William Woods University students are hoping to set up a usability testing center on campus to study and improve website navigation.
According to Dr. Linda Davis, WWU professor of management information systems (MIS), usability testing, especially as it involves websites, is important.
“Many of you have arrived at a website, found it hard to navigate and became frustrated when it was hard to find the information or item you wanted. You soon left the website and continued to another website,” she said.
“Websites that are hard to use, lose users,” Davis said. “Losing users often relates to losing revenue. Businesses cannot afford to lose revenue. In addition, a poorly designed website can decrease employee productivity.”
The MIS department and SWAT (Student Website Advancement Team), under the direction of Davis, are in the process of writing a grant to create a usability testing lab. They are working closely with the grant writing class at William Woods, under the direction of Dr. Stephanie Wells, assistant professor of English.
Recently six management information systems (MIS) students and Davis traveled to Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph to learn more about usability testing.
Davis said that usability labs can help identify problem areas on a website and then suggest new designs to help users accomplish certain tasks. With usability testing software and hardware, students can now watch live observations as participants complete survey delivery and tasks and then analyze the results.
Morae, one of the top usability softwares, will allow students the ability to capture every nuance of the testing session, providing students hard data and undeniable examples of usability problems. Stakeholders (clients) can observe the session live over the network. Students will take notes and index the task to the video, making it easy to work with the data later.
Students have been researching the design of a usability testing lab, along with the hardware and software needed to develop a solid testing center. The visit to St Joseph helped finalize the plans.
In 2009, “usability specialist” was named one of the top careers by U.S. News. Notes, YourCareer.com, “U.S. News has plowed through hundreds of careers, looking for the jobs with the best outlook in this recessionary economy (and beyond), the highest rates of job satisfaction, the least difficult training necessary, the most prestige, and the highest pay. These careers have staying power: They’re smart moves now, and they’ll be smart moves for years to come.”
Davis states, “Usability testing is a wonderful compliment to what we are already doing in the classroom. In addition, it will give SWAT the ability to utilize testing techniques with client websites. Not only will this increase job opportunities for our students, but it will allow us to make more effective websites for our clients. We hope to even use the William Woods University website as one of our first clients.”
She explained that there are limited programs to teach usability testing skills across the nation and only one master’s degree program in Missouri (Missouri Western State University).
“Thus, the MIS department feels they are creating a niche market that will attract and retain students.”
Dr. Jeremiah Still, director of the Human Factors and Usability Testing program at Missouri Western State University, discusses testing procedures and requirements as William Woods University students get ready to tour the usability testing facilities on the campus. Students Krista Preiss, Lisa Coppersmith, Colleen Daly, Tyler Hozie, Ryon McNeff and Matt Millard listen and take notes.
Joe Grgic, Usability Testing Lab manager and student in the master’s degree program, shows students a current usability session. Morae software tracks task procedures while videotaping the participant and saves eye tracks. Data is then analyzed and redesign initiated.