The Usability Laboratory

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About Us




The Usability Laboratory is a part of the Department of Computer Science at The University of Waikato

What is The Usability Laboratory?

Call it a laboratory, a think-tank or a facility.  The Usability Laboratory promotes and facilitates innovation and quality through academic-industry relationships within many areas of HCI: user-centred design, usability and interaction design.  We do this by offering three valuable services within the NZ ICT industry:

User Experience Consulting

  • We utilise a wide range of usability engineering experiences and knowledge through interaction with users. 

  • We are user-centred and advocate with the users' best interests in mind.

  • Our recommendations make valuable business sense, and can drastically improve the experience of users.

  • Our feedback is timely, useful and beneficial, and where possible, is provided at relevant stages of development and progress.

  • We give our clients our best attention and manage projects around their deadlines.

  • We provide an open and engaging relationship with our clients.  We are candid and honest.

  • We offer an extensive range of user experience / usability engineering consulting services including strategic usability development, user role and task analysis, interaction and information design, usability evaluation and testing. 

  • We have NZ's best equipped usability engineering facilities including single and group user testing rooms, advanced recording equipment, and a viewing room.

  • We have established an environment where designers and developers can instantly recognise ways to improve their products and can learn from the experience of our team.

Industry & Government -Focused Research

We believe it is important for NZ industry & government to have ready access to cost-effective, relevant and useful user-experience research that can add instant benefit to their current offerings.  That is why we are extending our services in 2005 to look at a range of research projects that are NZ ICT industry & government -focused.  The results of the research will be made available to all NZ ICT industry players.  Watch this space to see our 2005 projects.

Academic Research

The Usability Laboratory involves itself in a number of research projects as well.  We try to seek projects that will help extend our knowledge of user-experiences, usability evaluation and testing, interaction design, and user role and task analysis.  Our goal is to help improve the knowledge that already exists in the usability domain. 

Projects we have been involved in have focused on:

  • Collaborative software development environments.

  • Collaborative information gathering tools.

  • Collaborative large display surfaces.

  • Online teaching tools for Maori.

  • Teaching tools for illiterate users.

  • Digital library developments.

  • Small screen displays.

We also help develop and support:

Academic - Industry Partnerships

We strongly believe that there is a significant advantage when ICT developers and providers partner with academic organisations during product development.  After all, academic research is all about discovering far reaching innovations while industry is about bringing those innovations to people in a way that makes sense and succeeds commercially.

Usability Practitioner - Academic Relationships

We are strong advocates of usability practitioner - academic relationships.  This is why we helped make the 2004 APCHI (held in Rotorua) conference a success.  This brought together more NZ and international human computer interaction academics and industry practitioners than ever before seen in New Zealand.  We were supported in our quest by Don Norman (NN/group) and Susan Dray (Dray & Associates) who were our keynote speakers.  We also toured NZ with Don Norman, bringing the usability message to many people who had not heard it before.


Kirsten Thomas, our former Usability Lab manager, was instrumental in founding a Usability Professionals' Assocation New Zealand Chapter.



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