Usability testing Day 1
We’ve been working for the past week to make the most obvious fixes to the 1911 site before we let real users loose on it. Our usability agency provided us with a detailed report highlighting the main areas that could be improved so we’ve been trying to tick as many of those as possible in a rather short timeframe. But we’ve got a good few improvements ready for the testing.
Today was the first day of our “real user” usability testing at Westbourne Studios in West London. We are testing the site with 12 users over 2 days with around 45 minutes per test. We’ve selected the participants to get a wide ranges of ages, an equal mix of and men and women and also a range of “internet expertise” - from people that have been using the internet for years down to those who are just beginners.
We’re getting as many members of the team to watch the tests as possible - I went down with members of the Customer Support team from findmypast.com who understand better than most what the site needs to do: they spend all day talking to family historians. However, we have to remember that most people using the 1911census site will have very little knowledge of tracing their family trees, censuses or anything else to do with family history, and make sure the site works for them, rather than preaching too the converted.
The first day is eye-opening: of course the users react to the site in a completely different way to the 1911 team, but they give us some fascinating insights into how ordinary people are likely to use the site and what they expect to find where. The downside is that the testing is already beginning to create a very, very long list of things that we need to enhance or fix to make the site ready for general release.
The good news is that we’ve come away with a much better understanding of what users want to find and are bursting with ideas for improvements. Hopefully we will get just as many tomorrow.