Usability for website redesigns

Three Low-Cost Usability Evaluation Methods For Library Website Redesign
Kim Thompson, Hsin-Liang Chen & Sanda Erdelez

This session went through 3 ways that the University of Missouri-Columbia folks conduct first-round usability testing on websites. The first method, Information Horizons, was one that they came up with themselves and was explained by Dr. Erdelez. The idea behind this method was to get users into a room with some paper and markers and have them draw out a mind-map sort of thing with themselves in the middle and the sources they would turn to for a particular information need branching out. Each successive “layer” of info sources would be in a different color. If your website doesn’t come up in the session naturally, you would bring it up yourself to see if they *ever* think of your site as an information provider. After discussing that, we went into paper prototyping (which I’ve discussed on this blog before and, since I have no Internet and I’m typing this up in Notepad, will ask you to search for because I can’t look up the URL of *where* I’d mentioned it before…) and Dr. Chen discussed his method that he uses to interactively create paper prototypes. He encourages his testing subjects to use paper “widgets” to lay out the page as they would like to see it, with their own labels and their own drawings if a widget isn’t available that suits them. Finally, Dr. Thompson discussed the idea of cognitive walk-throughs. This would happen before you bring in users to test out your paper prototypes – you envision a user, envision the steps that they would take to find the information and then use the prototype to see if there are any issues that come up during the execution of the task.
All 3 methods were interesting, pretty much free, and they looked quite useful!

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