I’ve noticed a shift in the web design world. Maybe the shift isn’t recent, maybe I’m just become aware of it. The increasing importance of involving the user in the design process. User centered design is becoming especially important in higher education. As colleges and universities begin to face tougher times due to reduced budgets, shifting demographics, and declining enrolments, being more effective online is critical.
If you work in a higher education environment, you’ll probably know conducting focus groups and other internal research activities are less than ideal because of time and budget restraints. Just because traditional user testing in 1 on1 sessions or focus groups are not ideal, doesn’t mean that we should cut out user testing. There is a great product that @jessmcmullin from nForm introduced to me called Usabilla.
Usabilla is a web-based product for conducting usability tests. Currently, it is in beta form and they are soliciting for feedback from the user community. I’ve experimented with this product just a little bit, but in that short time, I’m very impressed with what I see. Here are some of my observations about Usabilla:
- Only screenshots are used for the tests, which makes this an ideal tool for prototypes or visual mockups.
- The tests are task based. For example, ‘click on the items that draw your attention first.’ You can use default tasks, or create your own.
- You can view the average length that users took to complete the task and also view heat maps showing where they clicked.
- Introduction and thank you text can be customized.
- You can promote your tests via a unique URL or including a widget on your website.
- Users can include include notes with their clicks providing additional information.
- You can export your analyzed data as a XML file.
- Right now it is free. Although, I can see that always being the case as it is a powerful tool.
Overall, I was very impressed with the tool. We plan on using this tool for some upcoming user tests. After I have had more exposure to the application, I will share my observations.
My recommendation for right now though is to create a free account using this beta application. It’s a great alternative to traditional user testing.