Every year we commit a meaningful portion of our profit and focus to basic research on usability science and UX optimization.
Over our 40-year history we have dedicated a portion of our profit and time to the exploration of critical and interesting usability and UX optimization research problems. These programs have focused on a wide range of topics including development of new testing methodologies, investigation of complex research questions, and development of conceptual solutions to demanding design problems. Our business mission is to maintain an industry-leading position as a premier product design usability testing and UX optimization firm in the U.S. Meeting this objective requires constant process improvement and applied research. This approach benefits you by providing highly optimized processes and access to advanced research methods that address your specialized creative and problem solving needs.
In this regard we have pioneered the development and use of several important testing methodologies including: utilization of eye-tracking in consumer product testing (1976), EMG-Based product testing (1977), creation of formal lab-based user testing (1978), development of first formal usability rating index UMI (1979), use of online survey data gathering systems (1996), development of formal visual design testing methodologies (2003), development of specialized Newtonian force measurement systems (2013), development of 3D tracking methodology (2015)…and many other interesting and robust research methods.
We welcome and have a long history of collaboration with other leading research institutions, subject matter experts, researchers and academic institutions on topics of mutual interest and benefit. We are frequently involved with leading manufacturers of research technology and participate in early evaluation of new testing systems. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to propose a collaborative project. (Contact).
The following are Labs Project thumbnails. These projects demonstrate that we are committed to constant updating of our business processes and related research methodologies. You will also note that some of our Labs Projects include actual design solutions that address an unusually complex or important problem. Such projects in some instances have become the framework for new companies or new product offerings. If you are interested in further discussions related to Labs projects, please feel free to contact us. (Contact).
Technology is a tool making science. We help create the usability science and problem solving methods used to create highly desirable technological tools and systems.
The most interesting and challenging development problems require new tools to measure the impact that your new concepts have on human skill acquisition and engagement. We develop tools and methods to solve these exact types of problems. The tools we create combine cognitive, physiological, segmentation, and ergonomic testing systems that objectively measure the connection between your users and your technological innovations. We are toolmakers for toolmakers.
Since our inception in 1975 our approach to solving complex human-machine interface problems has been guided by 5 beliefs.
Features do not equal functions
It is no secret that products of all types ranging from hardware to software have vast feature sets that are never or rarely used. Therefore, the key to producing successful technological solutions to complex problems demands defining in advance of production which functions will become defining features that drive user engagement and which features will simply tangle development, siphon off funding and drive up support costs. This is one of the core problems facing all development executives today.
Easy does not equal empowering
One of the most common questions we receive from executives seeking to produce winning technology is how we can help make their products or systems easy to use. That is not the correct question. It is actually relatively simple to create ease of use. It is far more complex to create technology that is fundamentally empowering. Easy to use is easy, empowering is hard because it requires an understanding of human motivation, prior experience, satisfaction, and the user tolerance for acquiring new skills derived from interaction with your new product or system. Empowering is not about code, it is not about agile sprints or the next round of funding. It is about cognitive processes.
Data does not equal information
With the onset of big data there has been an overriding belief that data is the future. But this is dead wrong. More data is useless unless it can be properly conditioned and structured in such a way that your users or customers can derive meaningful decisions. Yes, this seems like a simple concept but vast numbers of really smart data geeks (used affectionately) fail entirely to understand that data is useless unless it can be utilized by the human information processing system to make effective decisions.
Easy to use does not equal easy to learn
Simply put, the primary user interface design objective for any technological offering must be to create ease of learning not ease of use. To try and do otherwise is to put the cart before the horse. There is no ease of use prior to learning. When considered from this perspective, an entirely different set of design solutions present themselves to development teams large and small, successful and less so.
Design is a science not an art
As the cognitive science of creativity and problem solving advances, we are coming to realize that all great designers and technicians, are in critical ways, also scientists. This has been our belief from early on because we have seen frequently that great designers are constantly testing hypotheses and running simulations in their minds based on patterns of use which they have defined in advance. This is the scientific method at its best but not as others might see it. This is not necessarily the science of the Higgs but is increasingly the science of the problem-solving mind. We are strongly of this mindset and it is our goal to support such toolmakers as their toolmakers.
The following project thumbnails cover high-profile and other relevant program experience.
It has now become clear that the most successful products in all major categories ranging from consumer products to large-scale process control applications must deliver high levels of customer experience optimization focusing primarily on the application of robust human factors engineering science. One of the most complex problems top management at any leading high-technology company faces today is how to successfully integrate professional human factors engineering best practices into their ongoing design and development programs. At MUS UX Labs we have developed a robust human factors engineering process integration program based on more than 40 years serving world-class high technology clients. Our formalized process covers current product design/development processes audits, critical incident analysis, core HFE problem analysis followed by extensive implementation planning covering: staffing and training requirements, testing facility development, HFE best practices and design audit systems, integration with required regulatory and policy processes, matching with quality control and production audit systems, management alignment exercises, academic outreach and other critical implementation phases. The service, developed under our UX Labs program has been applied to world-class clients in a wide range of industries. The process model undergoes frequent update and realignment based on changing market priorities in the high-technology product design and development problem space.
Designed and executed complex study to determine the effectiveness of the pedestrian warning system known as the LOOK! campaign funded by NYC DOT. This study utilized existing and updated observational methods and mental models of pedestrian behavior to determine whether or not the proposed graphic warning system was effective. Study produced robust insights into NYC pedestrian behaviors as a function of the LOOK! solution and other factors. This research was funded by Mauro Usability Science in conjunction with the New School for Social Research.
For projects which require an understanding the physiological effort required in the successful manipulation of a product or device we offer a robust and industry proven testing methodology utilizing electromyography combined with physical force measurement. This specialized testing method utilizes the electromyographic potential of major muscle groups involved in manipulation of a product ranging from auto injector drug delivery devices to large scale industrial equipment. Our EMG methodology is often combined with 3D spatial tracking and Newtonian force measurement systems. We have utilized EMG-based methods for more than 40 years and have a strong theoretical and technical understanding of when to apply this powerful methodology to help you optimize the UX performance of a product or system.
For usability and UX optimization studies that require a detailed understanding of how a given design or series of designs are manipulated in 3D space, we employ proprietary and industry-leading 3D spatial tracking methodologies. When combined with EMG-based research these methods provide you with unprecedented insights into user engagement with hand-held and hand-manipulated devices across a wide range of product categories.
An overwhelming number of eye-tracking studies executed in usability testing sessions today are executed improperly and often report findings that are incorrect. We were the first UX research consulting firm to utilize formal eye-tracking methodology (1975). We own, maintain, and manage our own eye-tracking systems and work with leading academic and research professionals to conduct robust, properly powered studies that help clients define complex problems related to visual scanning and cognitive processing of visual information. We have a strong theoretical and practical understanding of eye-tracking and related applications including modeling complex cognitive workload factors. Our methods are especially attuned to the evaluation of the appearance of products, package design, complex instructions, and the design of screen-based interfaces.
In addition to specialized eye-tracking, we routinely deliver studies to leading clients utilizing a fully portable eye-tracking methodology. In these studies, we employ industry-proven eye-tracking glasses which allow the research participant to navigate any environment from retail stores to traffic cross-walks without interference or restrictions. This methodology allows for the real time documentation of your customer’s visual scanning behavior as they undertake scripted tasks, navigate complex environments, drive or interact with vehicles or machinery, make complex retail purchases, or interact with portable devices and apps in real time. Our specialized eye-tracking glasses can be fitted with custom corrective lenses so that individuals are free to participate in our studies without concern for their own corrective glasses.
The forces that your users exert in the operation of your product are a critical aspect of how they rate the overall UX design. Forces are well known to impact judgments of overall interface quality, skill acquisition, and peer recommendations. We have executed studies ranging from the forces required to open a package of drug delivery devices to button forces on touch screens for smartphones. Our methodology utilizes a robust and industry proven force measurement systems that are entirely portable and wireless. This allows for the instrumentation of almost any aspect of the consumer’s interaction with a product or system. Our systems are designed and maintained to the highest levels of calibration and data production performance. Force measurement is often combined with EMG-based data gathering to produce a robust UX data picture of your customer’s interaction with your product.
The physical appearance design of your product, website, or UX service offering has become one of your essential intellectual property and brand-building assets. Yet, appearance design and visual style is far more complex to measure and optimize than most realize. For projects in which you are basing major investments on the appearance design of a business critical product or service, we offer a robust visual design testing methodology, which combines psychometric scaling systems, combined with eye-tracking and physiological/neurological sensing modalities. This combination of methods provides you with both reliable, appropriately powered data, as well as complex factor analysis covering salient visual design attributes critical in optimizing the visual and aesthetic design of your essential product or service.
Government research indicates that approximately 80% of all lost-time workplace injuries are associated directly with ergonomically related defects in the workplace or workplace tools and workstations. To mitigate such problems we offer a robust and industry-proven workplace ergonomic optimization toolkit and associated ergonomic optimization research methodology. We have conducted formal workplace audits in a wide range of settings ranging from executive office suites to high-capacity production line workstations. We have received major awards for ergonomic optimization methodology development and workplace optimization. These same ergonomic optimization methods are frequently employed in the design, testing, and updating of standalone products across many industry sectors.
The single most important UX design objective for any product or service is to make certain that the solution is easy to learn, not necessarily easy to use. To a great extent the ability of your user to rapidly acquire the necessary skills, rules, and knowledge required for them to be quickly productive is at the heart of true UX optimization. Thus testing and optimizing skill acquisition and understanding learning decay (how fast they forget how to use key features) is well understood to drive early acceptance, feature utilization, and peer-recommendation. We offer a highly structured and statistically robust methodology based on the latest thinking in mental model development. This testing methodology has been utilized by leading international pharmaceutical companies and leading high technology entities in the creation of systems which are easy to learn and minimize learning decay.
UX optimization on a broader scale is about understanding the core needs, limitations, and expectations of users as they interact with your service or product across its entire life-cycle. It is well understood that gathering such data, analyzing that data, and providing actionable insights is a complex and time-consuming process which must be governed by science, not design methods. We apply robust methods from the human factors engineering and anthropological sciences to help you understand the total user experience optimization (TUXO) of your customers. We offer a highly structured, data-driven research methodology that is customized for each TUXO project. Our methodology has been utilized to investigate and optimize entire systems and communities ranging from the world’s largest international refugee NGO to the military recruit intake system for the Department of Defense. Other projects have focused on consumer products and medical service delivery and in industry sectors where such methods are essential.
With the advent of low cost VR technology and more advanced VR software, the world is about to experience a restart of VR user experiences. For clients attempting to navigate this complex, and for the most part, amazing new dimension of UX design we offer user testing and UX optimization methods which offer deep insights into the psychological and physiological underpinnings of VR user experiences. Our methods have been utilized to conduct the largest in-world avatar behavior tracking and socialization study ever conducted. We have applied our methodology to help clients understand the psychological engagement individuals have been their real world being and their synthetic avatar personalities. We have conducted the largest study ever fielded investigating the impact of VR experiences on brand engagement and purchase intent with real world products. Our methodology has been utilized on a wide range of demographic profiles ranging from COPPA age children, teens, adults, and military personnel.
As data-intensive and complex mobile devices enter our utilization patterns certain ways in which we deal with the external world become attenuated. A central question in this transition is the extent to which our inwardly directed attention (interacting with a mobile device) impacts our situation awareness. This is a non-trivial question as we have seen traffic deaths associated with texting increase dramatically. This problem is sufficiently complex and so important that it requires a formal methodology for assessing the redistribution of cognitive assets between portable hand-held or wearable devices and the environment in which we navigate, make decisions, take risks, and interact socially. To address such research questions we offer you a structured methodology for investigating the impact that your technology may or may not have on the situation awareness of those who use your technology. This methodology, which combines various testing methodologies including eye-tracking, cognitive modeling, ethnographic observational research, and psychometric testing, provides you with deep insight into how cognitive resources are being allocated by your users in the real world as they interact with your latest technology. Our testing system has been utilized on projects ranging from assessing pedestrian behavior when using mobile devices to the layout and optimization of robotic assembly tasks within a traditional assembly line.
It is no secret that the FDA has dramatically increased focus on the usability of a wide range of drug delivery devices and related technologies utilized by consumers and healthcare professionals. In order to meet the guidelines and requirements for the conduct of professional usability testing of medical devices, robust and highly controlled usability testing methods are now essential. To that end, through our Labs group, we have developed an advanced usability testing methodology which allows for the safe and effective execution of large sample summative usability studies with live drugs and devices utilized by user populations with targeted medical conditions. This industry-leading system includes development and refinement of a wide range of SOPs and protocols required to manage simultaneous, complex drug delivery device testing across multiple testing labs, cities, and even countries in an agile format. The process is optimized for compliance with CFR 21 Part 11 Compliance and includes large-scale custom online data-gathering systems and related data integrity verification processes. The system has been utilized by leading pharmaceutical companies in the execution of studies covering 500 to 1000 participants per study engaged with multiple drug delivery systems. The Labs solution includes risk mitigation and risk management analysis and related data analysis and formatting for FDA submissions.
As the cost of executing professional usability testing programs has increased, a clear need for robust and reliable usability heuristics methodologies has developed. Our Labs group has developed and has an ongoing research effort to routinely update our robust usability heuristics audit methodology. This system has been utilized on dozens of projects in a wide range of industry sectors. This process is based on rankings of usability performance and compliance against a set of twenty-two usability performance categories compiled in conjunction with peer-reviewed research protocols and publications. The entire heuristics process is executed under the direction of a Certified Human Factors Engineering Professional (CHFP) and includes the option for rapid independent validation by external subject matter experts.
Amateur athletic performance has reached a level of intensity and training unheard of even a decade ago. The net impact for many amateur athletes is serious and often debilitating injuries that either terminate or severely attenuate their long-term involvement in a given sport. Professional athletes manage and reduce injuries through involvement with professional coaching and conditioning experts. Amateur athletes have no such resources. For the amateur athlete distance running is especially demanding ergonomically and psychologically. In our UX Labs we conducted an extensive analysis of training performance and injuries during marathon training with a focus on developing a data-driven methodology for early identification and management of potential musculoskeletal injuries. The research effort involved investigation of factors that contribute to risk taking and over-training combined with extensive cognitive task analysis of current marathon training regimes. The system allowed for the tracking and data modeling of patterns of training behavior, diet, stress, and attitude to be combined to help predict the likelihood of sustaining a serious training injury. This Labs project was conducted in partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training program.
Visual inspection tasks related to the selection of high-value gems are known to be an unusually complex and demanding human factors engineering problem. Those who undertake such tasks are often highly trained and certified. However, even such levels of training and certification do not diminish the complexity and intensity of the process. These tasks become especially demanding visually and cognitively for gems and other high-value raw materials like pearls when pressure is added to increase the throughput of selection process. For hundreds of years gem inspection and selection was a primitive process, taking place essentially on a typical jewelers bench or table using only a simple light source. Our Labs group working in collaboration with a leading Boston research firm specializing in computer aided vision developed a system that dramatically enhanced the overall visual inspection task by reducing fatigue and increasing throughput. The solution was a classic function allocation system whereby our Labs team directed the development effort to ensure that human strengths were supplemented by, and not replaced by, machine automation and environmental control.
Sometimes tired product categories come alive when usability and UX optimization science are applied. Our Labs team encountered such a category in the design of current music headphones, music player devices, and distribution systems. Based on detailed cognitive task analysis and UX performance modeling, a new conceptual model was developed for the three primary interfaces of digital music system including: headphones, app, web site and band management, new music funding and distribution service. This project is an example of total user experience optimization taking into account all users of such systems including those who create, promote, sell, consume, and share digitally distributed music content. This project also formed the basis for case study on intellectual property and design patent rights covering physical products, software/GUI interfaces, and content licensing. Presentations given at UXPA, NYTECH UX, and USPTO.
Password management and personal data security are the most complex technology issues at play today. While proposed solutions abound, none are sufficient. Our Labs group conducted extensive research and analysis related to the psychology of password management and related risk-taking behaviors. Based on that research and working with a partially developed underlying technology platform provided by another entity, our team created a comprehensive UX optimization system that addressed specifically the identified UX problems with all current password management systems. The UX solution included a miniaturized hardware device interfaced with a custom app and website. The solution included design of the total UX from front to back including device setup, app programming, website set up, data backup, archiving systems, lost device replacement, and catastrophic whole system loss and recapture. The Labs solution focused on optimization of the total user experience for password management and personal data security.