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Usability Testing Service pilot phase – reflecting on my experiences

With 9 projects, 43 participants and 11 hours of video footage, it has been a hectic 10 weeks working as Usability Testing Assistant for the pilot service. I’ve had a great time and look forward to more when we continue our work from September.

My first period of work in the University Website Programme has come to an end leaving me with feelings of gratitude and self-fulfilment.

My work within the pilot Usability Testing Service focused on observing and reporting on users’ behaviour when interacting with the University’s online services. So far I have been involved in a range of projects and related activities while familiarising myself with the work of the broader team and getting a better understanding of the Information Services.

From the very beginning, I delved into all stages of usability testing: writing scenarios, recruitment, testing facilitation, and organising showcase sessions with stakeholders. It has been a worthwhile and delightful experience both in terms of skills acquisition and work within a large academic institution.

The role

This position caught my attention as a great match for my skills and interests. UX is a field I’m fascinated about and in which I aspire to pursue as a career. Working in the Website Programme helped me to better understand how to structure web content and combine research techniques to produce a better user experience. I gained an insight into the challenges of managing a vast number of web pages and online platforms across the University. Those that are developed and maintained by various teams, but need to be equally usable and user friendly.

Usability testing

Usability testing is a low-cost means of collecting qualitative data on user behaviour which can then be exploited to improve the product. The procedure is simple:  We develop a scenario in line with the wishes of the developers and facilitate the tests with real users who perform a series of tasks. In the end the most representative videos are selected and presented to the stakeholders and we prioritise the issues encountered by the users.

My favourite projects

The IS Helpline has been one of my favourite usability projects because I made a contribution towards reducing the support calls from students and enabling them to easily detect solutions themselves. For the purposes of that study, we organised an open session and worked collaboratively to determine the main issues.

Helpline Showcase session write up

I also particularly enjoyed testing a new app for undergraduate students, because it helped me understand the iterative nature of usability testing: test, fix, test again. The team working on the app were so pleased with the findings of our study that we were asked to repeat the process after they fixed the issues we uncovered.

PC access lab app usability testing blog post

Finally, I was very proud to see that my work produced material used at a Web Management conference as part of the workshop led by my line manager, Neil Allison.

Presentation at IWMW

Other opportunities and experiences

Another highlight of my work in the team has been the Web Publishers’ community meeting, where I presented our range of services and gave some tips on how any stakeholder can do usability tests themselves. My talk caught the interest of the audience and attracted questions and follow-ups.

My presentation to the Web Publishers Community: “DIY Tools for Everyone” (requires University log in)

Equally significant for my professional development has been the guidance and support I received from experienced web editors in our team regarding blog post writing, which has been a new area of writing for me.

In a nutshell

These 10 weeks have been an intensive and edifying experience offering me opportunities to work with cutting edge software on platforms varying from iOS devices to desktops and to collaborate with a large pool of colleagues, other staff members and students of all grades.

Interested? You can check out what our service can offer to you and what projects we have already carried out.

Usability Testing Service

More blog posts about the Usability Testing Service

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