Copper Country Historical Images
Digital archives of historical images from the Copper Country of Upper Michigan in need of usability improvements for their website.
Phase 1: Client Consultation
This project was part of my class on Usability and UX Design. The first steps of the project were team formation and client pairing. For the duration of the semester, my team chose to work with Copper Country Historical Images, which is Michigan Tech's digital archive center that specializes in historical images and documentation. Once we had established ourselves as a team, HZH Usability, we interviewed our client and found out the following information.
What would you like to learn from the usability testing of this site?
Key obstacles in the search-to-order workflow
Ways in which the search feature is broken
Ways to embed guidance on-site smoothly
How would you define "success" for this website?
A researcher is easily able to find images in their area of interest, collect them, order them, and receive them.
Existing User Personas
The client described the existing audience of the website as history lovers ranging from age 16 to senior citizen. We derived the following personas from the more detailed information the client gave us.
Phase 2: Site Evaluation
The next order of business was to get each of the team members familiar with the Copper Country Historical Images website. Individually, all three members of HZH Usability spent around eight hours navigating the site and identifying potential problem areas for usability testing. Each member wrote heuristic evaluations based on their findings and came together later to write one comprehensive, in-depth heuristic evaluation to give back to the client and guiding future usability testing.
Phase 3: Usability Test Plan
After familiarizing ourselves with the website, HZH Usability created a plan for usability testing. This document features all of the relevant information we considered before beginning our usability tests. We started by making sure we fully understood the test goals and research questions proposed by the client. Then we made decisions about which representative user groups to target when recruiting volunteers. We used a recruiting script for each participant to ensure every volunteer was given the same information. Next we composed scripts to ensure each user could give informed consent to be tested and could fill out a background questionnaire for our more qualitative statistics. We also created a series of tasks and scenarios and followed them up with post-task questions and a debriefing interview with product reaction cards. Our plan also included plans for what we planned to measure and how. These metrics would include the task completion rate, the error-free rate, time on task, and a few subjective measures. The usability test plan also laid out the conditions for the test environment and the specific roles each member of HZH Usability would take during usability testing. Lastly, this document solidified a schedule for our usability testing day. Some of the scripts are featured below as well as the test plan as a whole.
Phase 4: Usability Testing
We conducted all usability tests for this project remotely through the video-conferencing software Zoom. The team featured one host, one moderator, and one logger. The host's job was to share their screen and keep track of the appropriate documents while the volunteer was performing the usability test. They handled the more technical side of the test and ensured everything ran smoothly from the back end. The moderator was the person speaking to the participant, explaining each step of the process without introducing bias and answering any questions the participants had throughout the test. The moderator also provided tactful nudges whenever the test sessions migrated too far off track or required more expression from participants. The logger's job was to rapidly record notes on everything the participants said and did, including when tasks started and ended, where problems occurred in the expected user flow, and direct quotes from participants. My role for this project was as a logger. Our usability tests were conducted with four volunteer participants: two middle aged women, and an elderly man and woman. The sessions were held back to back and lasted for a total of seven hours. All sessions were recorded, in addition to the live notes, so that we would capture the maximum amount of information to put together our results.
Phase 5: Results
In our documentation of results, we included a lot of information that we learned from the usability tests. Before we looked at the results though, we started by comparing the demographics of the actual participants to what the expected regular audience for the website would be. We broke down the background questionnaire, task questions, and debriefing interviews. This results document features both quantitative and qualitative data, evaluated and presented in graphs. It also features recommendations, including visual examples, of how the site could be improved based on feedback from the usability tests. These results and recommendations were given back to the client along with a live presentation on the project.