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Back on Friday I had the pleasure, along with Attacats Johan and Jon of taking a trip to the lovely Canongate offices of Bunnyfoot for a digital masterclass seminar.

We were treated to 3 hours of expert presentations by 4 of the Bunnyfoot team. The morning was a fundraiser in aid of the Bunnyfoot Care Challenge. A marathon trek accross Exmoor taking place in September – all donation gratefully accepted on their Justgiving page. We were also treated to some exquisite pastries at the coffee break. Let it be said that the hospitality at Bunnyfoot takes some beating!

Things were kicked off by Rhys who talked about usability in terms of global audiences.  Kevin White followed discussing accessability issues and what we should do about them – as discussed here by Johan.

Next was Dr. Alexa Matthews who gave a more in depth talk on different methods to utilise user testing and what information can be gleaned from this.

Why have user testing?

It was explained that you have to be clear about what you want to gain out of the testing. What is it you want to find out? This should all be covered in the planning to make sure that the testing is as efficient as possible.

You can use a set of benchmarks to give some insight into any areas that need refinement-  these benchmarks can include:

  • Learnability

How easy is it for a user to learn how to use the site or application?

  • Efficiency

Is it a quick and easy experience or are there barriers in the user’s way?

  • Memorability

Once a person has been away from the site for a period of time can they easily pick it back up again?

  • Satisfaction

Can the user achieve what they set out to do with the site or application?

  • Error Tolerance

How many errors have to happen throughout the experience before the user loses interest?

Guerilla Testing

Gorilla on a computer

It was a slim hope but was no dressing up involved, just the explanation.

Guerilla in this case means unexpected or unconventional – usually done in the field wherever suitable participants may be found. This could be cafes, on the street or, as in an example given by Alexa, in a shopping centre.

Guerilla testing is usually short, anything from 5 to 30 minutes. It’s also done for it’s low cost. Payment is very low or nothing at all. What is being aimed for is for as many participants as possible to give quick results – an idea of how effective the message or product is.

By the nature of the selection the information received may not always be representative of a larger sample.

Online and Remote Testing

Just as they sound, these forms of usability testing are done online and with the subjects in another location. Tools such as Skype and GoToMeeting have become invaluable when conducting this sort of testing as they still allow a reasonable set of data to be collected but reduce the costs significantly.

Online forums are also becoming a popular method to conduct this type of testing.

However, just as the development costs can be lowered there are still issues that should be addressed. These include how trustworthy the data you receive is and also inherent software issues. After all, who hasn’t torn their hair out trying to get a remote connection to work!

Tradition User Testing

With traditional testing you have someone in front of you, in the same room, when the test is being carried out.

This has enormous benefits in that you can get much more information from the subject. Things like body language, behavioural feedback and other non-verbal communication are all valuable indicators you might not get in a remote environment.

The results are also easier to interpret as you are right there during the test and can question things as they happen. It is also easier to control – there are no overbearing forum users stifling other opinions for example.

The drawback in this case is cost – it is costly and expensive, especially when technologies like eye tracking are deployed.

Bunnyfoot logo

The big message that came from the Bunnyfoot Team was that each method of testing has it’s place and can be as valuable as any other. Which one is used will depend on the product, goal and budget.

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