Understanding HCI

Retrospective Testing

What is Retrospective Testing?

Retrospective Testing (RT) simply entails reviewing the video recording of the user test (think aloud / Co-discovery Learning sessions) with the users present and asking them to explain their behaviour during the test. This should be done as soon as possible after the test

Why Use it?

Retrospective Testing is useful if there is an important issue that the evaluators need to understand correctly, or if the user has behaved in a way that the evaluators cannot understand. RT may not be needed in all cases but is a useful safety net. It may not be necessary to review the whole of the recording.

Participants Needed

Depends on ease of analysis of previous test. Potentially 0, or 6 – those users where behaviour and thought processes were least easily analysed, or those who had a particular problem needing further understanding.

Task List

  1. Review the recording of the usability test session with the test user.
  2. Ask the test user questions.
  3. User answers questions regarding their mind set and behaviour.

Conditions required

  • Quiet room with television, video player and footage.
  • Notepad for users’ explanations.


Limitations Of method

  1. Users may forget why they did a certain thing, or be unable to remember clearly what they were doing.
  2. Analysis is one step further removed.
  3. Using this technique means that each test takes at least twice as long.
  4. The user's interaction with the computer needs to be recorded and replayed.