2/13/09

Usability Testing

Yesterday as I was finishing a feature on the new Trinity Schools website, Jeremy and I were discussing the way it would work for users. We were clicking around, trying different things, and generally hypothesizing about the thought process of our intended users and what they would experience. Conversation lulled, and I sort of set the issue down and began looking at something else. Jeremy was jotting down notes on a notecard. Then he stood up to leave the room and asked me to come with him. "What for?" "Well, are you coming?" "ummm.... ok..."

I followed him down to the first floor of Raclin to the Vine & Branches office where he requested a few minutes of time each from Anne, Elizabeth, and Gretchen. He then asked each of them to pull up my development version of the website, and walked through the script he had jotted down, asking them to do simple things on the website that would expose the effect of the website on unbiased users. "See this new thing? It's pretty cool." "Can you go do this?" "Now get back to this area." One thing it meant was to not explain how to do anything. Just tell them to do something, and sit back and watch. It was incredibly instructive to me! Without asking somebody to think about how they would do something, we simply watched them try, and learned from reality instead of theory. We immediately had 2-3 changes to make, which may seem rather innocuous, but we are continually realizing these things can make a difference.

Thanks for the live experiment, Jeremy! This appeared to be very simple because of the JavaScript library we use, so the new challenge becomes how to perform this testing in more complex areas.