November 24, 2003

It's hard being a Webmaster.

Usability testing is harder on the ego than I thought.

Because, my website has not been approved by the MP Library, I cannot publicize the link, but it will apear on my page...hopefully soon.

Change Me: Usability Testing and the Mount Pleasant Public Library website

After testing my four subjects: students 16 and 18, rental representative, 22, and waitress, 39, I feel that my website on the Mount Pleasant Free Public Library needs many changes: more color, graphics and content, and better clarity were indicated as problem areas; however, the search for information was easier with my navigational tool: hover buttons.

After viewing the homepage, half of my testers, the teenagers, found that the page was "colorful", but later indicated that the site needed more color. Though I am trying not to go overboard with color on the site, considering that it is for a public institution, I feel that I can oblige their needs through varying the color scheme a bit. Considering that teenagers will probably not frequent this site, I may change some things, but I think I will keep much of the sedate coloration.

All of my testers indicated the need for more graphics or an affinity to the sparse amount that is already present. I may accomplish this task by adding photos by The Mount Pleasant Journal of programs, adding clipart, or by exterior and interior photos of the library. The difficult part will be adding graphics so that it does not take away from the content displayed on the site. I may have to test again to see if more graphics cause a disruption in content comprehension.

The content on the page also needs some work. The links on the homepage, for instance, noted the rental rep., "needs more explanation." This is in reference to the library catalogues that I highlight below the hover button navigation bar; I plan on adding blurbs to indicate what is on the other end of the link. All testers indicated a problem in the What's New Book List area. I didn't realize it, but the pages do not have listings of what months appear at the top of the page. This proved problematic in every test.

The clarity of the site's font was also an obstacle for half of my testers (on different computers). The 36 year-old said that the homepage is a "little blurry, the letters are too small and bunched up." The 18 year-old suggested that I try another font, perhaps Arial." Considering that this page will be for the library, which is frequented by all ages, this is an important change that I will make immediately.

The page, however, did have one redeeming quality: the hover buttons that I strived so hard to create. According to the 16 year-old, the "[homepage] looks easy to navigate." And it was. While taking the test, all users came back to the navigation bar, working from it, finding the correct link within seconds. The 13-question test filled with "explain this" took the longest tester only 12 minutes, the shortest, six.

Their critical analysis of my work, though stinging at times, has really helped me understand more about all elements of a website. Though my site needs a lot more work, I feel that I am now up to the challenge, and that I have a better understanding of what my audience wants, an essential in creating a website for a public organization such as the library.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at November 24, 2003 12:11 PM
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