Task-based testing

WUT is hard at work doing even more testing! This time, we're doing task-based or scenario-based testing. This is the real heart of usability testing. We get our users to use the website and actually observe them to see if the website is usable and identify pain points and problems to fix.

The key to this kind of testing is to make sure of the following:
1. observe - don't lead the user or give hints
2. listen - again, no helping (as library folks, this is particularly hard for us I think)

You don't need a lot of fancy equipment for this type of testing (though if you're lucky enough to have lots of money, there's great stuff out there). All you need is a computer, screen capture software, a notebook and a volunteer. We're offering our volunteers the choice of a pc or mac laptop to do the test and are using Silverback on the mac and Debut on the PC for screen capture. These softwares capture the screen movement and voice (and sometimes video of the volunteers face), which allows us to go back, see what they clicked to get somewhere, see where they paused when they were confused and the like.

The key to this type of testing is making up questions that are real and not leading. Don't just say find an article on marathons - tell them they are training for a marathon and need to find the most up-to-date training info and see what they do.

There is no better testing that actually watching your users use your website. Go do it today!


It's alive!!

Well, again it's been a while since I've updated this blog and that's because I've had an incredibly busy summer. It simply flew by as the Web Implementation Team and I worked to get a beta version of our new website up for the start of the fall semester. It took a lot of work and still requires a number of changes, features, and content but be sure to take a look at the new site and let us know what you think! The beta site will show you the direction we're going and give you a sense of how the new website will be organized. The changes you see are a result of research, best practices and all of the testing the Web Usability Team did (focus groups, card sorts, surveys, prototyping).

Our next steps our to train our editors in the new CMS, start moving content, finishing creating templates and implementing some improvements and start testing it with our users to make sure it is both usable and provides a good user experience. Be sure to watch out for calls for volunteer testers- it will be fun!


Testing Testing 1, 2, 3

I thought I'd concentrate on WUT with this post since it's been a very busy time for the group. WUT, as you'll recall, is the web usability team. WUT has been testing what we can as we get ready for the redesign and I've got a number of reports on the go on account of all the testing that's been done. The first report I need to finish is our focus group report. All reports mentioned will be posted on the library wiki when completed.

We're still analyzing the library survey. With over 1500 answers on some questions, it's going to take a while. One thing that jumped out at me from the comments is that, to our users, the website is everything. If you link to it from the library website, it's considered the library website. That means our LibGuides, RefWorks, Databases and Indexes, our Discovery Layer and OPAC, anything we linked to is the library website. We've got a great collection of feedback on all of these things now and I'm looking forward to being able to dive in to do more analysis.

The closed card sort is done and the report almost finished. The most interesting thing about the closed card sort was seeing where library staff and users differed when sorting information into usable categories. For example, our users were more likely to feel that Archives and Special Collections was a research tool rather than a library, as our library staff invariably decided. Be sure to read the report when it's out.

WUT recently performed some guerrilla testing, grabbing users in the QEII lobby and the HSL cafeteria for feedback on the beta website. I'm still drafting this report for WUT to edit but again, it's been enlightening taking the time to talk to and listen to our users. While the survey shows that everything we link to is the library website, our prototype testing is showing that our website is not always the number one stop for our researchers. When asked to accomplish tasks, some simply replied they would ask a friend or at a library service point or use another resource entirely. Perhaps a little humbling to hear we're not always number one but we do want to make sure that when our users do use the library website, it is as user friendly and easy to use as possible. And it it this goal that is the primary concern for WUT.

So, that's what WUT's been up to - lots of testing! Lots of talking to our users to ensure that our online resources are useful, usable and providing a good user experience. If you want to know more, check out the WUT wiki where you'll the usability toolkit, yearly activities and reports. WUT is also hoping to do some connection sessions in the future - so stay tuned to learn more about usability testing and user experience.


Retreats, card sorts and more!

Time for an overdue update on all things webby!

In January, WIT had our 2nd annual retreat. It was similar to the retreat held the previous year, in that it concentrated on creating templates/wireframes. Late last year, I came up with a beta design for the library website and the retreat worked on refining these beta templates and looked at firming up our information architecture. Following the retreat, the beta templates were shared with WAT for feedback.

WUT has a busy year ahead of them. In January, we ran our library website survey and are thrilled to share that we had over 2000 responses (about a 10% return rate)! The team is going through the results now and hope to have a report created this term. While we're busy analyzing, we are also continuing with testing. We just placed a call for volunteers to assist with a closed card sort, which will help confirm WIT's decisions on information architecture. We'll be busy doing those tests next week. The next order of business will be to complete task-based testing with a variety of groups, which will help us ensure the new website is user friendly. Stay tuned for opportunities to volunteer to help with our testing!

Finally, I'm excited to report that we have a new staff member who is assisting with the creation of the templates in our new CMS! We're thrilled to have him and hope that his work will help move us along.


Open Card Sort

WUT has finished our open card sort. An open card sort is used in the early phases of a redesign, with a closed card sort happening later in the process. The open card sort is a chance to see how our users would organize information in our website. Volunteers are given a number of cards, each with a link/term on it. They are then asked to sort the cards into groups that make sense to them, as well as piles for cards that don't make sense to them or are redundant terminology. Volunteers are also instructed to name the categories they have created. This helps us see how users expect to find information and what terms they prefer. A closed card sort is very similar in nature, but instead of naming categories, volunteers are instructed to put the cards into categories we have chosen. The closed card sort is useful in determining that the structure or information architecture of the new site makes sense and that we have chosen terminology that works for our users.

While the summary report is available on the WUT wiki, I thought I would share a few of the insights we found. The first obvious thing we found is that we have too many links on our website, with nearly 80 links on the homepage alone. The test also showed that there are far too many redundant terms on the website - terms appearing twice or more, often leading to different information or conversely, different terms leading to the same information. The participants used a variety of headings for their categories, but a few common ones did surface, such as About, Help, and Other Libraries. Terms that were either redundant or misunderstood included Summon, Reciprocal Faculty Borrowing, and Scholarly Communication.


Web Strategic Goals

Another project I worked on this summer was to look at the strategic plan and consider what the goals for the year would be. If you'd like to remember the original goals, you can take a look at the original web team plan and the April update.

Download file "Web Team Update April 2013.pdf"

Over the summer, I decided to look at the plan and pull out goals on the groups that would be involved in each goal, making it easier for each group to understand what would need to be done over the course of the year to reach our strategic plan. Check out the full document - it's going to be a busy year!

Download file "Year 2 strat plan.pdf"


Where did the summer go?

Well, it's been quite a while since I've posted, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy! So, what has been happening in the web lately?

The web usability team has been busy at work. WUT has undertaken a number of usability tests lately. We have conducted an open card sort with undergraduate students (you can find the summary report on the web usability team wiki), have been working on drafting a survey on website use (this will be released shortly we hope!) and are now working on focus groups (so far, we've done 2 with faculty, have 2 set up for staff next week and will do sessions with grads and undergrads soon). And there's still so much more to do! Keep an eye out for chances to participate!

The web implementation team is busy working on templates for the new site. These will be shared with the web advisory team next week and we hope to do some testing on the templates soon.

We're working hard to get the redesign going and getting our new site up and running! Most of this work is being done behind the scenes but it is important work. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!



One of the other activities the Web Implementation Team worked on during the retreat was the creation of personas. Personas are fictional depictions of our users and target audience. They are not based on any one person but are made up individuals who represent the critical and common tasks of our users. Once we have an idea of the critical and common tasks, we can rank them in importance. Personas can also be used to describe a users goals, needs and motivations. They can highlight who are users are and who we are designing for, our actual users.

Personas allow us to have someone in mind when we are creating tasks and scenarios for the website. For example, Julie is an undergraduate in Science - what would she want to do on the library website? Would she be able to find her course reserves easily? What does Julie want from the library?

Ideally, interviews would help determine these characteristics but given time limits, we went with expertise in the room. These personas have been shared with the Web Advisory Group for comments. It is my hope that we can find the time to go back and talk to our users to further refine these personas, as what we think our users do and what we have seen them do are only part of the story.


Goals galore

It seems like ages ago now, but the Web Implementation Team (WIT) met at the end of January for a retreat where we could concentrate on the website without distraction and start getting our hands dirty in the new CMS (Terminal Four) by creating a very very very early idea of a new design for the website.

One of the very first things we did as a group was to determine what the primary purpose of the library website is - why do we have one, what do we want it to do? Here’s what the group came up with (this has also been shared with the Web Advisory Team for feedback).

The Memorial University Libraries website will:

  1. Guide and connect users to relevant library resources
  2. Inform and connect users to library services
  3. Provide easy access to library information (ie. hours, policies, etc)
  4. Promote library events, programs, and initiatives
  5. Connect with users wherever they are (ie. mobile)
  6. Be accessible to all Memorial University users
  7. Follow best practices for web design and usability

Once the group had an idea of what we wanted the website to do, we started thinking about the goals for the redesign. Here’s what we came up with:

Redesign goals:

  1. Create a common look and feel across all branches and divisions
  2. Reduce decision making points by reducing navigation choices, the number of links on a web page and incorporating breadcrumb navigation
  3. Reduce redundancy
  4. Minimize text
  5. Minimize library jargon
  6. Design with mobile in mind
  7. Support multiple literacies
  8. Create an enjoyable user experience

Now that we have an idea of what we want the website to do and where we’d like to see the website redesign go, we can start moving forward.

More info from the retreat is coming soon!


Web retreat fun

Last week, the Web Implementation Team met for a 2 day retreat to talk about the website and the redesign. We managed to both have fun and be very productive. Over the next few days, I hope to share some of the work we did.


And We're Off!

First of all, welcome to the blog! This is a space for all things webby. While I hope the majority of the content will be about our website itself, it's also a great place to share interesting news and developments in the web world.

In case you're not aware, we have rejigged the web team to help it move quickly and efficiently and now have 3 groups responsible for various aspects of web work.
  • Web Implementation Team (WIT): this team does the dirty work, doing the heavy lifting in the technology/implementation side of the web (team members include: Krista Godfrey, Crystal Rose, Lisa Goddard, Jing Xiao, Casey Hilliard)
  • Web Advisory Team (WAT): this team ensures the website aligns with strategic goals and meets the needs of our library users. This group will also act as the communication group for their divisions (team members include: Krista Godfrey, Wayne Mitchelmore, Janet Goosney, Colleen Field, Colleen Quigley, Katie Lawton, Becky Smith, Beth Maddigan, Crystal Rose, Alison Farrell)
  • Web Usability Team (WUT): this team will determine aspects of the site to test and design tests to ensure our website can be used by our patrons.
So, where are we at? We are officially using Terminal Four (T4) as our content management system. As part of the move to a new CMS, we will be doing a redesign of the library website, creating a cohesive look and feel for the library website, reducing redundancy of information and creating user friendly resource. The web implementation team hopes to create a mockup in T4 for a possible new design (this will be a very very early design), highlighting some of the features of the new content management system and exploring options for a new look and feel. This will be sent to the web advisory team for feedback.

As we move forward, we will share updates on what we are working on, so stayed tuned for more!