Category: Focus groups

Three tips to better manage a living lab

Actively and continuously engaging users is essential to drive a living lab that supports research projects. When a project identifies the need for users, whether it is to conduct user research or usability tests of innovative health and well-being mobile apps, COLABORAR should promptly provide users. Often we recruit the same user multiple times, if he/she fits in the inclusion criteria. Our statistics show that each participant have participated in 2.7 activities in average since the project started in November 2011. This implies that we are able to maintain the users in the network and it is one of the biggest challenges of managing a living lab.Throughout the last 8 years we tried and enhanced some strategies. Here are some of the lessons that have helped us being able to maintain volunteers “actives”, that is, willing to be invited to take part in research.

1 – Show appreciation of the importance of their contribution to research

2 – Maintain contact

3 – Building trust

We are pretty sure these tips will help you to successfully manage a living lab.

World Usability Day 2019

We are celebrating the World Usability Day 2019.

We congratulate all professionals in the field and all volunteer participants in usability studies.Whether they work on objects such as tables or cars, or they work on software for computer, TV, smartphone or tablet, they are very important as their study methods enable users having good experiences on using a device.

At Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, there is an entire team dedicated to these issues. They are engineers, designers, and other professionals working together within the Human Centred-Design team.


How to recruit research participants in 4 steps

We are sharing the steps we follow when it comes to preparing for the recruitment of research participants for a usability session. Participant recruitment can be difficult, especially for a researcher just getting into Human Centered-Design, so we are sharing a few things that we always do to make the recruitment effective and easier.

These are the 4 steps:

1 – Define target users

The participants’ characteristics depends on the context of the study and the target users of the technology in study. For example, you may need active older adults who still are engaged in many physical or social activities and are technology proficients. Or it could be useful for you to gain insights from older adults who not usually engage with technology.

2 – Plan the test materials

The materials you are planing to use in a usability session for users to interact with should be taken into account when you recruit participants. paper prototypes are a good option to use with non-proficient users, because they eliminate the barrier of using a smartphone or a tablet. Thus, participants will be able to concentrate on understanding the workflow and focus on the tasks. On the other hand, when you are planning to conduct a usability test in the validation phase of the technology and therefore more functional and interactive prototypes should be used, proficient users are required.

3 – Provide context

Explaining the aim of the project briefly, as well as the materials to be used, day, time and duration of the session is very important when approaching a potential participant. This information allow participants to have an overall understanding of what the research is about, why you are doing it and what you expect from him/her. Bear in mind that you should emphasize that there are not good and bad answers, you just need him/her opinion.

4 – Pay attention to national holidays and festive seasons

Older adults often take mini-holidays and city breaks, usually close to a national holiday, weekend or festive season so to they can spend time with family relatives who still work. Therefore, it is not a good idea scheduling test sessions in this periods. Adapt your schedule to the participants’ availability, providing several options in the calendar.

These are practical tips that you can use in your next recruitment for a usability session. Let us know if you find it useful by contacting us (use the contact form).

Scientific volunteering

Whether you are 18 or 80 years old, be part of innovation.

COLABORAR promotes a research approach that brings together scientists and stakeholders that have knowledge about a particular issue. It could be in the area of social assistance, healthcare services, public transportation or urban planning. Accordingly, social workers, healthcare professionals, ageing specialists and citizens are encouraged to engage in science. This is as simple as share their needs, priorities and preferences.

International organizations reccomend this collaborative model of research with the aim of improving outcomes. We are certain that our research is more valuable when it addresses the concerns of patients, professionals and users.

Be part of this initiative and influence the research we do. Shape technologies and technological services you will use. Your oppinion is important. To voluntarily engage in research, fill in the contact form.

3000 user research and testing sessions with users

We are happy to have achieved the milestone of 3000 user research and testing sessions!

In the last 7 and a half years, COLABORAR supported 3000 user research activities. Requirements gathering, user interviews, diary studies, prototype testing, card sorting, focus groups, in-person usability studies, surveys and pilot studies are the activities carried out.

The COLABORAR team could not be more glad. We learned many things during this time regarding the recruitment of people for research and testing, as well as about carrying research with users. For the next years, we expect to double this milestone!

Focus group with Technicians from Day Care Centres


Yesterday, Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS hosted a group of technicians from the partner institutions of COLABORAR for a focus group related to the project Active@Home. This way we are promoting the involvement of professionals who work with older adults, so to the solution developed matches their needs and expectations and could be applied in their contexts.

Three Day Care/Living Centres were represented. Their directors and technicians gave us insights about the users of each centre, as they are who better know the different realities in the field. Thus, there are seniors who live at their own place and go the the Day Care/Living Centre during the day, others who live in a Nursing Home and another group who live at their own place and receive assistance from the Home-care Service. These different groups of seniors have different characteristics and needs.

We presented the project Active@Home, which aims to create “exergames” for seniors based on Tai-Chi and dance moves. It will be a new and promising way of exercising because it consists of interactive games and combines physical and cognitive training.

This focus group was very interesting, as enabled us to collect important information about the target group, their preferences and main difficulties, as well as tips and tricks to enhance seniors’ participation in physical activities.

Talking about diet and exercise habits – Focus groups with seniors


It’s time for field work! We are happy to share with you that researchers from Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS keep on doing research for project SousChef. They wanted to know about the diet and physical exercise of seniors and there is no better way to get to know about these things than hearing from them. In order to do so, we went to the Centres and organized two Focus groups. In one of them, we gathered with some seniors and asked about their experiences with diets, the barriers and strategies. We discovered many things regarding their habits, beliefs and what they think about their doctors’ recommendations.

We learned a lot and had a great time together!

2000 research activities


We are very glad to announce that COLABORAR recently completed 2000 research activities!

It represents a great accomplishment and we are very grateful to each person who contributed with their time and willingness to participate. The number of activities is proportional to the increase in knowledge and experience in the field of Human-Computer Interaction. Therefore, we are getting better in doing research with and for older adults and our projects become better with the knowledge about seniors.

A big thank you! We’ll keep making more and more activities with your collaboration, for sure!


Focus group on wearable sensors: participation of older adults


Wearable sensors seem promising for increasing safety, independence and well-being among older adults. Some concerns seniors may have, such as falls and chronic diseases, might be minimized and managed in the near future through these small devices, as long as older adults keep them close to their bodies. Wearing a device for 24 hours is only possible if the device is comfortable and if  aesthetic issues are addressed as well. But what are the requests from the seniors? Better to hear from them. In order to do so, COLABORAR organized a Focus group with some seniors to help researchers understand their points of view.

“Does the device resist water? It has to be something like  a watch or a bracelet, because it is important to keep the sensors with us when we are in the shower.”

And how  would you use it outdoors? Do you prefer a device to be attached to your clothes?

“Only if the device is small, we can use it pinned to the sweater.”

Don’t you prefer the device to be pinned to the belt?

“I don’ use a belt very often.”

And in this way, ideas flowed spontaneously. Everyone could express their opinion regarding wearable sensors, as well as their concerns and expectations about using these devices.

COLABORAR thanks our friends from the user network for always accepting the challenges.