Learnings from the last few months

  • Personal learning should be about contributing as well as consuming. Hence, this blog is born!
  • Bias: it’s always good to remind yourself that you have unconscious bias towards others – we all do. And to remember times when you were in a minority, and what it feels like.
  • Generating change needs buy-in from all levels.
  • Getting to know our customers is paramount and we should take time to do more of it.
  • Coaching questions can be really useful to help review how you do things.
  • I should start less stuff in order to finish more! I’ve looked back over records of work over the last year, and some work gets started but never finished. Is that because starting is the easy part?

I am thankful to the IS staff development group as I’ve learnt some of this stuff through signing up to various sessions.

Reflections on user testing

Last week I sat in on one of the user testing sessions for LibrarySearch.

It was a humbling and fascinating experience:

  • oh ok, you’re going to do it that way? We all do things slightly differently!
  • fascinating to see what people see and don’t see on screen!
  • and humbling – getting to know one of your ‘real users’ is a good reminder of why we exist and how our services affect people’s lives. How our services are delivered really can either help or hinder a student’s success.

Testing should always be task focussed

You need to decide what aspect of a service you’re testing. We always prepare scenarios and tasks in advance.

We test whether the user is able to complete some tasks, and record what journey they take to try and do so.

Easy testing pitfalls

  • Asking what they like and don’t like – consistently users will say they like a feature that during testing proves to be something they ignore or find annoying. Beware of soliciting opinion and paying too much attention to it.
  • Leading the user: giving tips or hints, or an explanation or why something works in a certain way. The tester must stay neutral and fade into the background – even though it might feel counter-intuitive and unhelpful!

We were testing a mature student who had just finished a law degree and was considering a PHD, and so up until very recently had been using the Library Catalogue every day but at the moment said she uses it weekly.

It was lovely to have a real person and their experiences to put into the ‘box’ of ‘mature student’ and make it real.

Much more testing will be done this week, with postgraduates, undergraduates, mature and part time students represented. All of them will be different, yet we will find common issues that we can address to improve the system.

We hope many of our colleagues will find the time to join a user testing session. There is no substitute for seeing user testing first hand.

It’s an exciting time to be in Information Services as our User Experience Developer Jonathan Thirlwell is spearheading a User Experience group of interested staff across the Uni. If you’re interested in joining, contact Jonathan. He also contributes to the Web Development Team Blog.

Image shared via Creative Commons Licence: Copyright Sonny Abesamis