Bringing Users into the Conversation

Kathi Kaiser, Centralis, USA

Designers explain their intentions and the panel reviews the site assessing how well those intentions have been realized and suggesting strategies that might have improved it. New this year: users have a voice too! An experienced website usability professional from outside the museum field will facilitate a live usability test session for each of the sites to be reviewed. Fun, educational and it makes us squirm a bit.

Modeled on the art school critique, Web sites are volunteered in advance by MW attendees who are present to pose the problems they faced and respond to commentary.

How it Works
The Web Crit is an interactive conversation between the presenter (whose site is the topic of discussion), the panel, those in the session – and a volunteer test participant to represent the voice of the user.

We have 90 minutes in which to review 4 sites (approx. 20 minutes each). In that time, we’ll run the same process for each site…

brief intro (1 min)
the site representative will present the site briefly (max. 2 minutes) highlighting the challenges they face and the areas where they’d like feedback.
a live usability test session, where a volunteer completes a key task on the site while thinking aloud to share his or her understanding of the interface (5 minutes)
each of the panelists will respond with their reactions and questions for the test participant and the site representative (3 minutes each)
we open up the commentary to the group in the room (5 minutes)

About Usability Testing:

There are many books written about the value of usability testing and how to run sessions; these are my favorites:

Krug, Steve. (2005) Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, New Riders.

Krug, Steve. (2009) Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems, New Riders.

Rubin, Jeffrey and Chisnell, Dana. (2008) Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design and Conduct Effective Tests, Wiley.

About Kathi:

Kathi Kaiser is co-founder and partner at Centralis, a leading Chicago-based user experience consultancy. Over the past fourteen years, Kathi has led the Centralis team in creating great user experiences for global clients including Sony, LexisNexis and Warner Bros. When she’s not at the whiteboard or in the lab, Kathi may be found observing users on boats, in museums, at train stations, and anywhere else where the digital and physical worlds collide. Beyond her work at Centralis, Kathi serves as an adjunct faculty member at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design, where she teaches usability evaluation methods.