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cardsorting for validation: truth, dare or torture?

Recently I had cause to use a closed card sorting with the objective of ‘validating’ a proposed Information Architecture model (and some labeling). Argh. I think I will do what I can to avoid that approach in the future.

Card sorting in the initial stages of the project is a noble pursuit, in my opinion, and one that is bound to help you learn more about your users, how their heads work, and the problems that they’ll have with your site. Not to mention their ideas around what your content should be, and how it should be organised and what it should be called.

An IA Validation card sort happens a little way down the track when you think you know what your sitemap is going to look like, and what things are going to be called. You probably even have some draft wireframes that you’re not ready to commit to, but that you developed as you were thinking through the conceptual model for your IA and getting into the nitty gritty of the sitemap.

Once upon a time, I used to think that a card sort at the beginning and a card sort at the end of the IA scoping process was good practice. For my mind, I think that the second user testing exercise needs to be something related to the wireframes… maybe paperbased prototypes (or maybe even interactive prototypes?!), but definitely something that puts your IA into a context… a context beyond a few titles on some cards, that is.

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Flickr? Not a flicker (of recognition)

Flickr Logo

I think I mentioned that I’ve been doing some user testing lately for a project I’m working on at the moment.

As part of that research, I included some questions to see whether services like Flickr and Del.icio.us were making any impact on the ‘general public’.

Working in web, and reading/writing blogs, it sometimes seems like *everyone* knows about Del.icio.us and Flickr and I find that perspective can influence the strategies that I am inclined to take with functionality and design for projects. It’s easy to start to think of Flickr, for example, as setting a number of 2.0 type conventions.

Except, it’s not really a convention if only a small group of people are aware of its existence.

And that, based on our research, is the case.

Not one person we interviewed (and, to put this in perspective, we interviewed about 18 people) volunteered either Flickr or Del.icio.us as services that they used online. Once prompted, they confirmed that they had never heard of either of them.

I guess its not really all that surprising. More like a reality check.

I’d be interested to hear of any other research that’s been done re: awareness of ’2.0′ services in the world outside of the blogosphere.

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hngry? Not *that* hungry.

hngry logo

Here’s a product that’s just been released and has managed to generate a little noise in the blogosphere.

Here’s the low down:

… get all of the menus from your favorite restaurants, sit down in front of your pc, open hngry and put in all the important info for each restaurant.

… When you’re hungry and can’t decide where to eat, just log in to hngry and click on “Where to eat?” hngry will ask you for the amount you’d like to spend, and the type of food you’d like to eat. When you’ve picked, click “I’m hngry”, and hngry will tell you where to eat, based on that information. … If you’d like, you can just print off the whole page and take it with you when you go!

And that’s it.

Here’s another idea. When you get junk mail or get take away food, grab the menu and put it with a group of others in a place you’ll remember. I use a very high tech bulldog clip and the botton drawer in my kitchen. My friend Penny uses a more high tech solution involving twine and a hook on the back of her kitchen door.

Why on earth am I going to spend my time entering all that information into a web app? What do I get?

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“I didn’t want them to think I was being smart” (user 15 mins after completing user testing session)

A friend of mine just finished being a ‘user’ for a testing company. They were doing final usability testing before launching a redesign of a well known online share trading website.

They’d asked him in because he’s been using this website every day for a few years now. It was the only reason he was interested in the internet. He struggles doing a search on Google, but he’s a power user of this site.

At the end of the user testing he emerged frustrated and a little angry.

He hated the new design, but because he’s so experienced with the tasks that he was asked to perform, he would have tested quite well.

When it came to the questionnaire, he said that he didn’t really tell them what he thought because he didn’t want them to think he was being ‘smart’.

‘I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they knew what they were doing and that they were making good decisions’.

Oh dear.

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