Last month I attended a NERCOMP presentation on usability testing and web analytics at UMASS Amherst. The information from the presentation led by staff from Yale University will no doubt be valuable as the LIS web team explores further usability testing. Below is a summary of the information. My full notes are available on middfiles under “NERCOMP Events”.
Usability testing uncovers why your users behave the way they do. It can lower costs, increase participation, increase satisfaction, and provide data upon which to base decisions. It’s low cost but can be time consuming.
All that’s required is a laptop, someone to administer the test, and recording software or an observer. Do usability testing periodically when implementing new features or redesigning. Test early in a beta version of the site/application.
Once features have been implemented, collect analytics data to see what usage looks like. Form a question that can be answered by analytics data, decide how to measure it, and then see if the data makes sense. Check user behavior before and after the change. Do usability testing again to see if there are persisting or new issues.
The “Think Aloud Protocol”
Have the user speak their thoughts/thought process aloud as they try to complete the task. Think about what the user sees, says, and does. For each task write a question designed to see if the task can be accomplished. Recruit 5-10 users from population and invite them to take a test consisting of tasks/questions.
When writing your questions consider the goals of the implementation from both the organization’s and the user’s perspectives. Identify the tasks that need to be performed and form them into clear questions that address a single task. When you’ve identified your tasks do a pre-test to see how well the questions work.
It’s important that the facilitator is impartial. The goal is to collect data. Explanations can be made after the session. Collecting general feedback can also be helpful though it should be tempered with other sources of data.
“It’s not the customer’s job to know what he wants.” – Steve Jobs