Eight ways to make usability testing simple and speedy

Originaly published at: http://www.zdnet.com/article/eight-ways-to-make-usability-testing-simple-and-speedy/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

Usability testing for applications, interfaces or apps need not be a complicated, costly, or time-consuming exercise. There’s a relatively quick and easy way to go about it — and make all the needed adjustments that will keep end-users engaged and contented with the results.

Photo: HubSpot
That’s the word from Steve Krug, a highly respected user-experience expert and author of Rocket Surgery Made Easy. In his recent keynote at MinneWebCon 2015, he suggests that DIY usability testing can be simple, inexpensive, fast, and effective.

Among Krug’s suggestions are these eight key guidelines that pave the way for DIY usability testing:

1) Keep users talking and expressing their opinions. Working with users is often like therapy, Krug says: “The main thing is to keep them thinking out loud,” he says. “You’re trying to get them to narrate whats going through their head.”

2) Keep the number of people you test small, Krug advises. The idea number of users at any one session is three, he points out. “With testing three users you’re going to find more problems than you actually have resources to fix — it doesn’t take many users to find serious problems.”

3) Keep things informal. A testing area can be set up anywhere in the organization. Plus, he adds, sharing the results of testing can be distilled into a single email, with bullets highlighting key issues discovered. “I don’t believe in collecting stats, because you’re only testing three people. No big honking report is needed, either — it used to be a person who conducted usability reports would need to write a 30-to-50-page report with all kinds of screen shots.”

4) Test early. When it comes to application development, “people wait to test until the thing was cooked, versus spending $5,000 on a round of usability testing while it was still in an ill-formed state,” Krug says. “The problem is, if you wait until it’s done, then it’s too late to fix anything.” Krug says testing can even begin with wireframes — “the tests tend to be very short, bur you can get great insights,”

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5) Test often. In addition, Krug advises, establish a regular testing date of once a month. “Once a month, bring in three people, and do testing on that day,” says Shrug. “This simplifies testing by simplifying recruiting, because you know exactly when you’re going to need people. It unhinges your test schedule from your development schedule.” With testing tied too closely to development schedules, the testing sessions may slip if development milestones slip, he adds. With a regular fixed testing schedule, IT managers can test “whatever we have lying around at that time.”

6) Get everyone involved in the testing process. The actual number of testing users should be limited — three at a time — but sessions should be open for observation and discussion by everyone across the enterprise. Making it a “shared experience can be incredibly powerful,” he says. He also provides a helpful hint to make the event top of mind: have great food on hand. “The best way to get people to come to these things is to have the best snacks in the organization,” he advises. Go to the best bakery and order those chocolate croissants.

7) Focus ruthlessly on a small number of the most important problems. “The problem with usability testing is very effective,” Krug points out. “You can turn up a lot of problems very quickly. But it turns out that we do not have that much time, people and resources to fix usability issues. The problems you find always are more than the resources you have to fix problems.” It’s important to focus on the one or two key problems and funnel resources in that direction, he says.

8) Tweak, not redesign. “When fixing problems, always do the least you need to do,” Krug says. “Don’t go into and try to make it perfect — go in and make the simplest change that you can,” he explains. It’s better to tweak than to attempt an expensive time-consuming redesign of the application or user interface. “Tweaks cost less — tweaks don’t ruin lives, break up families, wreck careers,” Krug explains. “Small changes can be made sooner, and if you make larger changes, you’re likely to break other things that are working fine in the process.”

10 usability considerations for your mobile app

Originaly punlished at: http://thenextweb.com/apps/2015/08/28/10-usability-considerations-mobile-app/

In a world dominated by mobile phones, finding a way to sell your product or service via smartphone is a good move. But when it’s your first time launching an m-commerce app, there’s a lot that’s easy to overlook. So I asked 10 founders from YEC the following:

What is the No. 1 usability consideration I should not overlook when launching an m-commerce app?
Their best answers are below:

1. Platform Usability
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Nicole MunozNothing is more frustrating to mobile users than not having an app work on their specific model of phone. In this case, make sure you extensively test exactly how the sales process will work across multiple platforms, using various types of digital devices. You don’t want to learn later that you have a high bounce rate because you overlooked a device issue. (And every phone on the market today has a few bugs!) – Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

2. Incentives for Sharing and Purchase
Trevor SummersMobile apps are more difficult than the web for quickly engaging customers. To overcome the additional friction of app downloads and installs, grease the virality with incentives for sharing and purchase. Turn your active consumers into marketing advocates. – Trevor Sumner, LocalVox

3. Usability and Conversion
Obinna EkezieThe most important thing you can do to test usability (and conversion) is to use mobile A/B testing platforms such as Optimizely. A/B testing allows you to test two or more variations of a particular app design or layout. For instance, you can test whether a red or a yellow “buy now” button drives more conversions. You can test if one layout results in longer time in-app than another, or various in-app purchase paths to see which drives more responses. The key is to stop guessing and start testing. Improving usability requires constant testing and optimization. – Obinna Ekezie, Wakanow.com

4. Easy Navigation
MilesOne of the top issues that users have when using m-commerce apps is poor navigation. This means that while they are using the app, they have trouble finding exactly what they are looking for, and have to navigate for way too long to stumble upon what they were looking to purchase. When focusing on usability, make sure that your products and/or services are extremely easy to find. Make sure there’s an easy to find “complete transaction” button on every page that they navigate through so that users can click as few times as possible. – Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com

5. Relevant Content
Ania RodriguezYou should curate content that is personalized for your site visitors. This is key to the usability success of an m-commerce site. – Ania Rodriguez, Key Lime Interactive.com

6. Great Aesthetics
Kevin CastleDon’t overlook aesthetics. People often start with a template, and you can tell by the look and feel. You should think through the aesthetics, as well as speed and interaction, so you can engage users on a deeper level. – Kevin Castle, Technossus

7. Complete Information
Punit ShahTraditional advice is to decrease content and reduce clicks required to conversion in a small screen environment. But make sure not to remove content that is vital to the customer’s buying process solely for the sake of reducing content. Consumers still need complete information to make their purchase, and withholding that basic information in the name of simplicity will result in a lower conversion rate. – Punit Shah, My Trio Rings

8. Auto-Filled Customer Data
jared-brownRepeatedly having to input personal data is a huge deterrent for making purchases on mobile, whether it’s via app or on a mobile site. Make sure they can store their billing and shipping information and then have it be automatically added to their orders, without having to re-add it each time. Just make sure you also give them an easy to reach edit button during the checkout process, in case they need to change their billing or shipping info. – Jared Brown, Hubstaff

9. Quick Movement
Andy KaruzaA small screen requires a simplified experience in order to get people to use it. Since browsing on mobile isn’t necessarily as fast as it is on a laptop, it’s important to limit the amount of clicks the customer has to make. Utilize scrolling as much as possible, as mobile customers prefer scrolling down a page to consume information as opposed to bouncing around between many pages. Focus on providing an experience where they can quickly move through the purchase process in as few pages as possible. – Andy Karuza, brandbuddee

10. Usability Testing Through Video
Marcela DeVivoIt’s not enough just to have usability tests — invest in a few video tests so you can actually see how people interact with your app. UserTesting.com is a great service that we’ve used, and the results we’ve gotten have been outstanding. Even though we thought we had a good understanding of our apps, watching many users interact — from different demographics — helped us make countless modifications. This should be essential. And once this is done, the next consideration is speed. Your app should be fast, or users wont’ have the patience for it. – Marcela DeVivo, National Debt Relief

Australian media accessibility group raises red flag about DRM in web standards

Originaly published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/02/australian-media-accessibility.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+boingboing%2FiBag+%28Boing+Boing%29

Media Access Australia is the only Australian nonprofit that advocates for making media accessible to people with disabilities — and they’re also a member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an open standards body that disappointed its supporters when it bowed to the big entertainment and browser companies and agreed to make a DRM system for online video.

This system, Encrypted Media Extension, marks the first time that a W3C standard could be covered by the world’s anti-circumvention rules, such as section 1201 of the DMCA and Australia’s Copyright Amendment Act 2006 (which was passed at the insistence of the US Trade Representative as part of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement). These laws impose liability on people and organisations that bypass DRM, even for legal purposes (such as adding accessibility features to media).

Though EME makes many concessions to accessibility, it isn’t — and can’t be — exhaustive in its accessibility features. There are already some accessibility use-cases that EME can’t support, and there will be more in the future (for example, piping the video through a machine-learning system that automatically adds subtitles or descriptive tracks to videos).

EFF has proposed that the W3C extend its existing policies to cover DRM: right now, anyone who joins the W3C has to make a legally binding promise not to use their patents to attack people who implement W3C standards. We’ve asked them to extend this to EME, so members would not be allowed to sue over bypassing DRM for legal purposes, such as adapting video for people with disabilities.

The proposal has widespread support, including support from other accessibility organisations that belong to the W3C, like the UK’s Royal National Institute for Blind People and the USA’s Benetech. Other W3C members that support this include many of the world’s leading research institutions, like Oxford University, King’s College London, and the University of Eindhoven.

In addition, there’s a very, very long list of security researchers from all over the world who’ve signed onto these principles, including W3C invited outside experts like Bruce Schneier and senior W3C staffers, as well the top researchers at MIT, the W3C’s host institution.

I’m grateful to Media Access Australia for its public support on this important matter.

Last year the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a global civil liberties organisation based in San Francisco, proposed that future W3C development of EME be contingent on W3C members making a legally-binding promise not to invoke anti-circumvention law against parties who bypass it to make otherwise legal changes to browsers, or against security researchers who come forward with reports of defects in EME implementations.

From a disability perspective, the request would allow for assistive technologies and researchers to bypass the EME without penalties. While this has not been approved to date, it is supported by organisations such as the Royal National Institute for Blind People, Benetech, and leading research universities such as Oxford University and King’s College London.

App lets visually impaired in India hear books in their native language

Originaly publishede at: https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/04/app-lets-visually-impaired-in-india-hear-books-in-their-native-language/

For the millions upon millions of visually impaired people in India, it can be difficult getting hold of the audiobook they want in the language they need it in. A project from Carnegie Mellon University and partners aims to fix that with a free, easily extensible Android app that can be quickly trained to read texts aloud in local languages.

The app, Hear2Read, had its first release today, supporting Tamil, with Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, and other languages and dialects coming over the course of the year. A few hours of talking from a native speaker is the raw data, which is then fed into a machine learning system.

“Each language is different and historically TTS systems have been done one at a time. We looked at commonalities of Indian languages and developed tools to apply the same technology to multiple languages,” said Suresh Bazaj, founder of the project, in a CMU blog post.

The resulting language database is small enough that it can be stored on the phone, meaning no internet connection is needed to translate texts. It’ll run on low-end phones, as well, an important factor in a country where budget devices and spotty connectivity are the rule. (You’ll need Android 4.1 or higher, though.)
The Hear2Read software also integrates with Android’s built-in accessibility functions, letting browsers, email apps, and others integrate text to speech.

More info on Hear2Read, the app, and the partners that helped make it possible can be found at the company’s website.

SoundSense, An Open-Source Wearable Device That Alerts Those With Hearing Loss to Important Sounds

Originaly published at: http://laughingsquid.com/soundsense-an-open-source-wearable-device-that-alerts-those-with-hearing-loss-to-important-sounds/

The Brooklyn-based assistive technology startup Furenexo, who believes in creating effective, affordable solutions for people with disabilities, have created the SoundSense, an open source piece of wearable technology to assist people with complete hearing loss. The quarter-sized device vibrates to alert the wearer to important noises and events that occur throughout the day, making the person more attuned to his/her surroundings. Furenexo is currently raising funds through Kickstarter in order to fund the SoundSense along with other planned open-source assistive devices while developing a community around their admirable mission.

Our first product is the SoundSense, a small device that people with hearing loss can wear to recognize loud sounds and alerts, such as smoke alarms, police sirens, or just a friend calling out on the street or laughing outrageously across a room. Until now, technology options for people with hearing loss have largely remained limited to hearing aids – which don’t work for those who are completely hearing impaired. SoundSense uses vibration to alert the user to events, partly to improve safety, but more generally to enable connections with the world in ways most take for granted. …Shortly after launch we’ll be putting the full schematics, design, and parts list for SoundSense on our homepage for open-source sharing so anyone in the community can improve upon it. As we continue to grow you’ll additionally find other project concepts and unmet challenges offered up by friends from the disability community.