User Research in Virtual Worlds

Gary Bunker, Gabriele Hermansson

Now that virtual worlds (such as SecondLife and World of Warcraft) are becoming vastly more popular, Hyro set out to build a research platform that would allow us to research users within those worlds, not only for their experiences there but also for their needs outside of it. We wanted to know if we could use virtual research – focus groups, interviews and user testing – in a practical way in design projects requiring complex user input. We also wanted to understand how user behavior would change between real-world and virtual forums.


This session explains what we built, what worked and what didn’t, what we learned and how we’re incorporating virtual world research into more of our future projects.

This will be a presentation, including recorded video of sessions from our SecondLife lab.

Gary BunkerGary Bunker started his career in systems design for the Ministry of Defense in the UK, and then began designing the ‘user experience’ for companies and public sector organizations around the world. He is an expert in usability, writing and interface design. Taking a particular focus on usability testing, he designed and built the AURA user testing software.

Gary formed Usability by Design in 1997, bringing expert usability and accessibility services to such companies as British Airways, Qantas, Ebay, Accenture, Hewlett Packard, HSBC and others. In 2006 Gary left Usability by Design and joined Hyro as the International Head of Usability, and has been helping them to grow their usability team and services around the Asia/Pacific region in particular. Gary has spoken publicly on improving the user experience in both the UK and Australia.

Gabriele HermanssonGabriele Hermansson (Senior User Experience Architect, Hyro Ltd) has held senior positions in Usability, User Environments, and HCI for over five years with companies such as Telstra, Telstra Wholesale, BigPond, Sensis, Centrelink, RMIT and Smart Internet Technologies (SIT).


Gabriele completed her Honours in Psychology investigating user perception, memory and visual imagery at Deakin University.  She went on to complete her Master’s in Psychology at Deakin University exploring driving factors in users’ uptake and use of established versus new technologies.

4 Responses to “User Research in Virtual Worlds”

  1. SitePoint Blogs » User testing in Second Life says:

    [...] and while I didn’t get to all of them, without doubt the most interesting for me was User Research in Virtual Worlds, a presentation I highlighted earlier as being one I wanted to [...]

  2. User testing by people with disabilities in Second Life « iheni says:

    [...] September 25th, 2007 · No Comments At Oz-IA ast weekend, the Australia Information Architecture conference in Sydney, Gary Bunker and Gabriele Hermansson presented on User Research in Virtual Worlds. [...]

  3.   Second Life users testing usability by World of Usability says:

    [...] inter-session activities. At Oz-IA, the Australia Information Architecture conference in Sydney, Gary Bunker and Gabriele Hermansson presented on User Research in Virtual Worlds. They spoke for close to an [...]

  4. User Research in Virtual Worlds « Second Life Accessibility says:

    [...] in Sydney, Australia, Gary Bunker and Gabriele Hermansson presented their new project - ‘User Research in Virtual Worlds‘ lead by Hyro. Hyro’s aim is to build a research platform that would allow to research [...]