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Effects of perceived prototype fidelity in usability testing under different conditions of observer presence

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2013
Author Uebelbacher Andreas, Sonderegger Andreas, Sauer Juergen,
Project The utility of usability tests: An examination of factors that influence test outcomes
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Interacting with Computers
Volume (Issue) 25
Page(s) 91 - 101
Title of proceedings Interacting with Computers


The aim of the study was to investigate the influence of perceived prototype fidelity in usability tests by comparing two prototypes that differed with respect to their perceived proximity to the final system. The impact of the perceived developmental stage of the product was examined for participants' performance, perceived usability, emotions and psychophysiology. Eighty participants were tested, operating an electronic city guide on a mobile phone. In a 2×2×2 mixed design, the system was either presented as an early prototype or as the final system. In addition, observer presence (no observers vs. three observers) and task difficulty (high vs. low) were experimentally manipulated. Overall, the findings did not indicate major differences for perceived prototype fidelity. However, an interaction between the observer presence and prototype fidelity indicated that the observer presence had a more negative impact on the performance when testing a final system than an early prototype. Furthermore, the observer presence resulted in a psychophysiological stress response. The findings suggest that test outcomes are quite robust against different prototype perceptions but that the observer presence needs careful consideration.