University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Hello,
We are about to start a redesing of our corrent COE web site. I am in the process of setting up a usability lab to test our current site and obtain a baseline so we know where we need to go from here. My questions are:

- how have your own usability testing experiences been? are they worth the time and effort?
- what kinds of questions/tasks did you find to give you the most insight into issues your site may have had?
- what setup (hardware and software) did you use to complete the testing?
- what kind of compensation, if any, did you provide to your test subjects?
- how long did each test take?
- did the conclusions you found through this testing conflict with your pre-conceived ideas and notions of how your web site should have been organized, designed? How about your faculty or staff's?

any other feedback, suggestions, tips, or comments you may have will be greatly appreciated!

Thnak you!

Andres Leon

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Hey Andres: We did some usability testing just before the launch of our redesigned website.
Happy to chat more if you want but long story short ... we wanted to concentrate on prospective students so we gave them and some parents $50 gift card to a mall for helping. We filmed the process.
Each person was given tasks (approx half hour) that we created for them to do and we sat with them and used a stop watch to see how long it took them and which path they took.
We then interviewed them for likes and dislikes.
Finally there was a survey to fill out which asked them to rate different things as well as circle words that they though fit the website and their feelings about the university.
Hope that helps Anika
Thank you for your feedback Anika. Did you find that the results you encountered helpful? how many suggestions and/or ideas from this study did you actually implement on your new site? Just wanted to know how useful, overall, this project was to you.

thanks again!

Andres
How have your own usability testing experiences been?

My experiences with usability testing have been great!

I always have one of those “head slappers” moments during a usability test. Those moments are when I’m surprised by an issue that shows up during a usability test where the problem and the solution are so obvious at that very moment.



Are they worth the time and effort?

I don’t spend more than thirty minutes with a usability tester. I usually will conduct the usability test, send the video screencast to all website content administrators who’s website was reviewed during the usability test, and have all this done in about an hour.

Just remember to keep your usability test simple, and do it often. Since I only take about an hour from the time the person walks in the room, to sending out the video to content administrators, it’s not much of a time investment to lose.

The information that I gather from the usability test is priceless.



What kinds of questions/tasks did you find to give you the most insight into issues your site may have had?

As a rule, you’ll always get more revealing results if you can find a way to observe users doing tasks that they have a hand in choosing. Let’s say the usability tester is a high school senior wanting to attend your university. It’s much better, for instance, to say “Work through the process online to apply for admissions” than to ask “Find out when the next senior citizen quilting classes are going to be held through Continuing Education.”

When people are doing made-up tasks, they have no emotional investment in it, and they can’t use as much of their personal knowledge.



What setup (hardware and software) did you use to complete the testing?

I set up a laptop in a conference room with a webcam and microphone. I use Camtasia to record a screencast with video.

I really like how Camtasia is able to easily handle a screencast with video. Using Camtasia it’s just three clicks to produce a screencast with video; start, stop, and upload.



What kind of compensation, if any, did you provide to your test subjects?

We provide a $20 gift certificate for users to a local restaurant as a thank you gift for time and effort devoted to the project.



How long did each test take?
The test takes 30 minutes, the entire process takes about an hour.



Did the conclusions you found through this testing conflict with your pre-conceived ideas and notions of how your web site should have been organized, designed? How about your faculty or staff's?

I make changes or make suggestions to content administrators accordingly based on the results of the usability test.

I do resist the impulse to add things on the website based on one person’s perspective during a usability test. When it’s obvious in usability testing that several users aren’t getting something, people’s first reaction is to add something, like an explanation or some instructions. Let’s face it, as internet users visiting websites, we simply don’t read explanations or instructions. For example, I never read instructions for an online form until I can’t submit the form.

What I like to do is ask myself, “What can I remove from this webpage or website that could be obscuring the meaning?” This is better than adding another distraction to the webpage.

I really like doing a video screencast. If gives you hard proof that something is confusing or not working on your website. If I record something that is not working and it’s a technical issue, our IT department can’t tell me “It’s not happening on my computer?” If someone is confused about content on a webpage, I can show content administrators the video screencast.

David White
Web and Communications Specialist
Amarillo College
Excellent points! Specially when you speak about trying to add explanations isntead of making the process simpler. Thank you very much!
Hi Andres,

I recently ran a session with high school students and mature age students. It was well worthwhile to do the two groups. We used Silverback for recording the screens and video of the participants. Great software, and pretty cheap. We asked the groups 8 questions around finding courses, costs and enrolment.

The biggest mistake we made was to have too many test participants - around 30. Doing the tests was fine, but analysing the data afterwards was too time consuming. Stick with less than 10.

thanks,

Ross
Thank you! I originally started with the plan of testing about 10 to 15 people. Now i'm thinking more like 11. In any case, my breakdown is going about:
- 3 current students
- 3 future students
- 3 fac/staff
- 2 general public

will be testing our current site first to get a baseline. Then will ask, possibly, the same people to come back and test our final product. we'll be doing more internal tests as we develop prototypes too.

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