Software usability evaluation isn’t at all a new concept, nor is it exclusively the realm of bespectacled folks in lab coats, deftly avoiding eye contact behind one-way mirrors. Far from it – “discount” usability testing methods and tools have democratized the process nearly as much as cloud computing has done the same thing to scaling a business’s online infrastructure. (User interface evaluation is even being crowdsourced by companies like UTest.). But your fast-paced market probably demands that you be incredibly nimble and “launch first, ask questions later” – and hope your analytics, some A/B variant testing framework, and direct feedback optimize an initial design. But if you don’t take time to show really early, rough sketch stuff to potential users, “head slappers” – painfully obvious mistakes visible only once you stop protecting your early design from exposure to its intended audience – will lie in wait.
We recently tested portions of a major design update to our tools for publishers who design and deploy BigDoor’s gamification solutions to their sites. The goal? We wanted to learn if our introductory “onboarding” process demonstrated this new experience effectively enough to potential publishers to persuade them to sign up.
Findings? Nope. It did not.
But that’s really good news. Because we had several potential publishers attempt to complete this sign up process and share their frustrations/confusion, we were able to:
- Remove jargon and update terminology that explained little
- Identify a point where adding a couple of previews and simple callouts to explain “this does that,” and “this works like that,” makes all the difference
- Learn that once publishers did find their way through it was fairly easy to understand how to set up the site features they wanted to use
This post should also serve as a shameless plug for Silverback, a stylish, clever tool for video recording a participant’s face and the screen they’re working on, picture-in-picture style, using a Mac laptop’s standard video camera. The impact of the results above was much easier to demonstrate to the entire company with some key video highlights, and all the raw footage was right there on my laptop to work with the moment we wrapped up testing. Hugely useful.
The barriers to quick, in-house (and crowdsourced) methods for finding out how many head-slappers your early UI designs are lower than ever before. Huge ROI for a relatively tiny investment of time and effort awaits teams of any size.
- Matt Shobe, BigDoor Chief Design Officer & early stage mistake-maker