Trials and Tribulations of a usability tester

Assignment time is over, but there is still the last minute posting to the online forum, and text reading to do, so my head is still in study mode (to some extent).

My last assignment was to conduct a usability test on a website. I ended up choosing the CSU website as it’s one with which I am very familiar and I knew my test subject (Mr BG), while knowing his way around a website, would not have encountered this one.

Lessons learned:

1. Don’t schedule a usability test 20 minutes before the final episode of Lost– it can make the person being tested somewhat impatient for the test to finish.

2. If you’re using a video camera to record the test, make sure you’re not holding it. Trying to take notes, film what’s happening, and prompt your test person to think aloud while navigating the site is somewhat… difficult.

3. Trying not to suggest how to search or navigate a site to the test user (you know, what a helpful librarian usually does) was incredibly hard.

4. Users all have different strategies. Mr BG’s preference is to look for a search box, whereas mine is to navigate first then search. CSU position their course search box prominently in the middle of the page, yet their website search box is located in the bottom left hand quadrant of the page, rather than the top right hand corner. If your screen reolution is set fairly low, the search box doesn’t appear unless you scroll down below the fold.

5. Visual impairment is more than being blind. Shortsightedness can have an affect on how a user interacts with a site. If the navigation text is small, a user may prefer a search box, as it’s easier to use than trying to read the navigation. If your navigation is all grey buttons and hard to read, it makes it even more challenging to use.

6. A more accessible site is a more usable site.

Mr BG was very gracious with his time and I thank him for it (yes he reads this blog!).

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3 thoughts on “Trials and Tribulations of a usability tester

  1. LOL! I’d never be able to do this. Keeping my advice to myself (otherwise known as keeping your mouth shut0 is not by best feature.

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