User Study for Interaction techniques Regarding Pipes

We developed a simple qualitative study to check with potential users, whether our plans for the interaction schemes would work out or not.
The test consists of the following questionaire with 7 questions.

3D Pipes User Test

Assume you want to fix the 3-way-pipe to the connector in the wall. We want only right angles in our system, so put it such that all its ends are axis aligned and point either upwards, down, to the right, left, front, or back.

1. Take the pipe, take all the time you want: How many possibilities are there to attach the pipe?

2. If I suggest a way to attach the pipe, like this, what would be the possible actions for you to change that?

3. Any more if you think completely out of the box?

4. Now assume you have displayed this scene on a multi-touch surface. What do you see?

5. Please select the left connector and describe what happens.

6. Regarding the actions you thought of before. How would you expect or like them to be performed on a multi-touch surface? Try it out!

7. After I described you our planned interactions, do you see problems?

Thank You!

The study was conducted in a face-to-face way, such that the proband never had to read the questions himself. The questionaire was merely a reminder for ourselves. Instead, we explained everything in detail to the probands. That way we were able to answer questions that came up and never left any doubts about the questions.
Before asking the actual questions we would give the probands two handcrafted (from pressed paper and ductape) pieces of pipe (a 3-way pipe and a 1-way connector), so that they could better imagine the problem. They were supposed to solve the first three questions with these pipes in hand.

For the remaining questions we had printouts prepared that showed certain situations with a pipe system and selectable cubes/connectors. Probands could perform gestures on these slides and we would react to them in a Wizard-of-Oz kind of prototyping style. During the whole study, users were encouraged to think aloud and ask questions whenever things were unclear.

Detected Problems (important first)

1. Turn Gesture

All users instinctively chose the standard 2-finger turn gesture as the best method to turn a pipe around a fixed axis (that means when one ocnnector stays fixed), opposed to our idea of using 1-finger turn for this and 2 finger turn for changing the connector.

2. Change Connector Gesture

Most Users Agreed that a distinct action is performed when changing the connector of the pipe (instead of just turning) and thus came always up with a different gesture to achieve this. The results were a little more ambiguous than for the turn gesture but one particular idea mentioned multiple times was to first do a swipe gesture away from the connector (detach pipe), then do a 2-finger turn gesture (rotate), and finally do a swipe in the other direction (re-attach the pipe). It is up to us to find a good sullution to visualize that the pipe is attached or not attached and to introduce affordances, that hint on the ability to detach the pipe.

3. Open Ends

Open ends were not recognized by most of the users, because the pipe models up to now do show a closed end. This needs to be fixed.

4. Reservoir

The reservoir piece was part of the printouts and was misunderstood a lot. Some users thought they could interact with it, to start and stop waterflow, or that it would show some kind of pressure (because of the meter on it). This probably needs fixing, too.

5. There's more

...soon (:

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