Green Map Meeting
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Electron Club, CCA, Glasgow

Usability testing the Green Map

Posted by Kevin McDonagh Saturday, 9 June 2007- 11:07 am
Here at the green map we've started usability testing on the dev map.
Development version of the Glasgow Green Map

Usability testing is the process of getting people to use a product and modifying it so they could use it better. Traditionally in web design the process of usability testing has been a bit of a mickey mouse affair, when actually it's one of the most important aspects of it's design. You can have a rocking web site but if I can't click the button I'm looking for in two seconds, I'll click something else or the back button.
The reason that usability tests are so affective is because they reveal that there is no norm. The norm web browser does not exist, everyone has different habits. It is the aim of usability testing to identify common actions between these many habits and tie them in as closely to your web site as possible.

Here is the structure of the green map usability tests:

1. Profile the User

Who is this user, what internet web experience have they? Do they have websites they visit regularly?

This part of the process identifies how close to the audience demographic your test candidate lies. You'll find out what sites they remember visiting, because if they remember visiting them chances are that these sites will affect their further perception of websites. Even if you only get google out of them you have identified that they can use a search engine, but if you find that they you use there will be a reason for them to have deviated from the norm, what did that site offer?

2. Clicky clicky

Once you've profiled the user let them go clicky clicky. Let them get a bit bored of going clicky clicky. Then after their thoroughly bored, you can move on.

Let the tester just click around the site. This part of the process is about getting them used to the site, the testing guide as much as possible must remain silent during this process so as not to influence the tester. The testing guide should decline to offer any advice or directions for the short period of this part of the test and should be vigilantly watching what the tester is doing.

The testing guide should be watching where the tester is moving the mouse, why they are moving the mouse there, what they are clicking on and how often they are doing these things.
On the most part the testing guide is not concerned with actual outcome of the actions but more with the process by which the tester executes them and how easily they manage to carry out their tests. While they are going clicky clicky the testing guide should be very quickly writing down notes that describe the actions of the tester. These don't have to be anything elaborate, just short words and phrases like "clicked home, down, up swirly mouse, clicked empty blue box, down, pause". The testing guides aim is just to capture as much about the process as possible, it can be reinterpreted into more comprehensive notes after the tests.

3. Tasks

The tester is given specific tasks to carry out on the site and the guide notes their progress.

The most important part of this process is that the guide must let the tester fail. They must watch them thrash about and get lost and ONLY at the VERY last minute offer them a very small piece of advice. The more clearly defined your tests are the better results you can hope to achieve so it is important that the testing guide is pretty experienced in using the site.

4. After the tests

After you've been through the tests (and not before) you can explain to the tester exactly what you were doing at each part of the process and why you recorded specific information. While divulging this information it is likely that the tester will want to justify certain actions and it is the right time for the testing guide to clarify exactly what was going through the mind of the tester at that moment. It's funny to have someone else identify your browsing traits and it should be treated this way. No one is under inspection and usability testing is not a competition. Everyones opinions and actions count.

If you'd like to do your own usability testing why not carry out this test on our map and then send us the results?
Development version of the Glasgow Green Map
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