Usability testing Basics

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Usability testing Basics. Stephen Francoeur User Experience Librarian Baruch College (New York, NY). About Me. ecahoy . “ Finding Time in the Penn State Libraries .” YouTube . 2007. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. Learning Goals. User Experience. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Text of Usability testing Basics

Usability 101

Usability testing BasicsStephen FrancoeurUser Experience LibrarianBaruch College (New York, NY)Hi, Im Stephen Francoeur and Im going to offer an introduction to usability testing today.1About MeAbout a year ago, I changed jobs here at the library at Baruch College, where I have been working since 1999 as a reference and instruction librarian. I began a new position of user experience librarian so that I could help the library better design and integrate its online services and resources.

Ill talk in a moment in greater depth about what user experience is and how it relates to usability, but for now Ill mention that over the past year, Ive done rounds of usability testing on a new library website were still working on, on a mobile-friendly webpage that connects users to mobile-friendly databases, and on our new launched instance of Summon.

I have a lot interests in librarianship, which you can see if you check out some of the blogs I regularly maintain and on the many social networks where I like to hang out with librarians from all types of libraries across the globe.2ecahoy. Finding Time in the Penn State Libraries. YouTube. 2007. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Four years ago, I first saw this video made by a librarian who wanted to illustrate something we are all familiar with: our library resources and our library websites are frequently a tangled, confusing mess that send users scurrying about all over the place and offer a less than ideal user experience.

[play video for audience]

3Learning GoalsFor todays presentation, I hope that youll all be able to end up being able to define what usability is, be able to identify what kinds of things you could test in your own library, be able to run a basic test, and be able to identify the things in the test results that you need to act on first.4User ExperienceAdapted from Marc Hassenzahl and Noam Tractinsky, User Experience-a Research Agenda. Behaviour & Information Technology 25.2 (2006): 9197.

Before getting to usability, lets tackle a broader subject, which is user experience. User experience is a way of thinking about the complete experience that a user has with a system or service.

When talking about user experience, its important to keep in mind the mindstate of the user, what are their feelings and emotions evoked by the interaction.

Its also a matter of considering the characteristics of the system, such as how complex it is, how usable it is, how learnable it is, etc.

Finally, user experience tries to take into account the context of the interaction between the user and the system. Is the user on a mobile device? Is the user a student at the end of the semester looking for sources on an overdue paper?

5Nielsen, Jakob. Usabiilty 101: Introduction to Usability. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.Usability, according to web design expert Jakob Nielsen, usually includes five aspects:

Learnability. In other words, when the user is confronted by a new site, how easily can they figure out what the purpose of the site is and how to use on their own.Efficiency. How quickly can the user perform tasks and navigate on the site.Memorability. If the user returns, what parts and functions of the site are recognizable and dont need to be relearned. Obviously, you dont want your site to be hard even for your repeat visitors.Errors. To what extent do features and functions not work as predicted by the user or as designed by the developer.Satisfaction. How happy is the user when they are using your site. 6Highly Recommended

I should note there that one of my greatest sources of inspiration about what usability is all about comes from this book by Steve Krug. Although its aimed at people doing web development in a corporate setting, the techniques are almost all spot on for the library world as well.7Usability TestsUsability tests are really not such a big deal. Heres a quick overview of the steps:

Come up with a set of 3-5 different tasks that youll ask users to perform.Round up some 5-10 volunteers who will act as test participants and then bring them one at a time into a testing area where youll observe them as they perform the predetermined tasks.After youve observed all the test partipants, youll have a pretty good idea of some things that need to be fixed and what things seems to be working OK. After you make the easiest 2-3 fixes, go back and do another round of testing and tweaking, etc.8Why Test at All?But why go through all this trouble? Cant I just see whats wrong? Cant I just ask the staff at my library to identify what needs to be fixed and take care of the problems that way?

Well, no, not if you really want to make your user the center of the websites design. Lots of librarians will want to tell you that the library website is for them, too, and that they are experts on what users want and need. That is true up to a point, but as anyone who has sat on a library redesign team knows, everyone has lots of opinions and insights, many of which are completely at odds with each other.

The real user of your librarys website is your patron, your customers, your students, your members, whatever you want to call those folks who dont work in the library. You want to please those folks more than anyone else.

By making an honest effort to let your users determine the look and feel of your websitewithin reasonyoure likely to have a design that will actually work for them. By going directly to your users and recording how they actually use the site, youll get information that will ground the endless debates over design matters.

Usability testing offers a method based on social science research methods.

And, as I see again and again when I run usability tests, the results are always surprising. Your test participants are always going to find things that never occurred to your designers. Most usability experts will echo this experience, I believe.

9What Your Library Can TestSo the first step is to think about what it is you want to test. Think not just of the library website itself but about all the services that are linked to your website or that are built into it. These things fall in three categories:Things you control (in other words, there are very customizable by your library)Things you kind of control (they are moderately customizable)Things you barely or dont control (youve got few options or you have to get someones permission to make any changes at all or youve got no ability for customization)

So Id like to ask a question of the attendees right now. In the chat window on your screen, please type in the kinds of things you might want to test. What are some categories of web-based tools/services/resources commonly found in libraries that should be tested?

10Things You ControlSo under the category of things you control, many of us would put the library website.11Things You Kind of ControlLibrary catalogs, A-Z journals lists, LibGuides or subject guide systems are things that we often have less control over but are worth testing. Id also thrown in link resolvers, too (like SFX).

12Things You Barely or Dont ControlLibrary databases, ebook platforms, and interfaces for digital reference services are often things we have very little or no ability to customize.13Identify Tasks for the TestOK, so you now have an idea about what service or resource youre going to test, next youll want to think about what actual tasks you want your test participants to do. Youlll want to pick pick tasks that are going to reveal some useful information to you.

One obvious place to go looking for tasks are those pages or services that you and your colleagues already know need work, such as your interlibrary loan form or the way that library hours are displayed.

Another strategy is to think about what are the most common activities among patrons in your library.

Take a look at your site statistics to see what are the most popular pages. Maybe thats where you want to do your testing.

Or maybe youre about to launch a new page or service. Those are great opportunities for testing.14Recommended GearOK. So the gear you need is not too complicated. Youll need a computer.a desktop or a laptop will do. Last year, I had test participants use my smarthphone wen I was testing a mobile web site.

If you really want to get serious about user-centered design, you may want to do usability testing on paper sketches that precede any actual website coding. This is perfect acceptable and commonly done. Its a great way to run tests that will help you get a basic page layout and site architecture problems.

Youll also want to install some screen recording software on the computer that your test participants use. That way, you can capture as a movie all the mouse movements, page clicks, and characters typed; this is really rich data to return to when the tests are done and you are trying to write up your report. Ill talk in a minute about software options.

Another option that has worked for me is to simply have a second person on hand helping you with the test. That persons sole responsibility is to closely observe the test participant and take detailed notes.

Finally, if you have screen recording software, you might as well get a USB microphone that can capture the conversation between the test participant and the test facilitator. Youll want to encourage the participant to think aloud as much as possible as they perform tasks.15TasksHere are some sample tasks that Ive used for various reasons. You can see they are not huge, multistep projects but somewhat straightforward tasks.16Screen Recording Software


Here are five options for screen recording software. Ive used CamStudio a lot mostly