About the pre-test on usability: how did it go?

I’m not gonna lie: as I type this after waking up to a world where we’re going to have a “President Trump,” I’m more than a little distracted. But I also feel like I need to go on– maybe you do, too– which brings me to this discussion: how did you your pre-test for usability for your web site go? Or how is it going?

Remember that by now, you were supposed to do this simple pre-test. Here’s how I describe it in the assignment itself:

The first is a “pre-test” of sorts:  you will create a sketch or a wireframe of the site you are working on/planning and get some basic feedback.  The goal here is to help steer your project in the right direction before you get too far into it.  You will report about your pre-test usability test both in a brief (1000 word or so) essay and in class discussion.

Note that I changed that write-up part of it, though we are still having the class discussion part (here!) and this is an experience you’ll probably want to write about in the final essay that you’ll complete at the end of the term/end of this project. But for now, let’s hear how the pre-test part is going.

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23 Responses to About the pre-test on usability: how did it go?

  1. Scott says:

    Yeah I need to focus on something else than what happened last night.
    So far I have showed my simple wireframe to two different people. They both recognized the layout as a sketch of a website. When I asked if they could say something about the layout one person said they couldn’t expand any further. What I did notice from this first person is that after he was done looking at it he asked: “Am I right? Is that what it is?” I told him that’s not the point, that I just want to know if he can say something about it. He said he couldn’t say anything more except it looks like there was a video on the page. I thought it was interesting that he wanted confirmation on his guess, even though I only asked (as Krug suggests) “Can you tell me what you make of this? What do you think this is supposed to be?” I guess this feedback makes me realize I need to draw another another sketch or add some words to it to see if he can say a little more about what kind of site it is supposed to be.

    The other person I asked also noticed it looked like a website layout. When I asked her to expand she started at top, and described all of the things she saw as she moved down the page: the title, the menu buttons, the pictures, the writing, the video, “this looks like a list,” etc. And as she was moving down the page explaining her process of understanding I realized that at the bottom of the page I would need to add a button to move the user to the next page in the progression of the site; that I should add a button to the bottom of each page to allow the user to continue with the flow of the website. So these are my initial observations on the pretest. I’ll probably make another more detailed wireframe and see if that sparks any additional feedback.

  2. swilso93 says:

    I think it went as best as I thought it could. The person I used for my testing, didn’t really understand what I meant at first. They seemed very confused. After explaining it the best I could, the person was able to do what I had asked. I knew my sketch was not that good (I am a terrible drawer.) But, I think they liked the idea of my future website. From what I gathered, I learned I need to include some words in my sketch so people understand what I am trying to do with my site. To be honest, I am not fully sure just yet but I think I am trying to combine, The Walking Dead, and english/writing together. My next test I am going to try and make that more clear.

    And yes, Trump winning as put me in a tizzy.

  3. totallykyle94 says:

    The user I showed my sketch to helped give me constructive criticism, and I mistakenly went ahead and made a rough version of my website on WordPress, but I guess this will give me more time to improve upon it. I am curious to see how others are transferring their selected texts into a website, I am trying to find inventive ways to do so. I am probably going to end up adding quite a few things to my website to make this possible.

    • Steve Krause says:

      I wouldn’t describe going ahead to make a page out of your sketch with WordPress or whatever else you decide to use as a “mistake.” But the whole idea of doing a low-stakes usability test like this is to make sure you don’t put in a lot of time and effort to making something before you have a sense of whether or not it works. In that sense, it’s basically like a rough draft of an essay: get feedback at that stage before the end stage.

  4. jjwourman says:

    My initial testing has gone fairly well! Because this was the initial testing phase (and my sketches where very drafty) the feedback I received from my first participant made sense and have provided me with many things to think about moving forward.

    My sketch showed the layout I am considering using and different heading options, menus, and tabs that represent content from the essay I am using.

    One question I posed to participant 1 was “can you tell me the purpose of this sketch.” She easily knew it was a website which was a plus for me moving forward. I then asked my participant to describe three different thoughts about the layout. Her responses were 1)informative 2)educational 3)nice

    I am still thinking through her responses but all in all the testing has provided me with great feedback on what I can add and how users might engage with the website once it is finished. The testing has also given me insight on how I should present content on the website — and how my design choices are indeed rhetorical.

  5. Jaclyn Y says:

    I have to say that I love multi-media projects like this. I ended up having to describe a lot of my website to my participants because the sketch was not working very well, but both participants were very receptive of my idea of using interactive mapping software for my website. My text is very dated, but I think that this will be good practice in building a website anyway.

    The participants did give conflicting advice that I do have to go over, so I will probably end up making two versions of the website to see what version a third participant would like better, and then move on from there.

    • Marianne says:

      From your description, I got a vision of a site that looks like really old computer screens with those old fonts we never see anymore. I don’t know how to describe it but vintage and retro techie were the visions I had as I read your description.

  6. jmoss9 says:

    My initial testing went very well in the sense that my tester could easily navigate and go through the pages I have done the basic design of so far. But in the same sense it has also proven that initial concept for my web site is too simple as the test was started and over very quickly. I have several ideas for directions I can go in to expand and add more elements to the website, so it was productive in that sense.

  7. Debra says:

    I developed a wire frame for my website which is based on an essay I wrote on the the Global Drum Project. Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, worked with other drummers from around the world on the percussion project and created an album of their songs.

    I tested the wire frame with two users, a 24-year-old student and a 56-year-old financial analyst. I gave them three scenarios to try. I expected them to have different experiences, but it turned out that they both were confused by one area.

    The younger user kept working until they figured out where the information could be found. The second user actually reached a dead end and became frustrated. I had to suggest that he go back to the home page and look to see if there were any other tabs he should check. He did, and did find the answer.

    Because both testers verbalized as they struggled with that area, I was able to understand what confused them. I’ll need to give it some thought as to how to fix it.

    Going into the test, I would not have guessed what the problem area was going to be. As the designer, I knew my thought process and thought everyone would think like me. It was a good experience to be proved wrong.

  8. Joan Kwaske says:

    The usability testing was actually much simpler than I expected. I was able to create a rough draft of my website rather quickly, and all together, the task seemed straightforward. The site itself is about a short story I wrote- why I wrote it, how I wrote it in concerns to the symbolism and references, and what I learned by going through the process.
    My two testers had completely different results. My first went through the 7 questions with only one “failure to complete”. I was glad to see that she didn’t take very long to figure out the scenarios. Once I asked a question, she looked over the layout for a few seconds to find which tab she thought was correct, then she went to the corresponding paper, and looking over that paper (or page), she found exactly what I asked for. She said that the “site” was easy to navigate and she didn’t see any real problems.
    My other tester, however, did not do well. Not at all. I think it was partially due to the fact that he hadn’t slept for a few days, but I suppose more testing will rule on that. Nevertheless, it was slightly embarrassing for the both of us. In his case, I asked a question and he stared at the Home Page paper and took random guesses. After 3 questions, it didn’t looked like he could read. Again, I think this was due to sleep deprivation. I’ll be testing someone else tomorrow.
    As a whole, this was definitely a learning experience. I have made changes to my layout already and I’m really looking forward to beginning the actual website.

  9. aderengo says:

    I think the pre-test round of usability went pretty good. It was quite a bit easier than what I thought it was going to be. The user who I showed my wireframe to at first was confused at what I was showing them. After explaining it more in depth they thought it was fairly easy and not to complex. They were able to help me figure out some different approaches and possible changes that I could make to the site. With having a couple different ideas for the website, I think I am going to show another sketch to another user tomorrow to see their input on the changes before I turn it into a website.

  10. LouiseWrites says:

    Oops! Sorry guys, I didn’t read the memo about the 1000 word limit being unnecessary, so I wrote a bit longer than you probably expected to read. Here we go:

    Overall, my experiences with the usability tests were very simple. I had my mother and my brother each take turns for a couple of minutes browsing my very small website with just a few simple prompts. My words-in-a-row text is an 8-page paper I wrote on The Catcher in the Rye last year concerning the hypocrisy of the main character, Holden Caulfield. I didn’t do anything particularly special in preparation for the trial, aside from clearing a space on my kitchen table for my laptop so each family member had a space to sit for a few minutes as they read the information and responded to my prompts. I asked them to focus on three things:

    Purpose- When asked what the site was about, my brother said that he understood it to be a sight that studied a very specific analysis of a book. My mother compared the site to that of Sparknotes. However, where Sparknotes has several different aspects of the book and not just theoretical analysis, my website has a very focused argument. This is due to me putting my thesis statement from a previous school paper right underneath the title/header of the main page. I made it clear what the question was in regards to Holden and his hypocrisy, and both my family members understood that the direct purpose of the page. Although neither person made the comment, I am sure that the home page is lacking in something. Maybe because I am very conscious of the fact that I just lifted my entire thesis statement and made the overview underneath it the information doesn’t feel as though it is presented as smoothly. Maybe my title could be “Holden on the Analysis of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye” just so people who may accidently stumble on the page now the most basic purpose. I assume that anyone looking at my page is searching for some critical thinking on this specific book, as opposed to other sites that may have a whole archive on 20th century classic novels. Maybe the reason I am surprised that neither of my testors brought this up is because I am struggling to see my website as either a blog or a literary review, while they immediately accepted it as both.

    Presentation- Both my mother and my brother said that the website looked very clean and organized. There were clear categories presented in the drop-down menu, and the black writing on white was very legible. My red accents contrasted well with the page while matching the theme of the novel I was criticizing, The Catcher in the Rye. One place where I could have increased the font size would have been the short paragraph in which I describe the argument/study that my webpage is focused on. White on brown/reds is slightly harder to see and there wouldn’t be so much strain if I made the font just under the header size. Another thing brought to my attention was the lack of my information on the bottom of the page. Most articles conclude with a footnote about the author and whatnot, but at the moment my page is authorless and therefore not credible.

    Entertainment- Considering my website is more of a skeleton than the final project, I asked both of my testors to consider how engaging the website was. My color scheme is vibrant, however I do not have many flashy add-ons such as hyperlinks, videos, etc. I didn’t even realize I lack bolding, italicizing, or underlining until this reflection paper.

    When asked about these other mediums, my mother responded with a few possibilities: I could add a hyperlink to a website that summarizes the plot/characters of the novel that might make my content more understandable to a person that hasn’t read the book or doesn’t remember specific details. My writing is very professional, so my brother didn’t see a problem in my lack of italics, bolding, and underlining because this is more scholarly work than just a simple blog. Unlike blog format, I do not have my “articles” (my new term for the pages that represent a different paragraph and idea in my Literature paper) in chronological order as though I am documenting my progression of thoughts into real-time. The separation of pages in that sense adds professionalism, which my testors agreed did not require “decorations and glamour” that may be found in more informal settings. College students are more likely to find my site useful, and I know that when researching a paper a college student will skim pages and paragraphs to find a central meaning. This causes me to think that maybe I should break down my paragraphs more, however, my mother disagrees. My only fear is that this website reads like a paper, and while the words flow, the medium it is presented in may seem a bit unorthodox.

    Considering all of my feedback, I am not surprised by the suggestions given. When missing things were brought to my attention I almost immediately felt as though I had forgotten about minor though very obvious details. I am glad that I prepared a few questions before the test that were not specific enough about the purpose of the page, but enough for the readers to wonder what the content is and why it is presented to them/why it may be useful. The trials I believe will prove key to developing a more concise and meaningful website because I’ve already been given so much to consider in such a short testing process.

  11. ReneeG says:

    I think that my round of pre-testing went pretty well! My participants were a bit confused as to what I was asking them to do at first, but once I explained the project they were able to understand it a little better.

    They pointed out some interesting things and offered some advice that I am definitely taking into account. Overall, they were able to understand my sketches pretty well and follow along with the direction I am hoping my website will be.

  12. andrew says:

    This has been a week of preoccupations for sure. The election still looms over my thought process. On top of that I have been working on getting my students their project 2 grades back within the week. In the future, if I have one in the classroom, I will not hand grades back the day after a presidential election.

    The pre-test went ok. I think. I have always had trouble visualizing a web space as a wireframe. I mean, on page at a time is easy enough but creating a networked space is difficult. It can be sort of frustrating for me and the participant. I know the vision that is in my head of how these pages are going to link so I feel that vision is present on the page. The participant does not so they are left with a lot of questions.

    But those questions are why we do it right? The essay I am attempting to use deals with a geopolitical issue through the lens of a rhetorical theory. I want to be able to include both of these ideas in my website. I decided to use Weebly by the way. It is free and easy. It also allows easy access to the mark-up code so I fell there is a good opportunity to practice coding.

    Anyway, I found that including the theory is going to be tricky. The participant got kind of bogged down with the content when the theoretical was thrown in. I have decided that the website should take two paths. Maybe not two paths so much as an easily accessible way to get background on the theory. The theory will occupy a space similar to an About section. It will be present at every portion of the discussion about the political issue (I don’t know why I am not naming these parts. Drone strikes and Actor Network Theory) but will still be separate. What I want to attempt is for the easy navigation back to the issue portion of the website if someone chooses to leave to look at the theory. I do not want a user to lose their space in the website if they want to go search for some background.

    I hope this makes sense. I am kind of excited about creating this though.

    • Marianne says:

      Yeah, that makes sense. Sounds like you really want the “about” section to pop up if they want to look at it while they are in the meat of the site. I know you can do that, but I don’t know if it’s possible or how to do it on Weebly. I would love to figure out the coding aspect like you did.

  13. rachel says:

    With my tester, I went to some extra lengths in the beginning to make sure they knew that they were not the ones being tested, but rather were merely helping me test a mockup of a website and were there to give me their feedback and impressions of the site.

    My tester thought that the overall navigational setup of my wireframe seemed logical, however, for the content of my site, they thought that it was hard to make a judgment since the site had “too much wire and not enough frame.” In other words, my sketch had the main tabs and section headings in place, and placeholders for where an image would go, but without a little more blurb to give a better idea of what my headings meant, my tester couldn’t really flesh out in their mind what my site was supposed to be about.

    It doesn’t help that my site is based off of a philosophy paper…While a wireframe is a far cry from what the full-blown site will look like, I’ll need to be mindful of how much context my users will need along with media to fully understand what I meant to portray with the site.

  14. haniam1315 says:

    My users understood my layout pretty well, though I did have to clarify, given that my website is going to be based off of a feature article I wrote for my Journalism class (ironically relating to the election). I didn’t have anything too complicated anyways, just an intro and tabs for different sections. I don’t think there was too much to it.

    I do think that I could definitely add improvements, like maybe short, one-line descriptions of every tab, just so the reader knows what the section is supposed to explain. Hopefully by doing that, the user can get a sense of the main points of the entire article just by looking at the tabs/descriptions. I kind of hope I can make it look a little fun too, so it doesn’t feel so monotonous.

  15. Marianne says:

    I chose my essay for this assignment because I thought it was interesting and that the different topics or information paragraphs would cleanly convert into a website design.
    I forgot that you wanted it done on WordPress or Weebly or Wix and I was looking at templates for designing it with html and css. I came across a CSS template from CSS Zen Garden that I liked and wanted to use. I thought it would make a professional, crisp design on one page with links at the bottom of each section to the next section or to the top of the page. Also, there would be links to each section in a sidebar at the top and along the bottom.
    I showed this sample page to my test participants as the wireframe and explained a little about my essay contents so they could get an idea of how the content would fit into this design.

    Both of my informal test participants thought this was a fresh, appealing design that would look good . I gave them a summary of the different sections or pages I was thinking of breaking my essay into and they thought my plan would work well. They also did not have any other ideas for using a different framework instead of this one.

    It wasn’t until after I started designing the site with the css layout that I read the directions again and realized you wanted it on one of the hosted platforms. I abandoned my html/css pages and researched Weebly and Wix to decide which one I would use. Since I am already familiar with how WordPress works, I checked out the other two so I could learn a new platform for this assignment.

    I didn’t like Wix at all–it just didn’t have any of the options that I was interested in for customizing my site. I chose Weebly for my project platform and played around with some of the different themes they have available. None were like my wireframe sample but I chose one with bold background images and several sections per page.

    As far as using the new platform goes, I haven’t worked out all the layout issues yet and have been really frustrated with it. On the home page alone, I typed in and saved the information for the Introduction and the Organization at least three times, only to find that they reverted to the sample text when I looked at the page again. I was also disappointed with the variety of possible themes to choose from and basically settled on this final one as the best I could do with what was available.
    As I continue to create the pages for this site, I am finding the platform easier to use and think I have gotten the hang of it enough that I don’t want to drink or take a hammer to my computer. I consider that a success!

    Once I have all the pages set up with the images inserted, section titles typed in, and text boxes in place for the content, I will start creating my User Testing Protocol. The sections and pages I planned for my initial testing are mostly working out similar to what I am able to do with the Weebly template.

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