Usability testing prep

In preparation of the usability testing of 5 weblogs I have prepared tasks, questions and a SUMI-based questionnaire. The tasks are to evaluate what users actually do when using the blogs. The questionnaire is to evaluate users’ perceptions of their experience of using the blogs. I always do both when I do usability testing so I can investigate any gaps between reality – what users actually do – and what they say or believe. My tasks, questions and questionnaire are attached here, click to download the PDFs: Weblog SUMI based Questionnaire and Weblog Usability Testing Tasks and Questions

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I need you!

User recruitment for usability testing when you don’t have cash to invest in a recruitment agency is a tricky business. For my Masters studies I have to do all my user recruitment through word-of-mouth, but it is important I recruit the right users to fit my Hobbyist persona or my data will be flawed.

The Blogosphere is populated by millions of people but there appears to be a Blogosphere Black Hole in Reading, UK – or if they exist, they’re clearly stuck on the Inner Distribution Road.

Reading is infamous for its Inner Distribution Road (‘IDR’), a ring road for local traffic movements and a lovely irony when the university has one of the only Town Planning degrees in the UK. Those students who passed must have left Reading, leaving Town Planner dunces staying in Reading and dedicating their special skills to this Thames Valley city. It took them about 20 years to build the IDR, and the result was a road which choked the city centre. 

Inner Distribution Road, Reading, Berkshire

The same band of mad Town Planners are currently debating to make the whole thing one-way, turning Reading into a giant Roundabout.

The IDR and delightful buildings like The Hexagon Theatre all add to Reading’s charms. There are nice bits, near the river and around Forbury Square, where the Town Planners in the 60’s clearly didn’t reach.  

I needed to recruit 6 users for my usability testing – so far I have found 5, and most of those live in London and just travel to Reading for work. 5 users would be OK – there are debates as to whether 5 or 6 users is the optimum number for usability testing. I could get away with 5, but I’d ideally like 6 to be on the safe side. So 5 willing victims recruited, I still have one to find, and my usability testing starts next week.

So, if you happen to read this, and know any bloggers in the Reading area of the UK – please ask them to contact me. If they can face travelling on the IDR to travel to the test venue in the centre of Reading the incentive is £15 John Lewis Vouchers.

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For gorgeous images to add loveliness to your blog go to Graphicleftovers

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Blogging usability dissertation research methodology and plan

Dissertation Methodology and Plan

Attached is my plan for my dissertation research which outlines the methodology I will be using to evaluate the usability of blogs and blogging tools. I would welcome any comments or feedback.

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Which blogging tool do you use?

Problogger survey of Blogging tools

ProBlogger.net identified the following ranking for free web-based hosed Blogware, based on a survey they asked of their members/ readers.

  • Blogger
  • WordPress.com
  • Typepad
  • LiveJournal
    Other

The other Blogware tools being mentioned here are not free, browser-based, web-hosted services. However ProBlogger did not distinguish between WordPress.com free and WordPress.com VIP (premium paid-for). 

Pingdom.com identified in their 2009 survey that more than one third of the Technorati Ranked top 100 blogs use a blogging service (hosted, browser-based), as follows, however this did not distinguish between free and paid-for premium services either:

  1. Typepad is used by 16 blogs in the top 100.
  2. WordPress.com is used by 5 blogs in the top 100.
  3. Blogger is used by 3 blogs in the top 100.
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Dissertation Proposal

   Dissertation Proposal

My dissertation is researching “Personal Lifestyle Weblogs and Free Hosted Browser-Based Blogware success: the role of usability.” My proposal is attached. The main question is whether or not the usability of free hosted browser-based Blogware impacts, or not, on the usability of the personal lifestyle Weblogs they create? The hypothesis is that Blogware with good usability will be more likely to generate Weblogs with better usability. The aims and objectives of this study are to analyse the relationship between free hosted browser-based Blogware usability and the usability and usage of personal lifestyle Weblogs they create. It will investigate Blogger.com, WordPress.com, Livejournal.com, Xanga.com, and Typepad.com. This proposal gives background on the Blogosphere, Bloggers, different types of Blogging tools (Blogware), different Blogware features, Weblogs, and a complete review of background existing research literature which has already been published which is relevant to this research project. 

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Blogsmith opening its gates?

Is Blogsmith opening its gates to the world? If you go to Blogsmith at the moment all you will see is a logo. It’s what the Blog Herald describe as a “Gated Community”. This AOL-owned blogging platform is one of the Big Ones but currently isn’t available for Hobbyist bloggers to use.  This Blog Herald article  says the rumour on the grapevine is this is about to change so AOL can get some more cash, but to compete with Blogger, WordPress.com etc they will have to spruce up their design for users.

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Touchy

Dom Norman’s article in Interactions Magazine and his conclusion: “Are natural user interfaces natural? No. But they will be useful” in a world where everyone is getting very touchy is brilliantly timed. Everyone is getting on the Tactile bandwagon, led by the touchscreen innovation of iPhone and iPad, Gestural interaction is everywhere. The principle is it removes a layer of abstraction. The results are speaking for themselves, but Norman makes the very good point that getting touchy-feely just for the sake of it isn’t useful, but using this form of interaction when it best supports the users and their goals, as with any other, is useful, and it gives designers another dimension to play with.

“Gesture and touch-based systems are already so well accepted that I continually see people making gestures to systems that do not understand them: tapping the screens of non-touch-sensitive displays, pinching and expanding the fingers or sliding the finger across the screen on systems that do not support these actions, and for that matter, waving hands in front of sinks that use old-fashioned handles, not infrared sensors, to dispense water.”

Yes, I have been guilty of all of the above! Off now to go and do some hand-waving.

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Unique designs for Blog posts?

Giving users additional freedom and control to personalise each blog post design within their blog to improve the user experience of the blog they are publishing to sounds great. Most blogging tools today don’t allow the look and feel of individual posts to be personalised, which means as a blogger you could feel restricted and unable to express yourself as you may wish, you can’t use visual design to make any particular post stand out – except for the usual font colour size variation and imagery you insert. Your readers could be bored and less engaged that on blogs where this technique is starting to be used. This could lead bloggers to feeling restricted by how much you can express yourself or make a particular post stand out. Conversely if every post looked different the overall design of the blog could be overwhelmed by a lot of visual noise. I’d love to hear your views.

Click here for a gallery of some of the best

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Blog usability article

Blog usability article – there are some interesting comments here, but Jakob Nielsen’s is more comprehensive – see my Blogroll.

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