Abstract Model Testing: Exposing Underlying Assumptions



As researchers we know we can test anything: a prototype, a mock-up, a sketch on a napkin, or even a word or idea. Choosing the right kind of test is not always about the design phase. It’s about what you most need to discover to reduce failure risk and boost solution success for the effort and the user.

In UX, we use an abstract model to represent the interaction behind a design, rather than the interaction solved by a design. This kind of abstract model removes the research discovery barriers to enable you to test underlying assumptions that no one knew were there.

Why do we need to do this?

Because there are critical cases where a great design can actually mask real and more fundamental problems: assumptions made before the design was ever created. These types of issues are difficult to detect using the usual iterative UX testing methods. This risks building in latent conditions which will fail in real-world use.

In this presentation, Laura will explore a case study where a key assumption about trust inadvertently allowed a significant security risk to be covered over by a great design. She will show how to whiteboard out the problem and develop an asset to test that sits between the usual “concept” and “sketch or wire-frame” test assets. She’ll cover how to identify the critical question behind the question and what to test that won’t destroy your test.


Laura Faulkner, PhD, is the Head of Research at Rackspace Technology. She brings 25 years of passionate dedication to UX research, and the many expert lessons learned through classical research training and the bumps and bruises of real-life practice.


  • 7:00-7:10 p.m. (Central time, similar to Chicago and Dallas, USA) – Introduction and announcements for UX Research and Strategy
  • 7:10-8:00 p.m. (Central time) – Presentation
  • 8:00-8:15 p.m. (Central time) – Q&A
  • 8:30-9:00 p.m. (Central time) – Break out rooms networking

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Host: UX Research and Strategy

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