Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Zombies Guide to Boolean Operators

My first foray into video production and just in time for Halloween too.

Technical notes:

Usaura and Click Tests

Want a quick, effective way to conduct small usability tests for your website? Usaura provides a free way to conduct simple "click tests" online. The process is fairly simple. You'll need to upload a screenshot of the page you want to test and then formulate a question (avoid using the keywords found on your website) to ask your users:
"You're a high school student who wants to attend Mizzou next fall. You know it's going to be expensive and that you're parents won't be able to cover the entire cost. Where would you click to find information on how to get money to pay for school? "
Click test results displayed on heat map
Usaura then generates a link that you can e-mail, tweet, or otherwise distribute anyway you like to participants of the test. Users then answer the question by clicking on the website screenshot you provided, indicating where they would go to find information to answer the question. Usaura then tracks those clicks and the amount of time it took for users to make the click.

Click test information can help spot usability problems by telling you whether users are clicking on the areas you expected them to. If the results aren't what you expected, you may need to change the "trigger words" or link labels on your site to match the natural language of your users. If participants take longer than expected to locate an area to click on, you may need to make the information more visually prominent or take a look at the link labels.

Usuara also makes it possible to conduct quick preference tests ("Which new website design do you like best?") and get feedback on a particular aspect of your website by allowing users to submit their comments.

Usaura does have some limitations. Because the test relies on screenshots of websites, it is difficult to test dynamic menus (drop downs, etc.) or other interactive aspects of a site. User questions are also limited to 250 characters.

Overall, Usuara is a neat tool that can certainly help time- and cash-strapped organizations gain valuable feedback from users---and that information is like gold for those of us who want to make sure we're doing our best to meet our users' needs.

Wearable Computing and Libraries

I recently presented on wearable computing in my Emerging Technologies class, and wow, what amazing things are on the horizon in this field. From the Nike+ running shoes to smart tattoos that can monitor your heart to chemical sensors printed on underwear that can detect wounds in soldiers and administer medication. How will wearable computing devices be used in libraries? The SixthSense device created at MIT illustrates what  might be ahead for wearable computing in libraries and how it could dramatically change the way we interact with information in our environment. Check out my presentation and the SixthSense demo below.