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Think Aloud

What is think aloud?

Think aloud, otherwise referred to as think-out-loud is a protocol used in usability testing to help the facilitator understand the emotional and practical user experience of a product or prototype. Think aloud requires the user to not only say his or her thoughts out loud, but also to explain and justify them. For example, in a think aloud usability test for a website, a user might click on a link and might justify this action by explaining that they are interested in the product that the button is said to link to. Think aloud differs from talk aloud, which only requires a statement of intention, such as, “I will click here”.

Think aloud benefits in usability testing

When the user thinks aloud, what he or she might miss in the interface design becomes clear. This produces valuable data on how to improve the user interface. For example, the facilitator or observer might be very surprised when a user does not click on a call to action button that has been optimized and positioned in a prominent spot of the page layout. This could be due to the color of the button or the text on the button label. In usability testing, there are frequently surprises in how users interact with a prototype. By using think aloud protocol in this process, designers and usability experts can better understand the logic behind these revelations.

The running of a think aloud usability test

In a usability test, the test user is asked to say everything that he or she is thinking throughout the test and say why he or she is doing it. This will enable the moderators to see how the test user might use the technology in a different way than how they predicted and also understand the reasons behind this. The product or prototype will then be modified based on this feedback.

Related terms

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