School Library Blog Mini Usability Test 

SewardElementaryLibraryBlog

Mini Usability Test

Site:  Seward Elementary Library Blog  [URL removed]

LIBR 287 UX Usability Test Script & Scenarios:  [online Google Document]

LIBR 287 UX Usability Test Results:  [online Google Document]*

*It turned out that two of the test subjects had prior experience with the site, on a limited basis and one on a regular basis.  This was balanced out by the two other test subjects who did not have any experience with the site.  Please see Test Results above more detailed results.

Scenario 1

You (or your child) lost a library book that was checked out from the library and you want to find out what the policy is for lost books.

One our out of four users completed this task.  The user who completed the task used the website on a regular basis.  There is not page dedicated to library policy, nor was it listed in Information where everyone else checked.  This information is found is low on the front page with a title, “Seward Elementary Library Policy” underlined in small font.

Scenario 2

You would like to find a book in the library. Find a way to search for the book to see if it is at the library and if it’s available.

Three out of four users completed this task, including the two who had used it before and recognized the label for the link to the OPAC (Find It!), which was located 12th down in the Student Links in the right sidebar menu.  It took the person without experience with the site some trial and error to find the correct link.

Scenario 3

You want to see the latest news, events or announcements about the library. Where can you find it?

All accomplished this task in some fashion.  The task was rather vague, but I asked it because when I realized there wasn’t a page dedicated to view all blog posts, I wanted to find out where people would look for current news about the library.  It was more or less up to the user to decide if they accomplished their task, but I wanted to see where and what they looked for and what would satisfy the task.

Recommendations

  • Home and Welcome pages are the same.  Remove one and re-write.
  • It turns out there is no link to view blog posts since a page was not dedicated for the blog.  Dedicate a page named News or something like that and create tab to view the blog.
  • Rethink use of a static front page versus current blog posts on the Home/Welcome page.
  • Rethink use of the Comments, Information, Passwords for home access to links, and Practice pages.
  • Edit the Information page or rename it something like Policy for library specific information.
  • Remove account sensitive username and password information from Passwords for home access to links page.
  • Remove underline format from underlined text that is not a link on all pages.
  • Add caption/credit to images so they look less clickable.
  • Move page tabs to the bottom of the header to make them more visible. Two out of the four users tested did not even see them, including the person who accessed the site on a regular basis.
  • Re-organize and perhaps re-locate Parent/Teacher Links and Student Links for ease of use, to reduce redundancy and make it clear they are external links.
  • Remove Pages from the side menu to reduce redundancy.
  • Move Find It! link to the library’s OPAC and the link to access World Book Online to the top.  Install widgets for each if possible.
  • Remove unnecessary and/or distracting images and animations.

Testing Experience

Learning how to do a usability test and practicing doing a usability test were not the same.  It was great to apply what I learned in class from Aaron, Krug and other usability testing resources, and put them into practice in a mini usability test.  I adapted Krug’s (2010) basic usability test script to suite my needs and found that having a script was an important best practice for consistency.

One of the most important questions I added to the end of the script was What recommendations would you make to improve the site?  This gave the user a chance to share anything they may have held back or needed to process during the session, and offered good insight into what might work better.

An essential lesson is that [usability] “Testing is an iterative process.” (Krug, 2006, p. 135), and needs to be a part of a website maintenance plan.  I also appreciate Krug’s (2006) suggestion that usability testing does not require testing large numbers of people, and that three or four is sufficient.  Testing four users was doable and yielded a lot of good information that both confirmed some preconceived ideas about what needed work and revealed problems and solutions I had not thought of.

What I learned along the way

  • Test the script, and then follow the script!  A few test runs to refine a script for a specific website can also be modified for further testing.  I need to do some editing and add a few questions after the first session.
  • Prepare for how to respond to encourage thinking out loud without influencing decisions or behavior.  I felt I needed to let them know I was actively listening, so I would say “Okay” or “Mmhmm” or something like that.  I wondered if this feedback could be interpreted as an affirmative “you’re on the right track” kind of message, so I became more conscious about my feedback.
  • Make it clear when users can click on links and explore.  Be flexible and patient when they explore.
  • Users may spend more time trying to figure out how to do something they are asked to do in the test setting than they might be on their own.  Several commented they would not have spent as much time on the tasks they did if it wasn’t for a “test.”  I might reconsider renaming this activity to something less intimidating.
  • Turn off phones and mobile devices (the phone rang and someone left a message during the session)
  • Use a proper microphone to record the session.  I used Screencast-O-Matic, which worked great, but the mic on my laptop captured just the audio in front of the screen and missed most of what I said off to the side, so it was harder to make sense of the recording.  It did catch enough for me to think about what I was saying or how I was responding, so it helped me to prepare for the other sessions to hear myself, too.
  • Debrief.  I’m not sure this is best practice for usability testing, but I feel it’s important to clarify confusing issues with the site so the user does not walk away feeling like they didn’t do well and understands the limitations of site’s usability.  I can’t help but want to build confidence and help others be more informed about how the internet works.  The test subjects should have some meaningful takeaways from the experience, too!

Conclusion

The awesome thing about this assignment is the real life application since I used our school’s library blog.  We knew it needed work, but I haven’t been able to help till now.  The challenge of this blog is to consider how it might best meet the needs for children, parents, teachers, and staff.  The terminology used needs to be carefully chosen to be meaningful to all three, although the opportunity to teach students how to use the site when they are library class is much greater than the opportunity to teach staff and parents.  Use of conventions is good practice and provides an opportunity to teach our students how to use the internet and develop their digital literacy.

I was able to recruit one student, one teacher and two parents to do this mini test.  It turned out, the student and the teacher had visited the site before and the teacher used it almost daily.  I suppose there is a factor of contamination since there was pre-exposure and a professional usability test might screen and account for this issue, but in this case it turned out to be helpful to contrast their experiences with the two parents who had not visited the site before.

I chose scenarios that I thought would bring people to the site whether they had visited it before or not.  Discovering other resources on the site they might want to return would be one goal of maintaining a user friendly and engaging site.  Libraries have so much information and resources to share, it easily becomes overwhelming.  Organizing the most useful of them in a usable fashion will be our goal.

Krug’s (2006) caution to fix problems without breaking what works is important to keep in mind, especially when there are a lot of issues to deal with.  It’s a tremendous challenge for librarians and staff to create and maintain a website without sufficient training.  Often using a Content Management System (CMS), like WordPress blogs can offer a solution, but they have limited capability and still require knowhow to do well.  I created a mock-up site that I can use to mirror the content and play around with changes to see what they look like and how they behave before making changes.  I look forward to doing more work on this site and putting it through a more formal usability test this fall.

Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think!: A common sense approach to Web usability. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Pub.

Krug, S. (2010). Usability test script. Don’t Make Me Think. Retrieved from http://www.sensible.com/downloads-dmmt.html

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