Archive for the ‘tools’ Category

Prototyping with your CMS

We use the open-source content management system Plone to build our site, and have been very pleased with how powerful and user-friendly it is. In the process of redesigning our site, we’ve conducted wireframe tests and settled on our visual design and information architecture. Now we want to build a more advanced prototype, to test how this design will really look and feel in a browser.

To do this, we set up a copy of our Plone site on another server so we’d have one that we could freely modify and change for testing purposes. The final result ends up feeling very much like we think the redesigned site will feel, but we still have a ton of flexibility to move things around, change what doesn’t work, and correct problems where our users get stuck.

Does anyone else use their CMS as an advanced prototyping tool?

Contextual Interviews vs Regular Interviews

Many user experience practitioners sing the praises of contextual interviews, and with good reason. By traveling to a place where a real user sits and employs your system, and watching them interact with it, you gain insight into their process that you would miss by any other method.

Contextual interviewing can also be expensive with the travel expense of visiting the willing participant and the cost of whatever recording equipment you want to use.

Can the same results be gained by interviewing people over the phone while they use the system? Probably not, but you might come close.

We’re reaching out to some of the users who participated in our surveys and indicated that they’d like to be contacted again to conduct some interviews with us. They’re spread across the country, which we like because our audience is nationwide.

We considered using a remote screen capture tool like TechSmith’s UserVue, and we still might if we feel that we’re missing out on too much data. But for now, we’re going to speak with our participants on the phone while they use our site, and follow along as best we can on our end. Our conference room equipment allows us to record phone conversations, so we’ll be able to keep our interviews for later use.

Note: Always get permission before recording a phone conversation.

Silverback is pretty cool for the price

For guerrilla usability testing (the only kind of usability testing most non-profits can afford)Clearleft’s Silverback seems like a pretty good solution. We tested it out today in preparation for some prototype testing, and once we had our webcam hooked up it worked very smoothly. The interface is simple and straightforward, and at $50 the cost can’t be beat.

On the downside, you seem to have to export your recordings to mov files before you can play them back. This can take several minutes per recording. It would also be nice if there was a way to organize all your recordings within the App more effectively. Overall, it’s a simple app that accomplishes its goals admirably.