Prevalence and state of user research
The Spanish usability and user experience market has been slightly behind the most mature European and USA markets, though things have caught up in the last two or three years. In Madrid and Barcelona we can find the headquarters of the largest and most important companies in Spain. These companies invest a lot in new technologies and their online presence and services. However, more and more Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are testing their websites, services and products as online competition and revenues increase.
Availability and location
Usability and user experience tests take place mainly in the two biggest cities of Madrid and Barcelona, where most of the usability companies are based.
Testing in the different locations at the same time is not an unusual request. Madrid and Barcelona both have laboratory facilities that can be used in a coordinated way. On the other hand, tests requested in other smaller cities or towns are covered through mobile laboratory technology. Infrastructure in Spain is quite good and distances are not too great. This allows for a quick answer to occasional demands of testing in minor cities and other localities.
More than 50% are of the projects are from clients that are not based in Spain. It is normal to have interpreters and simultaneous translation, usually English-Spanish, but other languages are possible too. Laboratory facilities are specifically designed for this and the translator has a special room that receives the sound from the laboratory room and sends the translation to the observation room. Therefore, the translator does not add noise in the observation room. In the session video, the Spanish and the English tracks are recorded simultaneously so the client can listen to both.
Testing in Spain is cheaper than in other European countries, so it makes it more attractive for many clients to test web sites, products or services here.
Even though Spanish people are famous for their lack of punctuality, it is very unusual to have users arriving late to the session. On the contrary, users normally arrive early.
The recruitment process differs a little bit from other countries and normally begins just a week in advance. The problem with starting earlier is that the percentage of no-shows increases and makes the whole process less efficient.
Language and translation considerations
In Spain there are 4 official languages: Spanish for the whole country and Catalan, Basque and Galician in 3 regions. Bilingualism is a reality and the most important companies publish specific versions of the web for these regions.
Testing design and protocols
During even standard usability sessions, moderators in Spain are used to slightly less structured tests that allow for greater flexibility. They can deviate from the test script or improvise when new or unexpected things are discovered during the sessions or if they suspect it could lead to something interesting. However, we are also used to following very structured lab sessions, which are usually requested from other partners or clients running international projects.
A lot of information is usually given to users before starting the test. We like to explain the process, how the lab works, what they are going to do, and what is expected. The ultimate goal is to have users feeling familiar with the process and that they are not being evaluated. Spanish users are said to be very participative.
It is normal that recruiting guidelines and user profiles are adjusted for the Spanish population. The main variables that are usually changed are Internet usage, socio-economic levels and education levels.
It is possible to find English speakers in Spain, but it depends on the profile. Education and socio-economic level make a huge difference. We have not encountered major problems when recruiting high education (university level) and medium-high and high socio-economic levels, but it becomes more difficult with lower profiles.
It is notable that we have a significant immigrant population, mainly from Latin America and North and West Africa. This allows for a very diverse recruit and also gives richer and more complete insights into communication and information technologies. In Spain, we are used to including foreign users in the test sample for web and mobile devices and services, especially since clients frequently request it.
Comfort using technology
Spain has been slower than most advanced markets concerning Internet penetration, even though in 2009 it is close to 60%. However, one of the main characteristics of the Spanish technology market is that the mobile phone culture in Spain is really huge, a fact that surprises some clients. It was one of the first countries to reach a one-to-one mobile phone penetration where the population equals the number of mobile phones. Today, there are even more devices than people in the country and Spain is one of the leaders concerning broadband mobile Internet penetration, which is close to 20%.
Holiday, seasonality, and timing considerations
The testing schedule must be adapted to Spanish daily schedules. For example, lunch is normally from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. When workers are involved, it is necessary to extend the time of sessions until later in the evening. These profiles usually attend the sessions from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., as many people leave the office late in the evening. It is also important to take local public holidays into account and this is usually something missed in planning. It is important to highlight that each region has its own public holidays and you should know the holidays in the regions where you want to test before scheduling a study. We have not found it especially difficult to recruit in August, which is the traditional holiday month in Spain, as holiday patterns have changed a lot in the last decade.