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The Special Needs of International Testing

International testing is far harder to coordinate than just arranging for facilities and participants in lots of countries and racking up lots of air miles. Test procedures don't work cross-culturally; therefore, international testing takes special capabilities and infrastructure. You need to deal with translation issues and adjust the testing methodology based on cultural differences. For example, in some cultures it is not polite to criticize, so the usual methods of asking users to think aloud and expecting that they will say what they think is wrong with the product may not work. If you are testing internationally, make sure you leave enough time to deal with these different circumstances.

The Bollywood Method4
By Apala Lahiri Chavan, Managing Director, Human Factors International, Mumbai, India

The main challenge with usability testing in Asia is that it is impolite to tell someone they have a bad design. It is embarrassing within this culture to admit that you cannot find something, so it is very hard to get feedback.

I conducted a test on a site that offered airline tickets for sale. I used a conventional simulation testing method and got little feedback. I could see that users were not succeeding, but they would not willingly discuss the problems they were experiencing.

I then tried a new method I had developed, called the Bollywood Method. Bollywood is the Hollywood of India and makes far more movies each year than Hollywood does. Bollywood movies are famous for having long and emotionally involved plots. The movies have great pathos and excitement. In applying the Bollywood Method to this testing scenario, I described a dire fantasy situation. I asked each participant to imagine that his or her beautiful, young, and innocent niece is about to be married. But suddenly the family receives news that the prospective groom is a member of the underground. He is a hit man! His whole life story is a sham, and he is already married! The participant has sole possession of this evidence and must book airline tickets to Bangalore for him- or herself and the groom's current wife. Time is of the essence!

The test participants willingly entered this fantasy, and with great excitement they began the ticket booking process. Even minor difficulties they encountered resulted in immediate and incisive commentary. The participants complained about the button naming and placement. They pointed out the number of extra steps in booking. The fantasy situation gave them license to communicate in a way they never would have under normal evaluation methods.

This method worked well in India and may even be able to be generalized to special situations in North America and other places where participants may hesitate to communicate freely.

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