Too good to be bad: Favorable product expectations boost subjective usability ratings

Eeva Raita, Antti Oulasvirta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


In an experiment conducted to study the effects of product expectations on subjective usability ratings, participants (N = 36) read a positive or a negative product review for a novel mobile device before a usability test, while the control group read nothing. In the test, half of the users performed easy tasks, and the other half hard ones, with the device. A standard usability test procedure was utilized in which objective task performance measurements as well as subjective post-task and post-experiment usability questionnaires were deployed. The study revealed a surprisingly strong effect of positive expectations on subjective post-experiment ratings: the participants who had read the positive review gave the device significantly better post-experiment ratings than did the negative-prime and no-prime groups. This boosting effect of the positive prime held even in the hard task condition where the users failed in most of the tasks. This finding highlights the importance of understanding: (1) what kinds of product expectations participants bring with them to the test, (2) how well these expectations represent those of the intended user population, and (3) how the test situation itself influences and may bias these expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-371
Number of pages9
JournalInteracting with Computers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Product expectations
  • Subjective usability ratings
  • Usability evaluation
  • Usability testing

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