[Aside: This is Part 3 in my recounting our move from Domino only to a combined Domino/Sharepoint environment.]
Being a huge fan of Steve Krug’s ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, I was ready for Usability Testing stage of the new SharePoint platform deployment. Implementing SP as the new Intranet platform meant we could re-deign, re-engineer and re-format our content areas and update many parts of the intranet that had gotten stale and ignored. Carte blanche!
Well, not exactly. Our parent company had a 2007 template we had to use for department sites, but for team sites / workspaces we could use the 2010 templates and web parts. I know what you’re thinking – a combined environment means training issues, audit issues, and overall look and feel headaches galore! This one item is going to be our biggest challenge going forward.
Why do Usability Testing? It’s the best tool to answer the big questions : Is the design right? Can users find stuff? What do they like/dislike? Susan Hanley makes a good case for it here.
My testing plan:
1) Locate Volunteers – this turned out to be pretty easy. An email to the Content Owners resulted in several names for users who would go for it. The majority of them even remarked “this is fun”.
2) A Test Script – I compiled a list of about 10 tasks and an instructions script which explains the test and opens the door for their feedback by making the point we’re testing the site, not them! That usually loosens the mood, once they realize they can’t do anything wrong.
3) My Stopwatch and notepad – I know “real” usability testing is conducted with cameras and software to capture where users look on the screen. I had to take a lower-tech version and relied on verbal responses from the user and watched where they went and looked.
Total test pool was only 12 people from all corners of the company. Seems like a small number, but you’d be surprised (as I was) that test results don’t drastically change after 9 users, and this showed this to be true.
A sample task was: “Locate Information on Tuition Assistance”. I’d start the timer and take notes as the user would talk aloud what they were thinking as they looked around the page and navigated to the location.
The most interesting result was only one user in 12 used the search to find the task objective! Three others indicated they thought about using the search, but thought it would be cheating. This highlighted a need to focus training on the search tool. Users didn’t have an enterprise -wide search in the previous Intranet, so it would be a mind-shift to start thinking of going there first.
Testing identified a few links and areas that needed tweaking to make it easier to find. Here’s a dramatic example:
After 3 test subjects I saw consistent problems with one task. I changed a label to a menu item and saw a dramatic decrease in time it took for users to locate the right page. Comments users made in the first three tests gave us insight on what change to make. It was a moment of “DOH!” But until you get other people using it, sometimes the obvious is not so apparent.
Finally, the testing was validation. After a year of research, multiple format trials and feedback from sources who felt strongly about certain design directions, the usability result bore out that the design was successful.