While the most valuable things to be learned from people in process of product development mostly happen "in the field" (i.e. ethnography and depth interviewing)--places like peoples' homes, their offices, where they shop, etc., there are times when a fixed-location usability lab serves its purpose. Usability labs main useful purpose is allowing for product designers, engineers, managers and other stakeholders to actually see their "baby" being used by real people.
An example of one of Don Rickert's usability lab designs is shown in the image at the right. Click on it to see a larger view.
Don Rickert has been involved in the design and implementation of several consumer research facilities (e.g. usability labs). Some examples:
Bell Atlantic Video Services
Established the Usability Laboratory at Bell Atlantic offices in Reston, VA and a Design Research lab at the offices of Pacific Telesys in San Francisco. Also helped to design (working directly with the vendor on their first portable lab) a complete high-end mobile usability laboratory. Note that usability testing at Bell Atlantic Video Services as carried out within a consumer research program that put a very big emphasis on field studies, which occurred in consumers living rooms, customer service help desks, and so forth.
James Martin & Company: Designed and built the Usability Laboratory in Reston. VA.
Systems Center (VM Software): Consulted with Systems Center on the layout and implementation of their usability lab.
United Way of America: Designed and built a full usability lab as part of the organization's Video Production Facility.