5 Usability Techniques Learned at Webstock

February 28, 2011

For New Zealand techies, February means Webstock, a good conference. Like last year’s conference, it was very insightful with speakers as diverse as Scott McCloud (Cartoonist and author of Understanding Comics), Marco Arment (co-founder of Tumblr), and Amanda Palmer (artist, singer). But today, I’ll tell you what I learned from Christine Perfetti’s talk. She is the former VP & Managing Director at User Interface Engineering and now CEO of Perfetti Media, a Boston based Usability training and consulting firm.

1- Five Second Page Test

This is a simple and quick technique to measure effectiveness of a web page. It tells you if the page is clear and concise. By saying so, forget this technique if you want to assess your homepage. How you run it? Pick a page where there is one goal and show that page, during 5 seconds, to your user. Ask him to write down every pieces of content he sees. Then, ask him to mark what was the most important thing on the page. You should get a pretty good idea if your page communicates what it has to.

2- Comprehension Test

This technique should be used on websites/applications that have a lot of complex information (and needs to have that info… because otherwise, remove half of the content). For example, procedures and policies could be good candidates. Give the user some time to read the content and then ask few comprehension questions. Again, it’s shouldn’t be used to assess a homepage. By using this technique you can assess if your user understand the complex information within your website/application, is your content understandable?

3- First Click Test

Simple technique to assess if the user is going on the right path, is the wording is clear and if the visual convey the right scent of information. It could be done on your homepage. For example, on a bank’s site, you can ask “Where would you find your nearest bank’s branch from where you are now?” It can be done remotely with tools such as Chalkmark (from Optimal Workshop).

4- Inherent Value Testing

You need to recruit loyal users who will give you a walk-through of your site. You will ask him to list content/feature he finds of good value. Then, recruit a new user and let him browse the website and/or give him some tasks. Find out what content/feature is of good value and compare with what came from your loyal users.

I have never heard about this technique, but I really want to try it soon.

5- Catalog based test

You can try this technique to discover what piece of information is important to your users. You need to print or grab a physical brochure of a product, let say a credit card, and ask to review the content and to highlight the content that is important for him. In this example, the user might highlight credit card interest rate and any reward system. After completing this first exercise, ask him to find the same content on your website, does he find it? Outcomes: you will know what is important for the user and if he can find it by browsing your website or prototype.

This one as well, I have never heard about before, but I really want to try it soon.

Thanks Ms Perfetti for this talk,

Have you ever tried one of these techniques? Pros? Cons?

Browse my photo of Webstock.

One Response to “5 Usability Techniques Learned at Webstock”

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