Friday, 30 October 2009

Blue Pages - User Tests 2

After 3 intense weeks Anusha, Monica and I have completed a second round of user tests. This time no mock ups but with the real thing, which of course is the Blue Pages v0.00 :) We did 15 tests with a selection of academics, students, administrators and one research facilitator. Again feedback has proved to be an eye opener, and is helping us on our design.

Tests lasted an average of 45 minutes each and took place mostly in our testers offices. Monica and I (and sometimes Anusha and I) visited them, so lots of buses and taxis. We used our laptop which was setup to access our server. Testers were told that we were using a work in progress version of the software and that they should expect some errors. However we had very little. We used samples of data from 4 areas of the University: Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Cardiovascular Science, Department of Phisiology Anatomy and Genetics and Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology. That is aproximately 250 people. Anusha had previously added data representing the organisational structure of the University, which includes divisions, departments, faculties, institutes, centres of study and research groups.

Our questionnaire had a similar structure to the one we used in the first round of tests. See below. We altered some of the questions we had in the first 2 or 3 tests as Anusha was adding more data. We also felt the need for repeating the same first 2 questions we had in the first round. These questions tried to capture the testers perceptions of the site struture and look and feel. As we were using the real web-based version of the Blue Pages the look and feel was completely different from the one we had in the mock up version.

v2.0Introductory Questions
1.Ask tester to look at site’s Homepage for 10 seconds. From looking at this site, what kinds of information do you think you could get from this site?
2.Who do you think this site is designed for? Why?

3.Find Prof AAA BBB’s profile and display it in the screen.
How would you find another person in the Blue Pages who does work in the same department?
4.Obtain a list of/display CCC DDD’s publications
5.Email a list of researchers in the Philosophy department to a colleague.
6.What you would do if you find a misspelling or missing information?
7.You just setup your new project’s website and would like it to be listed in the Blue pages. What do you need to do?
8.Find a list of research projects (activities) under the keyword "cardiology"

9. Do you think the information displayed in the Blue Pages is useful for Research Work? Would you trust the information provided in this site?
10.What kinds of uses of the Blue Pages can you think of which are related to your work and or studies?
11.Do you think it would be good for you to be in the Blue Pages? What kinds of benefits can you think of? (only for academics)
12.What changes and or additions would you suggest in the Blue Pages?

Yesterday, Anusha, Monica and I met to discuss the feedback. They ended up with a long to-do list. I was able to able to dig out a few outcomes, suggestions for features to add or complement the Blue Pages which are not necessarily within BRII's scope:
  • Visual (or textual?) representation of networks of people connected by their collaborations and research interests. Anusha and Monica got excited by this as this could be an interesting challenge from the technical point of view.
  • A time line of people (and maybe projects) - this involves the changes of people's profiles across time. In this way we can know about their previous roles as they rotate across areas and previous research interests as they progress in their careers. This will also include the display of information of people who have left Oxford. One aspect of this is already covered by the display of research outcomes (e.g. publications) as each item has attached to it a date of production.
  • An extensive work on research subject ontologies - a sort of backbone of subject matters which Anusha could use to find and highlight keywords across descriptions (as in free text.) These keywords can then be used to interconnect people and activities, enabling the discovery of hidden connections.
  • Inclusion of information about funders' calls for funding applications - one of the outcomes of these tests is that academics would mostly use the Blue Pages when they are thinking on starting something: projects and/or collaborations. This is when they would like to find relevant people. However as they are in that stage they would welcome information about possible sources of funding.
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