CIRCA:Talk Aloud


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The "thinking-aloud" method is a simple and effective way to get feedback on an interface or service. The idea is that you sit someone down before the interface you want them to test and give them meaningful tasks to work on while talking out loud. You need to remind them to vocalize what they are thinking and what they plan to do. What they say can be recorded or you can take notes.

Simple Protocol

A simple way to run a study using such a method would involve:

  • Get ethics clearance through the appropriate channels.
  • Select a cohort of people to test your interface.
  • Set up appointments with each one for about an hour or two.
  • Sit them down before a machine with the interface set up as they would first encounter it (for the tasks you have in mind).
  • Explain the project and get permission for the study.
  • Give them a page with the tasks on it that you want them to do. Explain the "thinking-aloud" idea and ask them to do the tasks.
  • While they work through the interface you can take notes. Remind them to think aloud if they stop talking. Answer questions if they ask them, but try to avoid helping them. You want to see what they are frustrated by and thinking.
  • At the end you can ask some summary questions.
  • The researcher should write up summary notes as soon as possible.
  • If you recorded the session you can also transcribe that.


Jorgensen, A. H. (1990) "Thinking-aloud in user interface design: a method promoting cognitive ergonomics." Ergonomics. 33:4. Pages 501-507.

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