Tuesday, November 14, 2006

LiveLogger & World Usability Day Sessions

Well, the Usability Testing Methods webinar that i attended as part of World Usability Day was informative and well worth the time. Frank Spillers, who has been performing Usability tests for 10 years now was the host. Much of the first part of the presentation was to help level the table a bit, bringing those with no experience in the field up to speed on some of the simple goals (ease of use), different types of basic Usability testing (down the hallway, low-fidelity, mixed-fidelity and high-fidelity) and measurement types (qualitative vs. quantitative). And with the best practices stuff out of the way, we delved into Frank's insight and experience in testing.

It has always been my belief that everyone brings something different to the table, so for all of us in the Usability field, fresh or experienced it can't hurt to have an open mind when it comes to different styles. For instance, some of the major players in the industry have found the most effective number of participants to be 5 in order to minimize costs and time. But experts like Frank tend to think that if most of the time is spent in the setup of the study, then what is an extra couple of hours running a few more participants through in order to have some more concrete data to supply the client.

The Forgotten Metrics
Frank also discussed what are referred to as the "Forgotten Metrics", which include ease of learnability and ease of understanding, which can give valuable insight into your study, often times more value than the ever important "time on task" metric. One practice for determining ease of learnability is what is called a loop-back task, which essentially has the participant perform a very similar task to an earlier task to determine if they are able to streamline the experience this time around.

Time on Task is a metric that can also be misinterpreted. There are 2 trains of thought when it comes to this one, and i tend to believe that as long as a user is moving towards their goal successfully, then time is not as much of an issue. And Frank is of the same opinion on this issue. As long as, when you tie in the quantitative and qualitative results, the user has a positive experience on the site, because ultimately that is what they will bring with them. If you have the analytics in place already, or if you are measuring 2 very like sites, then it's worth it, but otherwise, don't knock yourself out over it.

The LiveLogger tool for Usability testing was released today to mark World Usability Day by Experience Dynamics. This appears to be a really helpful and simple tool that shows the most benefit in letting you focus on your participant, the real reason you're performing your Usability test in the first place. What it does is acts as a dynamic notebook that tracks the time for you and allows you to choose from certain actions so that when you choose that action, it marks the time and lets you make a note regarding the circumstances. As anyone trying to take these types of notes can agree to, it's not always easy to keep this type of information in order and still pay full attention to your participant. Of course the tool is much more dynamic than that, for instance, all of the export features that allow you to categorize each of the user's data, from the errors that they experienced and any points of confusion along the way. But this is where i really saw the value in it.

The presentation itself was really worthwhile, Frank keeps you interested and brings a lot of insight that you can only get from spending this long in the industry. And their new product, LiveLogger, looks well worth a demo download. If you plan on performing a small usability study in the next little while, I would really recommend giving it a shot, it'll make organizing those sessions a lot easier.

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