Usability Testing


Project Type: Team, Internal Project at Nuance

My Role: UX Specialist

Skills: Recruiting, Test Planning, Facilitating

Tools: Mobile devices, camcorder, etc.



While working at Nuance Communications as a QA Engineer, I was invited to work on a special project with the UX team to conduct Usability Testing for the Swype Korean Keyboard. I led the project from start to finish, and delivered a final proposal to the VP of Mobile at Nuance.



Without disclosing too much detail, the goal of the project was to compare Swype's implementation of the Korean Keyboard against the competitor's in terms of performance and usability.



We discovered usability issues regarding the keyboard layout and the special multi-tap timeout algorithm. Then we proposed a number of design modifications, many of which were implemented and released to the market.

Swype Korean Keyboard - 12-Key Layout



I recruited, screened, and scheduled participants 2 months in advance. I also drafted a Usability Test Plan and acquired devices and equipment needed for the usability study sessions. Then our team traveled to Korea for a week and conducted in-person, moderated usability sessions.


2. Design Phase

We observed users by having them "think aloud". We learned valuable insights from observing actual user behaviors and understanding their motivations. The data we gathered informed the subsequent design decisions for the keyboard’s feature set and layout.

Most importantly, we uncovered our false assumptions regarding how Koreans actually used their 12-key layout keyboard:


  • Used two thumbs to tap really quickly

  • Only looked at the keyboard, not the WCL

  • Typing was faster without using WCL on top

  • Always manually exit multi-tap mode


  • Uses one finger to tap or Swype

  • Loks at the Word Choice List for corrections

  • Utilizes WCL to assist typing

  • Understands multi-tap timeout feature


3. Outcome

We presented our findings and design recommendations to the Nuance VP of Mobile. Some of these design modifications were implemented and released to the market.

I learned how difficult it is to plan and conduct a full-blown usability testing with participants. But I also learned the value and importance of incorporating real people into designing a good product.