How Six Thinking Hats Can Help with User Experience Testing
One of Apple’s greatest legacies is the focus it has helped put on the subject of product design. Apple's success ensured that design was viewed as a viable career option. One could conclude that it also brought a renewed focus on usability testing.
User experience testing cannot be accomplished without apt consideration of the user's emotions at different stages of product usage. In "How the Usability Matrix of Emotions Can Benefit Your Software Testing," David Greenlees talks about the interesting use of the usability matrix to capture the user's emotions while testing.
The first part of the matrix lists the application and its features, if there is a logical way to break these up, and the potential emotions that those features could induce. The second part takes it a step further and introduces locations of use and the potential emotions that those locations could bring on.
However, the hard part is how a tester can best simulate those emotions during user experience testing. Some testers may be more natural than others in inducing the right emotions while testing. This is where an approach like Six Thinking Hats can help.
The Six Thinking Hats concept aims to minimize the confusion in thinking that arises because of the way the human brain usually thinks—taking into consideration emotions, facts, creativity, hope, and logic all at once. This concept helps a thinker take on these elements of thinking one at a time, thereby simplifying thoughts and making solutions more approachable.
In Edward de Bono's book Six Thinking Hats, each hat represents a different facet of thinking:
- White hat: Objective facts and figures
- Red hat: Anger, rage, and emotions
- Black hat: Caution and carefulness
- Yellow hat: Optimism and positive thinking
- Green hat: Creativity and new ideas
- Blue hat: Control and organization of the thinking process
These different facets of thinking can be made more granular, but the real use of these hats in performing user testing lies in the discipline this approach provides. The term "Hat" is used to benefit from the already existing association of many cultures to the phrase "Thinking Hat," which represents a certain kind of thinking that can be turned on or off.
The potential pitfall of using Six Thinking Hats in user testing could be the fundamental adoption of a parallel thinking approach. In cases of simulating user testing, parallel testing denotes testing while focusing only on one facet of thinking. In actual user scenarios, user behavior may be far more complex—especially when the user may tend to switch the thinking hats in quick succession.
While there are pros and cons to using Six Thinking Hats for user testing, one aspect that can help testers is to become better at role playing different users. Realistically, that situation is quite similar to method acting, where actors create in themselves the thoughts and feelings of their characters to develop lifelike performances. Irrespective of the technique used, user testing is quite akin to method acting in some ways.