Project Experience – Usability Testing in China

usability testing china

Usability Testing in Beijing, China

On Monday last week I flew back from Beijing following two days of usability testing for a new retail client who is entering the Chinese market. As always there are fascinating insights to be gathered when conducting this type of research and I thought I’d share some plus an update on some local buying behaviours and logistical issues with running this type of project.

It is worth reminding UX’ers from the UK and Europe that the time difference in China is significant. I flew from the UK and landed the night before the usability testing took place and as I went to bed at around 11pm it was 6am UK time. The low point at which the time difference seemed to hamper attention spans was around 2 in the afternoon – after lunch of course, when everything seems to conspire to send you off to sleep. Both the client and I were standing for most of the afternoons sessions so worth packing comfortable shoes!

Another attention span aspect is that unless you speak fluent Mandarin you will, like me, be listening to the usability testing sessions through a translator. As good as they can be, (we had a different one each day and both were excellent)  there is something lost when the same voice and relative monotone is talking both sides of the conversation. It is important to concentrate because the subtle differences in language can leave you believing points care coming from one person when actually it is the other that is speaking. There is also a lag behind activity because the simultaneous translator is not instantaneous and so even though we had multiple cameras set up capturing smartphone screen, hand movements and facial expressions sometime what we were hearing didn’t relate to the current interaction.

I’ll write more about other aspects of the project soon but before I go the final point is for those of you [us] that like to nibble on the odd biscuit and sweet during days spent in the viewing room. As shown in the photo the treats put out in China are different to what we are used to in European and US research facilities. With that said, at lunchtime we had to almost physically restrain them from ordering burgers and pizza for us. We wanted to try local food and our hosts were very surprised that we didn’t live up to the western stereotype.


We were looked after very well and they couldn’t do enough for us and you should expect good service in any research facility in China – certainly all that I have been to have been excellent. The quality of the facility itself doesn’t stack up against UK and US facilities but they are generally functional and everything normally works, even if the toilet facilities are a bit of a voyage into the unknown.

If you are looking to carry out any international usability testing in China or any other external market and would like some help or services support please contact us today on +44(0)800 0246 247, or email We have a wealth of experience in running international usability testing research in single or multiple countries and would love to help you.

Related Posts

Comments (1)

[…] my last post I said I would share some more reminders and learning from the Usability Testing we recently […]

Comments are closed.