Archive | User experience

The Problem With Health Literacy

At Creek Content, we spend most of our days deep in the world of health care. We work with clients in highly regulated, complex industries, and for the most part, that means we’re working in health care. A fundamental issue for the health care industry is the idea of “health literacy.”

Health literacy is the idea of not just “literacy” — which we tend to think of as the ability to read and comprehend written material — but also includes computational abilities related to health-care self-management. It means, you can find, evaluate, understand and act upon the information you need to manage your own health successfully. It includes the ability to understand your doctor’s instructions, the ability to navigate the insurance and payment systems, and lots more.

Health literacy is a pretty new term, and it’s been the subject of a number of research efforts in the past 20 years. There’s a lot of information now being created to help health-care providers better communicate with their patients, and all of that is for the good.

However, as we work with clients and content [in the United States], I see a fundamental perspective flaw in the way health literacy is often discussed. Usually the message is, your patients are health illiterate, so you must a. educate them or b. dumb down your info. To an extent, I will agree to the factual truth of the first part of that assumption: the U.S. population is not as literate as we might assume. Angela Colter has done some great work not only researching how people with low levels of literacy search, but also bringing together some critical statistics that everyone in public communications should understand. If you work with the general public, about half your audience has low literacy skills.

And in the health care arena, we see a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over these issues — understandably, to a degree. As a society, our health care knowledge has advanced rapidly in the past 100 years. Cutting-edge research is often incredibly specialized, conducted by researchers with years of post-graduate training. It’s not easy to explain that to the rest of us — the majority of the population without multiple advanced degrees in health topics.

Here’s my problem, though. A lot of the discussion in the realm of health literacy has to do with how we educate patients — how do we make them health literate. And that’s exactly wrong-headed to me. Think about this: Do car manufacturers bemoan the fact that fewer Americans than ever repair their own cars, or could even explain how an internal combustion engine works? Do you see phone companies complaining that we don’t understand the realities of managing complex data networks? Nope — they’ve just figured out how to make us as expert as we need to be to successfully use their products.

Health care is different than buying a car, but we shouldn’t need an advanced degree to manage our own health. If that’s the standard, we might as well give up now. Traditionally, the health care industry has viewed itself [with good reason] as an expert whom we should consult for the right answers. What I think the industry is learning is, that that approach isn’t very effective. If  we all want to be healthier, we have to learn how to communicate better — with each other.

Let me be clear — I think Americans should be more literate, health literate and otherwise. But that’s a systemic educational and cultural issue that I don’t think we can ask the health care industry, or patients alone, to solve. Most importantly, we’re doing patients a disservice by suggesting to each other [and sometimes to patients themselves] that they aren’t literate. That’s blaming the victim, to my mind. No one sets out to be less than fully literate.

Instead, I’d prefer to frame the health literacy issue as a health communication issue. How do we create health communications in forms that are easy for our patients [of all education levels] to understand? How do we carefully structure provider-patient interactions in a way that makes it easy for us to communicate clearly and honestly? How do we make the doctor-patient relationship feel like a partnership?

These things are happening in health care, but not nearly enough. When we figure out how to make health care information accessible to all our patients, then we’ll have done a good day’s work.

0

IA Summit: Search Strategies of Users With Low Literacy Skills | Angela Colter

I’m here EARLY Sunday morning for a session with Angela Colter of Electronic Ink. I saw Angela present last summer at Confab on measuring content and it was fabulous. And this topic really applies to my work so I’m really excited this morning. More on users with low-literacy skills in her article in Contents Magazine. 

Two things she wants us to know:

In the US, nearly half the population has low literacy skills. People push back when Colter says this — but she’s not saying they can’t read. But, their literacy skills are deficient to the point where they cannot easily understand and apply printed material.

Literacy includes skills like

  • Word recognition
  • Understanding sentence structure
  • Text search
  • Inference
  • Application
  • Calculations

Canada, UK and Australia have similar levels — in the upper 40s. Switzerland is lucky — only 25%. Portugal is 80%.

Good news: As designers, we can accommodate this population.

There’s a decent body of knowledge about people’s reading printed and online material. Kathryn Summers has done research on how to design online for people with low literacy.

Hasn’t been a lot of research on how they use search.

Colter did exploratory study with 27 people who read at or below 8th grade with three tasks:

  1. Watched them search
  2. “Will it rain tomorrow? Use Google to find out.”
  3. Pretend your doctor prescribed a new drug for diabetes…find out about this drug.

We get to watch an eye tracking study of a man trying to find out whether it will rain tomorrow. First thing he does is scan the entire Google home page. He wants to figure out the answer without having to come up with a keyword. Low-literacy users prefer to browse. When he did type a keyword, he looks at his keyboard, so he doesn’t notice the type-ahead suggestions on the screen.

He gets a search that tells the answer in an icon, but he’s not sure it’s the right answer, so he wants to click on the icon to go to the next page to confirm — but the icon’s not clickable.

Question from audience: Is his desire to confirm partly test effect? Colter says, yes, she’ll talk more about the challenges of moderation at the end, but seeking confirmation of first guess is still common behavior among this population.

This population completed their tasks successfully about 25% of the time.

Now we’re watching a woman looking for information on a drug.

She’s on a results page — she scans all page titles but reads descriptions on sponsored links only. On this page, they are the only ones with sentences and therefore are easiest to understand. They’re also at the top, of course.

Got to a page that had the information, but the first text on the page is the section of Google ad links. She cannot get the scent of information…we see her scanning the non-content-rich parts of the page for a painfully long period of time before she scrolls, and then finally she finds the information. From the eye-tracking, she reads it repeatedly, word for word — sometimes looking away and coming back. She has to be prompted to give the answer — she is not confident in her search either. She can share the information, but she does not paraphrase when explaining — she reads/says the sentence exactly.

Behaviors and Strategies of Low-Literacy Population

  • Failing to complete task/recover from errors
  • Formulating poor search queries
  • Avoiding typing
  • Revisiting visited links
  • Reading every word
  • Avoiding reading
  • Disguising problems

Moderating issues: People would forget the task, they would make up a new task that they could successfully complete, avoiding issues [my son does that for me, I left my glasses at home]. Think-aloud protocols are a cognitive burden for this population, so they can’t talk through what they’re doing while they’re doing it.

Suggestions to Help:

Many of the strategies to make your web page better for a low-literacy population are also the strategies you use to make your web page better for people.

  • Provide type ahead but let it stay
  • Make it easy to read
  • Make it look easy to read
  • Reduce distractions — make it easy to figure out where they information is
  • Address likely questions
  • Summarize, then elaborate
  • One point per page
0

SXSW: Jared Spool—The Secret Lives of Links

OK, the few hundred people in the room here with me are the ONLY people at SXSW not hearing Frank Abagnale talk right now.

Wow. The great benefit of coming to see Jared Spool talk is getting to see him dance to Beyoncé’s All the Single Ladies.

I gotta call him out…he says we’re going to talk about science and the work of a well-known “woman scientist.” It’s a reference to Lisa Simpson, but the gender ID is sticking in my craw. Is it ironic? Can’t say.

So, here we are to the main point — the secret lives of links.

We’re starting 4/8/2011–the day Congress tried tried to shut down the budget “one of the times.” Ha.

CNN writes a story about it, and they put up a bunch of links. They kept restructuring the links. Spool shows a bunch of versions of the CNN home page from that day, each time with new links/photos/stories. He starts wondering about the work behind that.

Spool — I’m not a designer, I’m a researcher. “It’s a life goal of mine never to have to design a website.”

But he decides to design a page where where CNN doesn’t have to redo the page with all the new links.

So there’s a blank page with huge CNN logo, and these links:

  • The Most Important Story
  • The Second Most Important Story
  • The Third Most Important Story
  • An Unimportant Yet Entertaining Story
  • Yet Another Snooki Story
  • Ad for Crap You Don’t Need

Spool — Of course that wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t make you click. But CNN has this on its page, in effect. We don’t have to add links for all those things.

Links secretly desire to get you to the content.

Shows CNN from 2007 — design is different, but those same things are there.

Shows NY Times and LA Times from 4/8/2011, and Huffington Post, same elements, same links…different words. The links are all communicating to get us to the story.

Body of science about how links do this.

Research on the scent of information, originally from Xerox PARC. The way people naivgate large information spaces, mathematically, is the same as a bee looking for nectar. We are ingrained “informavores.” We use the scent of information to get us what we want.

Note: Ah, he’s taking me back to my smallbusiness.com days 12 years ago.

Difference in MIT and Oberlin home pages — MIT doesn’t have a lot of links telling you how cool they are — Oberlin does — “because if you don’t know how cool MIT is, you shouldn’t be on their home page.”

Ohio State makes it easy for you to find useful info about the school.

Walgreens site: Very busy page. 20% of users are clicking on “photo,” 16% on search and 11% to refill prescriptions. Overall, the 5 most clicked-on links account for 59% of traffic, but they only account for 3.8% of area of the page.

Prime violation of Fitt’s Law: If it’s big and close, it’s easier to hit. On the Walgreens site, you see what’s important to the company — it’s not the same thing that the user cares about. It’s because there was a meeting at Walgreens and the marketing people won.

“We all know what happens: When marketing people win, puppies die!”

“Skip this ad” — The 3 most helpful words on the Internet!

Links secretly live to emit the right scent.

Trigger words: Words that matches the user’s goal and signals where to click.

Initial theory about web design and usage in 1995: We expected that people who’d never used the web wouldn’t be able to find things as easily as people who had a lot of experience at using the web. Instead, some sites were really good at getting people to what they wanted, and other sites were really bad. It was the first time we realized the design mattered — design trumped the user’s experience.

Signs of design failure:

  • Back button
  • Pogosticking
  • Using search box

Back button indicates design failure: Of all user research Spool has done, 42% of site designs help people reach needed content. If clickstream includes 1 back button, drops to 18% success. If 2 back clicks, only 2% success rate in finding needed content.

When a user loses the scent, they use the back button…but the page is no more helpful than it was before.

The back button is “the button of doom.” Once they do that, you’ve lost them.

However, do NOT code out the back button!! Ha, Spool says someone did that and blamed it on him. It’s a predictor — you don’t fix anything by removing the functionality.

Pogosticking: When the user bounces around the information hierarchy. Clickstreams without pogosticking: Success 55% of time, but with pogosticking only 11% success.

Only 3 ways to get from home to target page:

  • Search
  • Hierarchy
  • Featured content links

Users behave the same way on all sites Spool has tested except one. Normally, user comes to page, scans page for trigger words. If don’t find trigger word, they type keyword into search box. On Amazon page, they don’t scan for keywords. They go straight to search box. “After many years of business, Amazon has trained every user of the web that they never put anything useful on the home page.” Big laugh.

When users use search, they type in trigger words. We should call the search box “BYOL — bring your own link.” If you look in your search logs, you will find a list of trigger words. Code your search logs to find out what page the users are searching from — so you’ll know what page to put the trigger words on — and possibly on the page before.

If users don’t use search, they succeed 53% of time. If they do, they only succeed 30% of time.

Spool evaluated more than 10 apparel shopping sites. Huge correlation between how many pages users visited and what they bought — the faster you get them to what they want, the more they buy.

Do not design for pogosticking — give people the information they need up front — don’t make them click. You’ll sell more and your users will be more successful.

When users say “clutter” they mean, there’s way too much stuff I don’t care about on this page. They do not mean, it’s too typographically dense. You can add density as long as you’re adding information they want and need.

Now he’s shouting…love this. “Learn more” is the 2nd most useless pair of words in web design, right after “Click here.” At what point on a product page do you click and NOT want to learn more???

Good design is invisible. You don’t notice when it’s working well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics site has some great design…you might not guess by looking. Showing designs that work for expert and inexpert audiences: links that are trigger words and then short explanations for inexpert.

Links need to look really good, but they need to look like links. Links don’t have to be blue and underlined. And thank goodness — blue and underlined are two awful choices. Underlining changes the shape of the words, and blue is hard for people to discern. The only problem is when we don’t make it clear in a design what is a link. Links need to be distinct.

Spool pauses, then: I believe if you look up clusterfuck in the dictionary, you will see United. The man flies a lot, he would know.

Links don’t have to be blue and underlined, but you do have to establish a visual language for them.

We are making it hard for users to get to content. Now he’s calling out links in the middle of magazine articles, like on the Time magazine site.

All this computer generated crap is ruining the experience. Now he’s slamming those links to words in articles — article in Chicago Tribune about law firm from Alabama, and the word “Alabama” links to everything the paper has ever written about Alabama. Such a pet peeve of mine.

People decide what they’re going to click on before they move the mouse — rollover menus kill the experience. We throw other options in their face while they’re moving toward their intended target.

Other issue with rollovers: Users want to move their mouse in a straight line, but they leave the target area by accident and the rollover disappears.

Links should:

  • Deliver user to desired experience
  • Emit the right scent
  • Look good, while still looking like a link
  • Do what the user expects
0

I’m Going to Stop You Before You FAQ Again

Just ran across a conversation about FAQs in the Google Group for content strategy. [If you’re interested in CS, you need to join this group! Lots of great ideas.] This conversation popped up at a great time for me — I’ve been pondering FAQs for a few weeks now, and here’s what I know:

FAQs started — decades ago — as a vehicle to help discussion forums clean out the clutter. New forum users often showed up with the same questions that long-time users had asked before, and it got repetitive to answer the same questions over and over again, so many forums set up a list of questions that were frequently asked, along with the definitive answers.

I remember very clearly when I first used an FAQ page on a regular website. It was the mid-to-late 1990s, and we were so cutting edge. It was a real inside baseball joke — we had to explain to our client what an FAQ even was, and they still couldn’t figure out why we needed one.

It turns out, we were both right. We were right — FAQs slowly started popping up everywhere over the next few years, until you wouldn’t even think of building a website without one — and our client was right, because FAQs just don’t make sense on a text-based website with a content management system and programming scheme that have any level of sophistication.

Why FAQs are a bad idea for your website:

  • FAQs are rarely well written. It takes a lot of talent and time to write well from the contorted perspective of an FAQ. Are you asking the questions in your customer’s voice? Are you answering them in yours? Or both in your voice? At what point do you give up and just start throwing pronouns around willy-nilly? If you’re like most FAQ writers we’ve seen, that happens pretty early in the process and the results show it.
  • FAQs don’t actually help customers. The construct of an FAQ — couch your help copy in the kinds of questions a customer might ask, if you let them call you — actually makes it more difficult for your customer to get an answer. When people are seeking information online, they’re skimming for keywords that describe their issue. You’ve surrounded their keywords [change password] with a bunch of extraneous copy [How do I change my password?]. Stack that simple question up with 2-3 dozen more “helpful” questions, and people can’t find a thing.
  • FAQs don’t live at the point of sale. Your customer needs help figuring out how to add a photo over on the profile page, not from an FAQ page that’s a link in the footer. FAQs aren’t in context, and your customers are more likely to give up and leave your site than they are to search around…and around…and around to find the answer.
  • FAQs don’t fix your sucky website. When you use FAQs on a website, they become an ineffective panacea for every problem with the interface and the content. People abandoning their shopping carts? Slap a couple more FAQs up there. Landing page not working well? Must need more FAQs.

What to do instead of using FAQs:

  • Fix your website. This is the hardest answer, but the best one. If something’s not working on your website, make it work.
  • Use in-context help. This often will require development, but putting help in-context makes a big difference. Add a little question mark or the word “Help” linking to a pop-up window with the tip right on the page where the problem happens. [Bonus: A good use of a pop-up window!]
  • If all else fails, create a topical help directory. If you can’t do the development or don’t have a system that supports in-context help, at the very least, throw out your FAQ and rewrite the information as a topical help directory that customers can easily scan and navigate. You eliminate perspective issues and your information is much clearer to your customer. Similarly, if your customers come to you with a wide variety of expertise, you may have to hit the largest group in terms of usability — and some people will need more help. Make it easy for them to get it.

Finally, if you’re running a discussion forum — by all means, use an FAQ. Everyone hates seeing that same question asked by new users every week.

 

2

Just a small UX complaint

I’m working hard to get to Inbox 0 here on this holiday weekend. I’m down to a few random emails that require me to DO something. One is from E-Verify, the government program that lets you verify an employee’s legal ability to work in the United States. This is a simple matter for most U.S. citizens and for many others, but when you get more than a few employees, keeping up with the paperwork I suppose could be a pain. At Creekmore Consulting, there are just 3 of us at the moment, so our employee paperwork file is pretty thin. But just on principle, because I’d rather do stuff online, I signed up for E-Verify a while back, thinking it would make things easier.

Hahahahahahaha.

Bless my heart. [If you’re not Southern, you may not know that “Bless your heart” is frequently a veiled insult. It’s hard to distinguish between a genuine and a facetious usage of that phrase, if you’re not schooled in the shades of meaning there.]

So once I enrolled online, I was nonplussed to learn that I couldn’t actually USE the system until they mailed me a whole bunch of stuff, in the mail, and until I took some sort of test to show I understood the system. I promptly gave up and continued with my paper recordkeeping. [Most larger businesses HAVE to use the online system now, I believe. I don’t know what the threshold is, but it’s higher than 3.]

At any rate, I got an email from them the other day, since I was in their system, telling me that it was time to confirm my contact information or some such. And so when I was cleaning out my email tonight, I ran across it again, and I figured, well maybe they’ve made it easier. I’ll just log in and do that real quickly.

Except.

The email includes no link to the E-Verify site.

It tells me to log in and update my info. But I guess I am supposed to just have that URL memorized.

Dear E-Verify,

If you need some help on that whole user experience thing, please contact me. [That “Contact Laura” link at the top of this page will let you do that now. Or just call me: 615.500.4131.] I know lots of people who’d be glad to help.

Best,

Laura
A small-business owner who’d really like to like you

0

Required reading: You’re using research wrong

Let me start by saying, My mama raised me right. It just didn’t fully take.

And so I have disrupted more than one meeting with some — shall we say — unpopular assertions about the role of research in marketing and product development. I’m almost always polite*, yet I can’t let pass the opportunity to share my view that research results do not constitute a message from Your Favorite Higher Being Here.

After New Coke, I’m not sure why anyone has to explain this again. There are emotional and group-think elements to human response, and these are difficult to measure with standard business research techniques.

I won’t go on: I’ll just direct you to Ben McAllister‘s great piece in The Atlantic on the dangers of using research to make creative decisions. He agrees there’s an appropriate role for research, but argues that it’s dangerous to assign scientific weight to information that should be viewed as an indicator only.

Thanks to Randall Snare and Jonathan Kahn for linking to this piece and thereby bringing it to my attention.

*About this topic, anyway. No comment about my embarrassing reactions to poor retail customer service.

0

Launching another salvo in the content strategy-UX war

Update, 8p: I’ve just heard from Melissa Rach about the context that Twitter can’t provide. It’s some great info and I’ll share it here.

From Melissa:

I really appreciate you letting me know about this blog. I wasn’t able to get on Twitter all day (computer meltdown), but I was told that the quote was taken out of context. What I actually said, is pretty much what you say in the second-to-last paragraph of the blog (I agree wholeheartedly). I also agree [with] you that [it] is part of our job to make sure the organization knows what the user wants (that was in a different part of the presentation.)

My definition of content strategy is something along the lines of “helping organizations use content to achieve their business goals.”  And, it’s true, I intentionally leave “users” out of that statement. But, I do that for several reasons:

1. (most importantly) — serving the user should be one of the business goals we are trying to achieve. If the organization isn’t committed to an overall relationship with the user, the content will not be supported and have a difficult time being successful. (It’s a battle we can’t win).

2. A really great content strategy is the combination of three things: user perspectives, business perspectives, and content “best practices.” However, during strategy work, if you say the business perspective and the user perspective have exactly the same weight — in my experience, you get businesses creating types and quantities of content they can not maintain, which is not good for the user or the business. So, we need to say “here’s what the user wants” and temper that with “this is what we can handle right now.”

3. Some organizations get really limited by the user research — they can’t innovate beyond what the users specifically asked for. As, the old saying goes, if you asked people in 1900 about transportation needs, they would have said “faster horses” not “automobiles” — because they didn’t know those things were possible. So, as a strategist, we need to help companies have room to innovate in order to improve the overall user experience even more than users could imagine.

So, actually, I think we’re pretty aligned — and I would appreciate it if you would amend the post to say so.

P.s. There are actually examples of enormously successful (but of somewhat unethical) content strategies that actually do exactly the opposite of the what is in the users’ best interest. Not something I would advocate, but interesting to read about. The IBM FUD example is an interesting one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt

I’m going to leave the original since Melissa refers to it, and because I DO see people using the business-only perspective.


Original: It’s been a long time since my mouth fell open at something I heard at a conference, but it happened to me today. I want to say that the unfortunate part is, it happened at a session I wasn’t in. So from the outset, perhaps I’ll get corrected or someone can clarify that the tweet I read was completely out of content….but I asked about that and got more context, and my mouth was still open.

Earlier this year, Erin Kissane wrote a broad post on the Brain Traffic blog talking about where content strategy fits in the web strategy landscape. I largely agree with her post. [Following is the part that no longer applies:], but I can’t agree with a comment from her colleague Melissa Rach that was tweeted today. [But this part still does!] I’ll say first, I momentarily met Rach Sunday night and she seems lovely, and by all accounts, her presentation on strategy today was one of the highlights of Confab. I’m sorry I missed it.

Here are the two tweets that rearranged my face [See context above!]:

@CSApplied2012 As a strategist I’m here to help the business achieve their goals – user isn’t in my definition @melissarach #confab

@CSApplied2012 Content strategists serve the business and through the business we serve the user @Melissarach #confab

It may just be that I approach my work from a different perspective. But to me, in my work, the user experience is primary. If the business goal isn’t aligned with user goals, you aren’t going to succeed. And the business perspective is fine, as long as the business actually understands its users. But I find that many, many organizations do not even bother to ask their current customers what they need. They just assume they know.

So I think the first job of any successful content strategist has to remain helping a business figure out what its customer actually needs. We have to be user-focused first, or we can’t help the business in the end.

3

Confab | Christine Perfetti: Essential Techniques for Measuring Your Content’s Success

Christine Perfetti is talking about how to test and measure your content.

So important: Web analytics tell you WHAT is happening. They do not tell you WHY.

Perfetti is showing really horrifying and totally believable tests….

  • People who got all the way through reserving a room at Disneyland…who wanted a room at Disneyworld.
  • People who were thrilled with the hotel reservation form for another hotel…until they got to the end and discovered it didn’t work the way it appeared, and they didn’t have a reservation set up after all.

Both these examples just make my stomach hurt.

Perfetti’s recommendations on usability testing

Oh, love this: Perfetti just has observes in the room. She says, People know there is someone behind your one-way mirror. Better just to have them in the room and don’t be sneaky. Intros people by first name only, not title. Prefers that observers use paper and pen so as not to have distraction of typing.

Perfetti’s recommended books on usability testing

What you should look for in a test

  • Users going to the FAQ: People aren’t getting what they want
  • Users clicking on Help
  • Users going to a sitemap
  • Users clicking the back button: They’re not seeing what they want
  • Pogosticking: Going back and forth on a list of links, looking for something they never find
  • Going straight to search: People don’t want to search. They haven’t seen their trigger words, so they type them in.

So now we’re going into advanced techniques specifically for content.

5-Second Test: Bring up a page for literally 5 seconds, see if people can figure out how to solve a problem you give them. We’re doing one here about uploading photos…does it seem it will be quick and easy to do? Perfetti shows a page full of text from Photobucket…the room laughs. Is anyone confident they can upload photos? No one.

Now we see 5 seconds of Picasa. This was also text heavy, but also had a big blue button that said, Get Started. Now we’ve seen a Flickr page. It showed a visual representation of the process. Most people agree this is the one that makes it look quick and easy to upload photos.

fivesecondtest.com will let you test pages on their site. Perfetti warns: 5-second tests work “very, very poorly” for home pages — these pages have many priority. Use these on content pages or other single-purpose pages.

Great point: People want to spend all their time testing their home page. This is not usually a good use of time. They want to find the page that is useful to them. Test whether your home page directs people to the content they want, but test the effectiveness of your other pages.

First-click test: Give users a specific task, and see where they click first. Are they headed down the wrong path?

Love this: Users don’t like to choose their role. Perfetti shows the WebEx site where users were befuddled when forced to categorize themselves as individual, small, medium, large enterprise. They redesigned the site with a single “Products” link, and users found that much easier to navigate.

Comprehension test: Use to determine if people understand your complex content. Sometimes Perfetti will use a questionnaire, or sometimes will just ask questions. She shows the content, asks them to read through it, and asks the questions while they can still see the content. These are generally information, but will clearly show if users understand the complex content.

Inherent value test: Helps you figure out if you’re conveying the product value to prospects. In phase 1, bring in your most loyal customers. You ask them to give you a tour of the site and talk through the value of the product or service. Have them share what they find most valuable. You can also ask them to complete tasks, but that’s not the main goal. In phase 2, bring in people unfamiliar with the product. Then, ask the prospects to complete the tasks that the loyal customers do all the time. You will find out if they see the same value.

Catalog-based task testing: Find out what’s important to users. Take any printed catalogs or brochures [or print out same info from your site] and ask users to highlight important content. Then ask them to find the same content on the website.

Some other software and resources that were mentioned:

0

IA vs. UX vs. content strategy vs. your name here

There’s an interesting editorial over at the fall 2010 issue of the Journal of IA, which I do like reading. Eric Reiss spends some time trying to place information architecture, user experience and content strategy in terms of each other. I don’t think it’s an entirely worthless endeavor, but in my opinion, he’s bitten off a ginormous challenge. We’re the people who like to organize, categorize and name things. So no wonder we don’t all agree here. Reiss has certainly put his finger on an ongoing point of contention.

A much more recent post by Erin Kissane tackles the same topic from a different angle, making content strategy more of the umbrella.

I’d draw a bigger picture though. I’d put the business strategy umbrella over the top of the project as a whole. It’s got to define your work, no matter your discipline. To my mind, then, systems, development, UX, IA and content strategy all need a seat at the table to get from strategy through to executed product. There are a number of ways to make the process work — even how to define your business strategy. And depending on which process you use, one discipline or another may take a more prominent role.

In the end, I think the argument is largely academic. The critical thing is that the disciplines of content strategy, IA and UX all seem to get more respect now. When I started working on the web, there was design. And HTML. And then content, but in the “words-go-here” variety. Things have improved a lot since then — consumers have gotten much more sophisticated in what we demand from our web applications, and those of us in the web industry have responded to that. There are still people trying to execute web projects and applications without content strategy or IA or UX, of course. But if you want your work done effectively and well, you need all three.

0

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes