Tag Archives: usability testing

The life cycle of online content #ndf2012

The life cycle of online content
Kate Chmiel (@cakehelmit), Museum Victoria
Content is king, declares the familiar refrain. We technologists in the cultural sector talk a lot about brilliant new applications, platforms and containers for web content, but not so much about the slippery business of creating, managing and retiring the content itself. At Museum Victoria we’re working on ways to steer our content and address three of our biggest challenges: what to do with old content, how to make great new content, and how to keep users – external and internal – happy. In this presentation, Kate will run through Museum Victoria’s online content plan, and whether it’s helping us nail the jelly to the tree.

Delete
Migrate
Update
Build

Sean Connery may have been best Bond but not up to job now. Similarly with many old websites. But can take long discussion to turn off old sites.

Should be easy to update content but someone needs time to check content and update.

Generally content worthless unless supporting business objectives and/or fulfilling user needs. Need to make sure stuff is efficient, be sustainable, make content work harder – be reused over multiple platforms.

Often content doesn’t need to be made… But if you’re going to, need masterplan: a map defining what, when, who, how.

  • When it’s born, maintained, retired. Need to return to it regularly and decide if needs to be kept, deleted, updated, replaced. Create an expiry date for content – makes review less painful down the track.
  • Where it’s found – not just a “dumping ground of shame”. Navigation important but may become less so with new ways of exposing content. Tagging, taxonomy, metadata becoming important.
  • Who – content often gets orphaned; contractors move on, staff get busy with other things. Content needs to get attached to a person, or better a position. Who makes it, edits, links, publishes, updates, removes.
  • How it goes in and comes out. (The bit in the middle is outside her realm.) Need a flexible CMS – but needs to be simple for content providers.
  • What – what’s the content? Often needs new container – hard to create container without knowing what will go in it. Content provider working with a template doesn’t always know what’s happening elsewhere – that’s the job of a content strategist.

Keeping everyone happy is biggest part of the job in getting people to change the way they work. Start by asking questions and listening. Who will use it? What do you know about them? How will they get to it? Clarifies purpose for content. Often people make pages for themselves – what they would like if they were the user.

Convert people. Need to convince people why this is a priority. What are the advantages of doing this? What are the disadvantages of not doing it? People are committed; no-one’s twiddling their thumbs. Have to convince people this’ll save time in longterm. Convince them it has to be done at all. “I spent a lot of time doing this site in 2002 and now you want me to change it?”

Web users rarely initiate communication about problems, just go away. Make user testing a spectator sport. Pick a day a month – stream the video of the testing, have tea and coffe and invite people (developer, manager, everyone…) to watch and discuss. (Have done it once but not ingrained as a habit.)

Working with researchers, some people will never play, but don’t let them hold back others. Just do it – maybe professional rivalry will then come into play.

Content strategy – focus is on content rather than container. Create once, publish everywhere. Get out of pattern of thinking that website is done. Currenly most of the innovative work is happening outside of the website. Make sure our content is great so it’s always worth consuming.

Thoughts towards universally applicable usability guidelines

Inspired by spending a few minutes trying to work out how to open a ringbinder:

Write out and/or diagram simple instructions for your product.

  1. If the instructions take more than three steps, your product isn’t usable; redesign it.
  2. If the instructions don’t actually match your product, quit smoking the good stuff on company time and write/diagram them again.
  3. If users need both the written instructions AND the diagrams, then the product is more-or-less usable, but not user-friendly.
  4. If users need the written instructions OR the diagrams but not both, then the product is somewhat user-friendly, but not sufficiently so as to justify entitling the instructions with “For easy operation”.
  5. If users don’t need any instructions, THEN the product is user-friendly.

Other thoughts?

Links of interest 23/12/09

Christmas tree made from books
“star topper” by LMU Library
used on a Creative Commons
BY-NC-SA license
(Photos of tree construction.)

M-libraries (libraries on mobile devices
Library on the Go (pdf) “explores student use of the mobile Web in general and expectations for an academic library’s mobile Web site in particular through focus groups with students at Kent State University. Participants expressed more interest in using their mobile Web device to interact with library resources and services than anticipated. Results showed an interest in using research databases, the library catalog, and reference services on the mobile Web as well as contacting and being contacted by the library using text messaging.”

library/mobile: Tips on Designing and Developing Mobile Web Sites shares “Oregon State University (OSU) Libraries’ experience creating a mobile Web presence and will provide key design and development strategies for building mobile Web sites”.

Usability
Infomaki: An Open Source, Lightweight Usability Testing Tool describes a tool developed by New York Public Library to spread the usability testing load among visitors to their website – visitors are asked if they want to answer a single question; if not, they’re not bothered again; if they do answer it they’re given the option to answer another one. Because it’s not asking much of an investment in time a lot of people will do it, and then because it’s so easy a lot will answer more than one: “In just over seven months of use, it has fielded over 100,000 responses from over 10,000 respondents.”

University of Michigan has made available two reports about the usability of their LibGuides.

Search interfaces
Google Labs is trialling Image Swirl which adds an “images related to this one” functionality to their image search in a lovely visual way.

Happy Holidays!

Links of Interest 26/8/09

Goings-on
University of Otago Law Library has a new blog to go with their new library.

Massey University Library have added book ratings to their catalogue – when logged in, your ratings show in yellow; when logged out, average ratings show in blue.

Westlaw have annoyed librarians everywhere with an ad that “Are you on a first name basis with the librarian? If so, chances are, you’re spending too much time at the library. What you need is fast, reliable research you can access right in your office. And all it takes is West®.” They have since apologised.

Useful sites
A Digital Outrigger is a blog covering issues in digital libraries and usability – it posts regular link roundups and is well tagged to allow focusing on specific areas of interest.

The JISC Academic Database Assessment Tool lets you compare journal title lists, databases, and ebook platforms.

Fiction
Heard of Project Gutenberg but don’t have time to read all its books? Now Project Twutenberg aims to convert each of these books into a 140-character summary.

Food for thought
After a presentation on Digital Reference, some librarians have started talking about the emerging trend towards the real-time web and the real-time library. David Lee King points out, “remove all the 2.0, digital, online stuff from this idea, and we’re simply talking about the real, physical, day-to-day experience of a normal (yet very good) library. Emerging online services are working to make this normal, active experience we have at the physical library the same when we’re online.

Non-English blog roundup #12

[Sitting around since last year…]

Bambou (French) writes about Wikimini, a Wikipedia-like project written by kids for kids: 8-13 years old. It was conceived by a teacher as a pedagogical tool.

Penser le futur (French) writes about the ease of amending incorrect data on Amazon – [not quite as immediate as Wikipedia perhaps, but] it only took clicking a button, adding details, and waiting while Amazon verified it – a few days later Amazon even sent an email explaining why some of the changes had been accepted and others left alone.

Frank den Hollander (Dutch) points to the experimental PurpleSearch (English) at the University of Groningen. PurpleSearch is a federated search engine that doesn’t require users to select which databases to search – instead it parses the search keywords to guesstimate at which will give the best results.

And if you’re interested in non-English blog posts you may be interested in LibWorld – library blogs worldwide, a book version of the essays on InfoBib.

[More recently…]

Vagabondages (French) lists French and francophone library twitter accounts and Biblioroots lists accounts for librarians, bibliobloggers, authors, editors, booksellers and more librarians as well as general information and technology accounts.

Erik Høy on Biblog (Danish), inspired by Google promoting short videos of its employees introducing themselves, suggests that librarians could do the same.

More fun things to do with Skype

We’ve been having a look at possible new designs for our library website and today we’ve been running usability testing on two favourites. What we do is have the tester in one room with a facilitator beside them, a note-taker behind them, and next door a group of observers watching a) a view of the computer screen and b) a closed-circuit video of the tester. (The note-taker is in the room in case the video link breaks. Testers are told other observers are watching but that we’re not recording.)

Normally for the closed-circuit link we use video equipment booked and carted over from the AV department, but today when I arrived to do my duty as an observer I discovered they’d set it up using Skype instead. It worked well: there were problems with sound volume (a function of the hardware: we used our regular webcam, but a clip-on microphone for the tester would probably be better), but quality otherwise was just fine.

(The usability testing was, as usual, fascinating. Although it covered the library website as a whole, there were several points where testers were using the library catalogue (of which, I was recently part of a project group to find and fix as many things as we could fix for free in a short timeframe), and one question asked was if they’d noticed any of the multitudinous changes. Yes: they noticed the new colour scheme. On the plus side, they approve.)