Usability Testing is Easy! (redux)


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Slides for a talk I gave at the British Columbia Genome Sciences Centre in Vancouver, Canada.

This is an updated and expanded version of the talk I gave at the European Bioinformatics Institute not so long ago. This one is better! :)

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Usability Testing is Easy! (redux)

  1. 1. Usability Testing is Easy! Francis Rowland EMBL-EBI Cambridge, UK Slide F RANCIS R OWLAND
  2. 2. Usability Testing is Easy! Honestly . Francis Rowland EMBL-EBI Cambridge, UK Slide Sit back and observe as participants find usability problems for you Write some relevant tasks to simulate trying to achieve those goals Figure out the kinds of things your users want to do with your application Arrange simple one-to-one testing sessions F RANCIS R OWLAND
  3. 3. Hi, I’m a user experience designer User experience (UX) design covers a whole range of topics The usability of an application is only one aspect of UX The priority of one aspect over another may be different from case-to-case Slide Peter Morville’s “UX Honeycomb” F RANCIS R OWLAND
  4. 4. Usability and UX Design We want to consider usability Apart from anything, this is an aspect that we in development teams can directly influence “ How easily can a user achieve their goal when using my application? ” Slide Peter Morville’s “UX Honeycomb” F RANCIS R OWLAND
  5. 5. Why do usability testing? Test your assumptions Involve users Highlight unnecessary features Users will find things that you miss Learn about behaviour, not just opinions Objective evidence Reassure stakeholders Slide Save yourself lots of work later on… F RANCIS R OWLAND
  6. 6. Quantitative vs. Qualitative Quantitative testing Compare one thing against another Measure success in completing a task (e.g. time taken or result) Qualitative testing Find out how people actually use your application Based on their behaviour, figure out how to improve it Slide Example of “top three usability problems” sheet from a testing session F RANCIS R OWLAND
  7. 7. Qualitative testing Rapid Flexible Not about proof It’s about insight It’s about context Learning through observation In general, qualitative testing is what you should use to test new prototypes. Design is a process, so aim to iterate . Later on in a project, you could think about more quantitative testing e.g. old vs. new, or your application vs. that of a “competitor” Slide Jenny Cham carrying out user testing in Uppsala, Sweden F RANCIS R OWLAND
  8. 8. Preparation (1 of 2) Know your users We need some test participants. Erm… so who uses this application?! Low-hanging fruit Carry out an “expert review” or heuristic analysis, and try to clear up any outstanding usability issues Surveys and web logs can help you find out who your users are. Check helpdesk tickets, too. User research can take time… Having an experienced designer or usability expert review your application can help to save time ahead of usability testing. Assess against a standard set of heuristics (e.g. Nielsen) Slide F RANCIS R OWLAND
  9. 9. Preparation (2 of 2) Design tasks, and create a test script Try out the test script with a colleague Recruit participants Come up with a test schedule Book a room, and any equipment you need Make sure you have necessary paperwork, e.g. a recording consent form Order pizza. The time it takes to recruit and screen participants should not be underestimated. Strive to represent all your user groups. Carrying out testing elsewhere also adds a whole new level of logistical complexity! If you have a friendly PA or secretary, enlist their help! Slide F RANCIS R OWLAND
  10. 10. Designing tasks An example activity for a user might be: “ Finding all the mouse genes on the first 10 megabases of chromosome 2 ” Fine, but let’s work that into a small scenario, so that your participant can get into it a little bit more. “ You are a bioinformatician working on the involvement of certain genes and their homologues in cancer development. At the moment, you are working on chromosome 2, and you need to produce a list of genes to include in a paper. You use BioMart to generate this list. ” Give the tasks context So something a little bit more chatty, and also something that could be linked to other scenarios, so that the user gets the idea of a theme. As Christine Perfetti says, you want to get across to your participant why they would be doing this task at all, so put it in context . Slide F RANCIS R OWLAND
  11. 11. Carrying out a test Welcome, set at ease, explain the purpose Consent form if you’re recording Choose relevant tasks Encourage the participant to think out loud Try not to guide or teach the participant Invite developers to spectate Note top three issues Stick to the schedule Remain calm! A couple of key things to remember: The participant should know that you’re testing the application, not them It’s nice to reward your participant, even if it’s only coffee and a cake Slide F RANCIS R OWLAND
  12. 12. Toolkit (an aside) Slide Good old Post-its and a Sharpie Silverback app Timer for Mac EverNote F RANCIS R OWLAND
  13. 13. Processing the feedback Keep notes short and sweet Keep documentation to minimum Slide Stick to what was observed Agree as a team what the priority issues are Agree what you will aim to fix before the next round of testing Try not to avoid the thorny issues! Try to review the testing sessions as soon as possible F RANCIS R OWLAND
  14. 14. Summary You don’t need a testing lab or special equipment Get to know who uses your application Test early and often (regularly is good) Encourage developers to be involved Make sure you tackle difficult issues “ When fixing problems, always do the least you can do” * * Steve Krug, word-for-word Slide Analysing the feedback from a testing session F RANCIS R OWLAND
  15. 15. Recommended reading Slide Rocket Surgery Made Easy Steve Krug Forms That Work Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney The Smashing Book Sven Lennartz and Vitaly Friedman Books Websites F RANCIS R OWLAND
  16. 16. Thanks Contact me: Email : [email_address] Web : Blog : LinkedIn: Slide Thanks to my colleagues Nils Gehlenborg , Jenny Cham and Eamonn Maguire who help to run the EBI Interfaces forum, and to Graham Cameron for his continued support. Thank you for listening. F RANCIS R OWLAND