Delivering high quality UX: Welcome to the Device Lab

Maribeth Fitzpatrick, Lead UX Engineer
Posted on Mar 26, 2019

Bright lights and plenty of devices to ensure our best testing! 🔥 Introducing the latest workspace to our office, The Device Lab!

Behind the Inspiration

A few years ago, Imarc announced our original Device Board, a collection of smartphones and tablets for testers to use as part of our QA process. Well, we’ve outgrown it, which makes sense since our UX team has been growing rapidly. The original device board had a good run, but we found that the overall UX of the board wasn’t really working out: taking the devices on and off the board was a pain, and devices were ending up on people’s desks rather than back on the board, organized and charged. Similar to a web redesign, the device board was in need of a user experience overhaul.

Recently, I attended the TalkUX Conference, and was inspired by Google’s Director of UX, Laura Granka, where she mentioned the various device testing labs that Google has had over the years. This got me thinking, “Maybe it’s time for an Imarc update?”And with that, I knew it was time for us to iterate and improve our device testing space.

Behind the Importance of Testing

Today, there are many ways people view online content: all sorts of computers, phones, tablets, and browsers. In order to provide the best results for users, it’s necessary to test on as many real-life devices - emulators like BrowserStack or Chrome Inspector just don’t cut it!

Here at Imarc, we have tablets, laptops, and the latest and greatest mobile phones across brands. We have standards, and we don’t forget about older technologies that we still see pop up in our Google Analytics audits, and we test across a number of browsers too. We need to ensure our websites are seamless across all devices, so having these at our fingertips helps us produce amazing sites and meet our clients’ needs.

How the Device Lab Came to Fruition

It just so happens that my inspiration came at a great time to pitch the idea of an updated Device Lab. As I mentioned, the Imarc team is growing fast, and we also have expanded our space here at the HQ office. As a result of the expansion, space in HQ opened up and was calling for a new occupant: cue the Device Lab!

To bring the concept to life, I worked with our CEO, Nick, and he was on board and ready to go with the project. Where to start with a custom wood project? Well, we reached out to our friends at Mark Richey, to build a display board that would fit all of our testing devices, with room to spare so we can continue to grow our collection.

Here’s a look into the entire process of the new Device Lab. From an idea, to a sketch, to a fully customized display table.

The Device Lab in Action

After the anticipation and hype from the design and build of the Device Lab, we’re finally up and running. The new and improved lab is accessible to all Imarcians to hop in and test across devices, and also includes a monitor for any tester to connect to and work out bugs while testing. The new shelf design itself has an improved experience, making it easier for testers to go in and test on one or multiple devices in a comfortable space. It also allows testers to conveniently unplug a device and take it back to their desks if needed.

All of the devices are labeled and running a specific operating system, so that we can keep track of and monitor the models and operating systems that we’re testing on.

For some time, we have been using Ghostlab to control our testing devices. It’s a service that simulates a website across multiple devices at once (as long as they’re on the same Wifi network), using an IP address.

While we’ve been using Ghostlab for a while now, we’ve upgraded our process by adding a custom URL. Any device projecting the Ghostlab URL responds to events fired on any given device, so you can scroll, test menus, and so forth on one device and see the action displayed on all of them.

What the Device Lab Means to Imarc

We’ve set some high goals for 2019, and the Device Lab has an important purpose, that will drive us towards reaching some of these goals. One goal, of course, is to focus closely on quality, and building the best websites and web applications we can. It’s a goal that may sound simple enough, but in order to create quality work, we need to test, iterate, and retest.

To do our part in accomplishing this, the UX team has talked about a new initiative to conduct user testing events for our work. What better place to have live testing than in the spacious new lab! With plenty of space for a moderator, tester, and a monitor to project test plans on, we’re looking forward to a bright future of website and product testing in the Device Lab.