Posted by: bbannan | March 16, 2009

Usability – Ed

I found a nice little article, Web site usability testing: recommended procedures, by Rachel McAlpine. Rachel McAlpine (BA Hons, Dip Ed) is known internationally for her work in promoting quality web content. Since 1996, Rachel has been an independent consultant in all aspects of online content. Her article, (really a ‘how to’ paper, deals with many of the things we have been involved in as we have worked with usability testing on our projects. I decided to use it here because I am curious. Many of the statements she makes in the article seem very commonsense and easy to understand. Since most, if not all, of our groups have finished the usability test stage, I would like your opinions after reading the article. Is this how you handled the task? If not, what did you do differently? Did it work?
Over the years, I have been involved in usability tests on many occasions. Sometimes they went well and we derived good information; sometimes, we could not seem to reach any type of conclusion. I have always been fascinated how the product is influenced by these tests, and how the focus and perspective of the project can be radically affected. Did this happen to your project?
After reading this article, is there anything you would have done differently when conducting your usability tests? Do you think the information in this article might help you the next time?



  1. As you said, this information is kind of obvious but we try to ignore the obvious and don’t see the benefits of using the simplest things. Although the author recommend to hire people that are not familiar with the site, I would highly recommend people with is familiar with the topic of the site as part of the testers. Otherwise people will navigate the site trying to understand content instead of giving us relevant information of the usability of the site.

  2. I think that when you do usability testing, things get complex very quickly. My team spent a lot of time brainstorming the best ways to approach usability testing, determining if our content was useful and meaningful to our users, and figuring out how to ask the right questions so that we can determine whether or not our site is really usable. But when you go back to basics and remember what and why you are testing, you can simplify and par down the approach.

    We found that using questions to guide our participants through made the most sense. That way, we were able to give broad directions to our users, and get authentic feedback about their thoughts. Our directions would be somewhat vague (for example: navigate to the savings page). Then we would ask – was it easy/intuitive? And from there, we could determine our next steps.

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