The Use in Usability

Posted: March 4, 2012 in JN 553
Tags: , , , , ,

For our graduate projects, we all have to create prototype websites that will help to solve a community issue.  The only problem is that the websites are set to launch in two weeks (yikes!).  We all have issues I think are worth tackling, and the websites are coming along, but what most of us don’t have is feedback from outside users.  In the chapter “Usability Testing on 10 Cents a Day,” Steve Krug highlights the basics on usability testing from recruiting testers to the difference between usability tests and focus groups in his book, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability I admit, before reading this chapter, I didn’t understand the value of usability tests for the web. But now that I have gained some insight, I wish we could have incorporated usability tests in the early stages of our projects.

Krug pointed out something that I thought was interesting.  When you’re constantly in development mode, you just have your goals in mind and what you think you want the site to look like.  Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes, but I have no idea if we’ll have those before our sites go live.  That worries me.  I may think that the site is navigable and that my problem is easily identified and resolved, but the average user that the site appeals to may not think so.  Having that additional perspective or someone to say maybe this would look better here or I’d understand this better if it were there is a huge benefit.  Here’s a basic 101 breakdown on usability testing for websites.  This article from Smashing Magazine is a top 10 listing of things they’ve found that work best on websites from their usability studies.

I know that we will continue to tweak these sites until the end of the semester, but I like to troubleshoot early on.  Sorry, I’m a bit anal in that way.  Although we get feedback from each other and our professors, I still think you need those people that haven’t heard about the problem or issue to sit down and go through the website. Recruiting other students or a person off the street that has no idea what the project is about is really invaluable.  Another thing Krug mentioned was to test other things that are similar to your website. I have done that with all the tornado-oriented blogs and sites out there, focusing on what I could do differently and how to improve my message, as well as what multimedia components may be too distracting for the reader.  So, I feel a bit more at ease having accomplished that.  Have you used usability tests before, and if so, what were some of the benefits?  Did it help you to focus and tailor your site, or was it distracting having so much feedback and opinions?

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