Building Part 2 of 4 Marcel Moreau

Written on: June 27th, 2013 in clients, strategy, user experience

In Part 1 of the Building series, Robert covered the Strategy phase of the project – where copious planning and decision making takes place. Here in Part 2, we will forge ahead with a focus on the user experience.

The RSA Conference team was concerned about the experience their users were having while using the website. Content was deeply buried and lacked focus, account management tasks were cumbersome, and the site was not device-agnostic. What steps would we take to get actual users involved in the redesign?

Dave on his laptop between sessions.

Usability Sessions

After collaborating with the RSA Conference team on site maps and wireframes, we needed to take that extra step to ensure the new web experience aligned with what users expected. So iMarc and RSA Conference conducted live usability sessions onsite at RSA Conference 2013 in San Francisco, CA.

Our usability sessions were divided into two activities:

  • Tasked-based analysis via clickable prototype 
  • Card sorting

Tasked-based analysis via clickable prototype

We converted our wireframes from static files to clickable HTML prototypes. Over 30 minutes, we assigned our participants a number of tasks to complete. These tasks related directly to project goals and pain points. Our usability participants all nailed it.

One of the most important elements of a productive usability session is “thinking out loud”. The more we can get the participant to vocalize their thoughts as they try to complete a task, the better. We received plenty of feedback during task-based analysis.

Our testers showed some unexpected behaviors. For example, we discovered that the dropdown navigation menus were heavily used to explore the site (which we expected), but some testers used the homepage “hero” banner’s links as navigation and ignored the menus completely! But overall, the testers found the new layout and menus to be fast and easy to use, and offered positive feedback.

Tip: always record the screen/audio (with permission, of course) if possible. No matter how thorough a notetaker you are, you will miss something. We used Camtasia with Samson Go Mics.

Marcel and Hoyt performing card sorts

Card Sorting

With our audio still recording, we moved to some physical card sorting exercises. Card sorting, as Robert mentioned in Part 1 of this series, yields insight not only in the final layout of the cards, but along the way. Again, our participants nailed this exercise. All vocalized their thought process as they arranged their cards on the table.

This exercise is especially useful for the “color” it gives to the data, especially compared to the surveys conducted earlier. We learn not just what, but why. For example, most of our participants told us they prefer slide presentations because they are quick to read and easy to share. But a few strongly preferred podcasts because they can listen to them during a commute or at the gym.

Laptop on table with cards

Conducting these usability sessions helped us make informed decisions. We made some final tweaks to our site map and wireframe documents that really strengthened them — and in turn, a more focused design and a better user experience.

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Next week: Part 3: The Creative Process

Want to know more about iMarc's UX practices? Check out our Handbook, which documents our processes and deliverables. We've published it under the Creative Commons 2.0 (BY-SA) license, so you are welcome to borrow from it.


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