Illustration of electronic data capture across two computers

The Benefits of Electronic Data Capture in Usability Studies

As a company that is perpetually seeking to make products highly usable, it’s natural that we would apply that same scrutiny to how our own human factors usability studies are conducted. For the past few years, we’ve been exploring one specifically onerous aspect of usability studies: the ubiquitous pen and paper interview guide. Our clients are eager to ensure that our methods of capturing data are secure and compliant with regulatory concerns—which often makes hard copies seem like the best choice. However, paper necessitates transcribing data (and lugging pounds of paper around), which makes electronic data capture seem like a valuable route to explore. We sought a method of employing electronic data capture that was secure for our clients and usable for our staff.

Although it’s not the best option for every study—and pen and paper interview guides still have their use within certain study criteria—the trend is leaning toward the use of a laptop and web-based software to capture study data. Read on to learn more about the advantages of using electronic data capture in usability studies.

1. Efficiency in capturing and transcribing data

Because time is money, and other cliché corporate sayings!

Our process of electronic data capture ensures that data from the study is saved on a cloud-based system that can be accessed by the rest of the study team. This eliminates the need to transcribe data from its paper source to a shared electronic copy. Some of this saved data can be analyzed quickly using the software’s built-in analysis tools. We find this helpful particularly when our clients need daily updates during testing. Raw data can be downloaded as several different formats if the analyst prefers working in another program or needs to access the data offline.


Illustration of trees on top of a stack of paper2. The green(er) and easier-to-store option

Do you like trees? We sure do!

Depending on the size and scope of the study being performed, hundreds or even thousands of sheets of paper can be used during one study when using paper interview guides. The elimination of paper guides reduces waste, as most guides are scanned to create an electronic copy and eventually disposed of. Storing these guides electronically is also easier, as captured data can be quickly transferred to our cloud-based document storage.



3. Reduced travel costs and stress

Have you ever had to fill your carry-on with 1,000 sheets of paper? We find carrying a single laptop much easier and safer for your data.

When studies are conducted in remote locations, you can spend a lot of money transporting paper. Travel costs are reduced when you travel with just a laptop. While it’s usually possible to ship guides to your study site, there is always the risk that the package will not be delivered to the correct location; your confidential data could become compromised if it is sent to the wrong place.



4. Compliancy with Code of Federal Regulations 21 § 11

Worried that regulatory will have issues with our data capture method? We’ve got you covered.

Quality management and the protection of your data is very important to us at Design Science. We always do our due diligence to make sure data is accurate and confidential. The software we use to capture data electronically is compliant with 21 C.F.R. § 11, which deals with Electronic Records and Electronic Signatures. The software we employ has an active change log to cover any data changes by users, and data is automatically encrypted and sent to a secure server during collection.


This post was edited by Lindsey Stefan.