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Usability Study Part 1: Goals and Scenario

By Graeme Blackwood | 20th May 2010

 

Most people will be familiar with the term “usability”, and instinctively know what it relates to, especially with regards to websites. As web designers, one of our primary goals is to ensure that what we create is usable, but how do we actually know when we get it right?

The only real way of knowing is by observing the people who actually use the thing. Unfortunately, if there is something wrong, quite often your users don’t bother letting you know what isn’t working for them; they just leave your site frustrated.

One of the best ways to get rich, actionable feedback, is to conduct a usability test, and that is the subject of this three-part series.

Using the ideas and processes in Steve Krug’s book “Rocket Surgery Made Easy”, we aim to conduct a usability test on one of our recent Drupal websites, See Further: The Festival of Science and Arts (http://www.seefurtherfestival.org/)

We will think up a scenario, pick on some lucky souls to do a bit of role-playing and give them a series of tasks to perform, watching how they get on. Rather than observing them in person, for the purposes of this blog post and your entertainment, we will be using Camtasia to record their screens and iSight feeds. Connecting body-language to the actions on-screen should give us all an even better idea of what is really going on for the user, and hopefully also be quite amusing!

The goal is to see how successful the website is at delivering the results that the user is looking for, and where it could be improved.

So, here’s the plan:

The Scenario

You are a music teacher at a local school, who also happens to have an interest in science. Hearing about the See Further festival, you decide to plan a school day trip there. You are on your lunch break and don’t want to spend more than about 15 minutes to find the website, see what might be appropriate for your class, and plan the trip.

The Tasks

  1. Go to the Festival of Science + Arts website: www.seefurtherfestival.org. You are a big fan of the London Philharmonic, so find out if they are taking part in the festival.
  2. The school is not terribly well funded, so you need to try and find all music-related / performance events that are free, and decide which one you would like to go to, making a note of time, date and location.
  3. You don’t have access to your email on the computer you are using, but you need to email the event details to your head teacher to confirm it is ok. Use the website’s functionality to do this.
  4. Lastly, you need to find the address for the Royal Festival Hall so that you know where to go, and want to email this to yourself, again using the site’s functionality.

In the next part, we will conduct the test and observe how our users get on.

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