Usability studies are not nearly as difficult to perform as rocket surgery or brain science 😉
Traditionally, usability studies were outsourced at exorbitant cost, but we’ve seen that the same results can be had using
a little imagination and a cornucopia of software tools we have readily available.
This NIH Web Site captures the essentials of the process and is the epitome of research based Web design.
Concerned about creating an online form? Try using a web-based tool like Survey Monkey that walks you through the form creation process, collects the information via web or email, and pushes out statistics you can use in any spreadsheet. It’s free to try with a starter set of 10 questions.
Another level of interaction that provides more detailed information about how users navigate your Web Site is scenario analysis. Offer up a challenge to a sampling of your user base and watch them noodle through a typical query. You can use a web-based collaboration tool like DimDim to remotely; watch and record the users computer interaction while simultaneously recording the two way Q&A over the telephone.
We’ve also experimented with a piece of software by Mind Design Systems called UTE Runner. This application helps you build scenarios, gather user responses, and then compiles the data into charts and Word documents.
It’s free for fedgov users via a partnership with usability.gov.
Can we, as government websites, use Survey Monkey without having to obtain approval from OMB? Is there a waiver for Survey Monkey (or similar programs, like Infopath) for obtaining information from citizens? Does filling out a Survey Monkey form qualify as an undo burden requiring reporting on burden hours?
I for one would like to use it, I’m just concerned about the hoops I’ll need to jump through in order to utilize it as a way to improve site usability.
Survey Monkey or any other app that helps create online surveys is, unfortunately, only a tool to help the creation and reportage process. We are still burdened as fed workers with the outdated application of the Paperwork Reduction Act when it comes to survey collection. A few posts here and on the webmanagers listserv have pointed to a call for updating the PRA and the barring of persistant cookies by new members of the administration. Let’s hope OMB responds.