During the 2008 NINES Summer Workshop we put Collex to the test – a usability test. As we plan for the redesign and official release of Collex in December 2008, the NINES tech team decided it was time to get some honest feedback from users unfamiliar with Collex. Thanks to Dr. Laura Mandell, Associate Director of NINES and organizatrix extraordinaire, we were allowed access to the eye-tracking software in the Usability Lab at Miami University, Ohio. We had 5 participants complete three tasks – search, collect and create an exhibit (Illustrated Essay). The results were painfully informative, and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. But that feedback will go into making a more powerful – and more intuitive – Collex.
Task: Use Collex to find objects associated with John Keats
This image shows the activity of the user’s eyes when looking at the homepage. Green indicates a quick glance, while red areas show the places where the user’s gaze rested for longer durations.
As you can see, it’s tough to get to Collex from nines.org: the shortcut is obscured by all the text on the page, and people are more inclined to use the main navigation bar. Notice how this user looked directly at the “Try Collex Now” link, and still did not notice it.
The NINES redesign will improve this by providing a search blank on the homepage, immediately communicating the function and purpose of the site and encouraging its use.
This image shows the user’s eye movements while collecting objects from the search results. The “x” marks indicate where the person clicked the mouse button while completing the activity. Although every single user tested had trouble finding the log-in area, the action of collecting went smoothly overall.
The shift to the Exhibit Builder proved difficult, however, mostly due to problems with Collex and Internet Explorer. No one was able to finish an essay during the study, unfortunately, because browser incompatibilty.
Here’s a final screenshot of a user reading the Exhibit Builder page:
In the redesigned Collex, the Exhibit Builder menus will be more prominently displayed. Text will also be rendered much larger, to make skimming easier and more productive.
Many thanks to Miami University for making this study possible!