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This article describes a method which is sometimes used in usability testing, known as the think aloud protocol. One of the goals of usability testing is to identify usability problems in an application. However, one of the problems with many usability testing techniques is that while it may be fairly easy to identify problems, it might not be quite as easy to identify the root cause of these problems. As the article explains, think aloud allows us (to a certain extent) to “read the mind” of the user. This can play an extremely important role in helping us understand users thought processes as they use an application and thereby identify the root cause of usability problems.
The article does well to give a detailed overview of what the think aloud protocol is and how it works. I was interested to read about a variation of think aloud, called talk aloud, which I hadn’t heard of before. One thing that is missing from this article is a thorough discussion of some of the disadvantages of using the think aloud protocol. The success of this technique depends to a large degree on the test participants. Some participants may be more reserved or shy than others, and prompting may be necessary to get them to speak out loud. Others may worry that they appear inept or stupid and are therefore reluctant to reveal what they are really thinking, and rather say what they think the person running the usability test wants to hear. Nevertheless, this article is a useful addition to the wiki.