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.

hands-typing-3.jpg
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,”

Get 2x ROI from Your Apps
Spending on IT is expected to rise at less than 1% in 2016, while IT backlogs will grow at 29%. Simply put, IT departments are being asked to do more with less. In this webinar you will learn how to manage the widening gap between IT investment and backlog demands by using low-code rapid app development platforms, like QuickBase.
Webcasts provided by QuickBase
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
All Killer, No Filler
This one’s different, trust us. Our new event for New York is focused on quality, not quantity.

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.

If you’ve Tried Online Dating, A Research Team Would Like to Hear about It

Originaly published at: http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=15209

If you have used online dating in the past year, researchers at the University of Washington want to hear from you. The 20-minute survey is available for people with or without disabilities, and participants can enter to win a $5 Amazon gift card. The survey letter is below.
My research team at the University of Washington is interested in peoples’ experiences online dating. Anyone who has online dated (including websites and mobile applications in the past year is eligible to participate. However, we are very interested in recruiting
participants with disabilities.

You can go here to fill out the survey.
http://tinyurl.com/onlinedatingsurveyuw

Please email
onlinedatingsurvey@uw.edu
with any questions or concerns.

The survey should take 20 minutes or less and you can enter to win one of several $5 Amazon.com gift cards.

Survey data is confidential; you will be redirected to a second survey to enter the drawing; should you choose to enter the drawing, your contact information will be kept separately from survey responses.

Thank you for considering, and please pass this onto your friends with and without disabilities!

Bespecular Joins the List of Apps to Help People who are Blind get Sighted Assistance

Originaly published at: http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=15502

Another app has launched which hopes to be able to provide sighted assistance to people who are blind. Bespecular, is an app which allows you to take a picture, and then record a question regarding that picture either through text or by recording a question via audio. The picture and question will then be submitted to sighted volunteers who can assist with your question. It’s also possible to take multiple pictures of the same item and to get multiple answers regarding the same question. Sighted volunteers will then respond with an audio answer to the question, and you then have the opportunity to rate the assistance they provided. At this time, there appears to be no way to get answers delivered in textual format, though the company stated on its website that this app is now in a public preview format. A source link is to a podcast with a walk-through of the app for iOS. It states that the app will always have a free version, and that it will be entirely free to use until the end of 2016. Bespecular is a free download in the iOS App Store, and is also a free download on the Google Play store It does require the creation of an account before you are able to use it, but this process doesn’t appear to have any issues.

A Review of the Be My Eyes Remote Sighted Helper App for Apple iOS

Originaly published at: http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw160202

Bill Holton

Many iPhone users with visual impairments use a video FaceTime or Skype call with a friend for a brief session of sighted help—to find a hotel room door, for instance, or to help set the controls on a washer or dryer. But what if your friends or family members are not available when you need assistance? Or maybe you call the same person again and again, and you worry you might be overstaying your welcome?

Mobile identification and text recognition apps such as TapTapSee, Talking Goggles, and the KNFB Reader can take up a lot of the slack, but there are times when you really do need a working pair of eyeballs. Now, thanks to a new iOS app called Be My Eyes, sighted help is just a tap away.

How Be My Eyes Works

Be My Eyes pairs sighted volunteers with visually impaired individuals who would appreciate a bit of remote assistance. The app is free both to download and to use.

For visually impaired users, the app could not be simpler to use. Most of the screen is taken up by a single control to connect you to the first available helper. Double tap this button and your device will announce, “Creating connection request.” A few seconds later a sort of electronic ring tone begins to play, and soon you are connected to a sighted volunteer through a two-way audio and one-way video connection using the opentok/tokbox video platform.

The volunteer can view your environment through the higher-resolution rear-facing camera. With a connection established, you can converse with the volunteer, introduce yourself (if you like), and ask for help with whatever identification task is at hand. You can disconnect at any time.

When you first open the app you are asked if you need assistance or wish to provide it. In either case you are required to register. You can do this using your Facebook credentials, or you can create a Be My Eyes account with your name, e-mail address and the password of your choice. More about this later.

If you register as a helper, you merely need to leave the app running in the background. When it’s your turn to offer assistance, the app will alert you. If you don’t respond within 10 seconds or so, the app servers will move onto the next person in the queue and alert them. “At first we tried pinging ten people at once, so people requesting assistance would not have to wait so long for a response, but we started getting e-mails from volunteers who were frustrated because they wanted to help, but were not the first to respond,” says Hans Jørgen Wiberg, the service’s founder.

Turning an Idea into a Service

Like many of us, after a few remote FaceTime sessions, Wiberg had the idea that we could more easily obtain sighted help if there were only some way to tap into a wider network than just our friends and family. Unlike most of us, however, Wiberg put action to thought, and he isn’t even a programmer. Wiberg, who lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a part-time upholsterer and Regional Chairman of the Danish Association of the Blind.

Wiberg took his idea to a local startup meeting, where people come together to exchange and refine ideas for new businesses and services. There he teamed up with seven others, none of whom were programmers. They formalized their idea and began searching for grant money.

With just a few thousand donated Danish Krone, the group hired outside developers to create an iOS app. They released it in the Danish App Store in November of 2014, and beta tested it with just a handful of users. After the user base reached 150 blind users and 400 helpers, the group was awarded a substantial grant from Velux, a Danish window and skylight company. Development continued until January 15, when the Be My Eyes app and service were released worldwide.

“The response was more than we dreamed,” says Wiberg. “In just a few days we had over 60,000 users, most of them potential helpers,” he says. “The signups came so fast, by the end of the second day we had to suspend the service while we moved to the largest server our provider can host.”

The main app screen displays a running count of the number of sighted and blind users who are registered. It also displays the number of individuals who have been helped—over 10,000 in the first six days. A future app update will also include the numbers of volunteers who are currently available. “This will help users have some idea of how long it will take to either offer or receive help,” says Wiberg.

Putting Be My Eyes Through its Paces

I first tried Be My Eyes just a few days after it was released. The first two attempts were unsuccessful: after 20 minutes I had not yet been connected to a volunteer. I was using the app late on a Sunday evening, around the time when the servers were being swamped with setup requests, so those circumstances may have played a part in the delays.

The next day I tried the app several times, and each time I was connected within 2 minutes. According to Wiberg, this is the norm. “There are going to be people who for some reason cannot answer an alert in time, and we have to connect to several different helpers, one at a time, before a request is answered. Other times there may be server problems caused by our rapid growth. My advice to users seeking help is that if there is no response within 3 or 4 minutes, disconnect and immediately try again.”

My first Monday call was answered by a woman in Britain. My question was simple: “Is this package of teabags caffeinated or decaf?” “Caffeinated,” came the reply, and after a quick “thank you,” I disconnected. Total time: less than 2 minutes from start to finish.

My second request was answered by a man in California. He helped me access my thermostat and find the LCD off setting.

My third session was answered by a man in Germany. I had inadvertently left the plastic cover to a vegetable seed starter on the patio table, and sometime during the night it had blown away. Together the volunteer and I search the backyard for it. We did not find it, but the help was still useful as it saved me the considerable time I might have spent walking around the yard, hoping to encounter it.

One task I did not try, and hope I do not have cause to for some time to come, is getting help with the computer error message that has in the past locked up my screen reader or prevented it from booting. My computer seems to know when all of my friends and family are unavailable. It must—why else would it always choose those times to crash?

On initial setup, the Be My Eyes app uses your iOS device’s default language setting to direct your calls. English speaking helpers are always connected with English speaking help requesters, French with French, and so forth. But the app’s Setting menu offers you the ability to add additional languages, which is how I was able to connect with an English speaking helper in Germany.

Privacy

According to Wiberg, your personal information is not shared with the helper. You may then wonder why you need to enter your name and e-mail address to create a Be My Eyes account. When I posed this question, Wiberg replied, “Both the helper and user can report a problem member, and we can then block that [account] and prevent [the user] from returning.” Unfortunately, the version I tested, 1.2 (45), did not require any e-mail verification, which means someone could make up a series of false accounts and cause mischief. Perhaps verification will be a part of an update in a future version.

Common sense would dictate that Be My Eyes users avoid asking questions about bank or credit card statements, medical reports, or any other information you want to remain private. Wiberg offers a useful rule of thumb: “If you were walking down a street and needed to know what you are considering asking [a Be My Eyes helper], would you feel uncomfortable asking a stranger?” If so, find some other way to obtain the information. Some may wish to consider the opposite scenario: Perhaps there is something you wish to keep private from your friends and family?

It’s probably best to avoid asking a Be My Eyes helper to assist in orientation at a busy intersection or other potentially dangerous scenario. Currently, the app contains no rating system for users to weed out what I can only believe would be a very few bad apples.

What’s Ahead for the Be My Eyes App

Wiberg is determined to keep the service free. He states that currently they have enough money to pay for development and server resources through next September. Consequently, I would not be surprised to see a Donate button pop up in a future release of the app, on the company’s website, or both.

The app is currently available only for iOS devices. There are no immediate plans to create an Android version.

Ironically, the biggest hurdle Be My Eyes currently faces is finding enough blind users. “The response to the opportunity to become volunteers has been overwhelming,” says Wiberg. “If they don’t get the chance to become fully involved, they may grow frustrated and uninstall the app.”

Until I uninstalled it, I had a dinosaur app on my iPhone to entertain my granddaughter. Every so often, even when the app was not running, I received an alert asking if I wanted to play. I can see many potential helpers who might reset their phone or change devices, and forget to restart the app. Perhaps a future update might include a similar gentle reminder to those with the app installed but left closed for several weeks?

I also hope Wiberg and his colleagues publish a Be My Eyes API that would enable other apps to seamlessly link to the app. BlindSquare, which we reviewed in the July 2014 AccessWorld , offers the ability to reach out to someone in your contact list for a bit of e-mail or text message help. Imagine how much more powerful BlindSquare, or the Seeing Eye App for iPhone, would be if users could request sighted help directly from within their accessible navigation app?

As it is now, Be My Eyes is an extremely powerful platform whose time has come. I will still keep both TapTapSee and KNFB Reader on my iPhone home screen, but Be My Eyes will definitely be my fallback—and in many instances, my go-to—resource for those times when greater independence can best be achieved by knowing when and how to ask for help.