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Have any of you organized focus groups for usability testing and data collection for a redesign or simply to assess the effectiveness of your current site? How did you go about organizing them and what categories did you assign each group?

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No, I avoided focus groups and instead opted for 1-on-1 sessions with users in front of a computer screen. I set them a series of tasks relating to the core activities that our website tries to support, and then watched them try to complete those tasks while they told me what they were thinking/how they were making their decisions etc.

I just advertised around campus for willing participants and offered a small cash incentive.

I had 3 categories of participants - those still at High school (prospective undergraduate students), current students, and prospective postgraduate students.

Hope that helps,
Cade.
Hey Cade. This helps a lot actually. We are using various means to collect our data. We didn't want to rely solely on focus groups. We wanted to blend focus groups with surveys, Q&As, one-on-ones and a few other ideas. Those categories are similar to what we are looking for. Thank you much!
i can highly recommend Morae for usability studies http://www.techsmith.com/morae.asp and Web Sort for cardsorting http://websort.net/
Thank you much. Did you use any of these personally?
Hi Rodney,

Our OIT Web site had a whole redesign (launched Aug '08). We did both focus groups and individual one-on-one usability testing.

Before we even started with the design or anything Web, we gather all the information we had from our department and divided the information into topics. We then did card sorting exercises with various groups of students, faculty and staff - our target audience.

The card sorting was very telling and guided how our navigation structure is set up today.

Once we were able to place content on the Web (including design, navigation and structure), we then did usability testing with those same groups. Some were one-on-one, others were in groups.

Again, this helped us reinforce our navigational structure and results from the card sorting exercises.

I would say the whole process is very tedious and time-consuming, but in the end it's worth all our time spent. You end up with a very usable site that easy to navigate through - something that makes sense to the end user.

A great site for us was: www.usability.gov

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

Carla Gomez
Thanks Carla. I've heard of card-sorting. perhaps that is an exercise that we can use with one of our groups. I am a feedback type of guy and wanted to gather as much as possible from our "customers". we've already surveyed some 700+ students and also conferenced with, at least, one other college to see how they approached a redesign. We are nearing the end of the research and will look to move into the next step of redesign. This info will help!

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