So, you think you have a good, usable project which clearly sets out what the user has to do to get what they want…….. and then you do some user testing. The UI testing on Version two of the downloader was extremely useful, it pointed out many things that we had missed and now seem just so obvious. This post will outline the main points that emerged from the testing and will describe how we ran the tests them self. But before we start, it is important to remember that the test revealed many positive things about the interface and users thought it was an improvement over the current system. This post will now concentrate on the negatives but we shouldn’t be too depressed.
We decided to run this UI testing in a different configuration than we intend to run the tests with external students. We wanted to allow our usability expert to be able to guide us through the test so that we would conduct the test using best practice. Viv was to be the “facilitator” and Addy was the “Observer”. David was observing everything and would provide feedback between test.
We had 5 candidates who would each run through 5 tasks during a 40-50minute period. We left 30 minutes between each test to allow us time to get feedback from David and to discuss the tests. As it turned out, the day was quite draining and I wouldn’t recommend trying to do more than 6 candidates in a day. Your brain will be mush by the end of it and you might not get the most out of the final sessions.
The tests went well and we improved as the day went on thanks to feed back from the usability expert David Hamill. It was certainly useful to have David facilitate a session so that we could observe him in action.
The participants all said that they thought the interface was easy to use and quite straight forward. However, it was clear that most users struggled with the process of
- selecting an area of interest
- selecting data products
- adding these products to the basket
- submitting the order
As the primary role of the interface is to allow users to order data this seems to be an area that will need significant investigation before the next iteration. Other issues that arose during the sessions include:
- The “Search and Select An Area” still seemed to confuse users. Some struggled to see that they had to actually select an area in addition to just navigate to the area using the map
- Basket Button looks busy and is not prominent enough.
- Download limits not obvious to the user
- Users often couldn’t recover from minor mistakes and “looked for a reset button” (technically you don’t need a reset button but the users didn’t know this so this needs addressed)
- Preview Area in the Basket was not all that useful, the popup covered the map which showed the selection. In addition to previewing the geographical extent selected, this should also preview the data product selected.
- Make the info buttons easier to browse through
- Add more information to the “Use Tile Name” section, perhaps investigate how we can integrate this with the view grid function on the right of the map window.
- Add a clear all button to the basket area.
A detailed report of the main issues that emerged during the user testing can be found in the Version 2 Testing Report(pdf).
The testing session was a success on two levels. Viv and I learnt a great deal about conducting UI tests by having the usability expert present and we identified some key areas of the interface that were causing users problems. Most of these are glaringly obvious once they have been pointed out to you, but then that is the point of UI testing i suppose!