBM presence. And since our customers are really the same people, we had the additional benefit of referring people to each other and helping with lead generation.

The objective

To complete 30+ usability studies over the course of 2 days and record feedback.

What we needed

  • Bare-bones table at All Things Open conference ($1,500)
  • Premium developer bait
    Caffeine and sugar in the form of coffee & Krispy Kreme donuts
  • Table cloths, signage
    The wonderful people at developerWorks set us up with a proper IBM tablecloth and we shared a big blue IBM sign at our backs. We also had a freestanding IBM Digital Engineering sign that got people’s attention.
  • Swag
    Free stuff is important. Have knickknacks such as stickers, pens, and cable organizers ready to give out and draw people in.
    Some friends from Marketing were able to find some old boxes of swag. Some of it was over 10 years old but  much of it was still relevant, funny, interesting, and desired.  That being said, was probably a good call to NOT use the hundreds of IBM chapsticks that were in the box.


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One thought on “Usability Study on the Cheap

  • Ladainian

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