Availability and location
Usability labs can be found in the major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven and Groningen. However, most usability tests in the Netherlands will be conducted in an area called the ‘Randstad’. This is a conurbation in the Netherlands which consists of the four largest Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht), and the surrounding areas. With about 8 million inhabitants this area takes up almost half of the population of the Netherlands. Generally there is not much difference between cities that are part of the Randstad.
Generally participants will arrive on time, but it is not that unusual that they arrive a few minutes late (depending on traffic conditions or parking opportunities nearby). Scheduling in a bit of additional time between sessions (e.g. 15 minutes) would allow for some flexibility. It is often useful to re-confirm appointments one or two days before testing to increase the chances of participants showing up on time (especially with young participants and students).
Language and translation considerations
Dutch is the principal language of The Netherlands.
Although the Dutch language might appear to be very similar to German, the grasp of the German language is not as good as might be expected, especially in the younger generation. In contrast, the younger generations understand and speak English fairly well. This makes it possible to use English testing materials, for example when testing international Web sites that are offered in English only.
Testing design and protocols
Quantitative vs. qualitative
An important point about researching in the Netherlands is that a qualitative approach to usability testing is generally employed.
In most research situations, the test moderator and the participants interact in an informal manner. This often creates a relaxed atmosphere in which the participant feels at ease to be honest and critical.
Think aloud vs. retrospective
Participants find it fairly easy to talk about their experiences and are generally at ease using the thinking aloud protocol.
Comfort using technology
The penetration of the Internet is very high in the Netherlands. You will find that most people will have a broadband Internet connection, have one or more mobile phones and are using online banking applications and other websites.
Holiday, seasonality, and timing considerations
It is important to be aware of local holidays, especially if they happen to be close to a weekend. It is not uncommon for the Dutch to take additional free time to create what is called a ‘long weekend’. If for instance a public holiday falls on a Monday, people might take the Friday off so they can enjoy 4 days of (including the weekend) for a short trip. If there is a public holiday on a Thursday, people might take the Friday of as well. Special Dutch free days are ‘Koninginnedag’ (Queensday) on the 30th of April, ‘Good Friday’on the Friday before Easter, ‘Ascension day’,10 days before Pentecost (always a Thursday) and ‘Pentecost Monday’,the Monday after Pentecost (the 7th Sunday after Easter Sunday). For civil servants the 5th of May (Liberation Day) is also a holiday.
Since most of the public holidays differ from year to year and region to region, it is wise to discuss this with a local partner to make sure you do not run into any surprises when recruiting. During the summer, a lot of Dutch will go on holiday abroad, especially families with children who are dependent on school holidays (July and August). In this period it might be more difficult to recruit participants with school going children.