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Posts Tagged ‘web’

Usability Testing: Getting surprised by our users

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Since Oct. 2010, my team has conducted four usability tests on our government website. What we have found astounded us. I’m now convinced that usability testing for all government websites should be required because:

1. Our users did not read our homepage to navigate or follow links. Instead, they just searched. We’ve spent so much of our resources on crafting navigation paths and menus. Our users want only quality search results.

2.  When our users searched, the search results were not optimal. We need to reallocate our resources to ensure our search results help our users complete their tasks.  Now that we know how important search is – we need immediate resources dedicated to ensuring search engine optimization.

3.  Users scanned our pages, looking for keywords that made sense to them. Their keywords were not our keywords. We assumed that users used our jargon but users searched using simple words and not our program names. If the information was at the bottom of the page the users questioned why it had been put there – it seemed that they thought important information (to them) belonged in only one place – at the top of the page.

4.  Users sometimes didn’t trust the links on our pages even when it seemed that it was the correct one for them to select to complete the task. They would look at us and ask if they should click it. Why wouldn’t they just follow the link? Why were they hesitant? We don’t know the answer to this question.

So we’ve learned a lot from our users, and need to put the information together in a presentation for our program managers. I’ll write more about that in my next blog.

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Gov 2.0 Camp, UnConference Spectacular #gov20camp

April 3, 2009 9 comments

Washington, DC just hosted an amazing unconference – the Gov 2.0 Camp. It was held at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Georgetown (Washington, DC) on 3/27 and 3/28/09.

The discussions in the hallways were often as interesting as the official classes. Sometimes the students in the atrium couldn’t hear over the animated conversations taking place and someone would have to shout for everyone to be quiet.  Some people attending that I knew included Bev Godwin, Leilani Martinez and Sheila Campbell of USA.gov, Jeffrey Levy and Kay Morrison of the EPA, Gwynne Kostin of DHS, Lisa Wolfisch from the Census, Claudia Isaacoff from the Coast Guard, and Mark Drapeau of the NDU (@Cheeky_Geeky). Lurita Doan was there, as a reporter, as was Daniel Mintz, acting as a volunteer. I met some amazing people who I had only known through Twitter – yes that’s you Sarah Bourne (@sarahbourne)! And it was cool to meet a neighbor I’d met only through Twitter – Noel Dickover (@NoelDickover).

I feel grateful for all those who made this Gov 2.0 Camp possible, and am so inspired by the brilliant presentations of people who are so knowledgeable and passionate about finding better ways to use technology and trying to get us all feeling that Gov 2.0 groove. I’ve included an overview of sessions I took notes on, with links. Enjoy!
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Highlights

-Twitter: the Air Force led a fascinating session where they presented case studies on how they actively use Twitter for outreach AND continually monitor it to find rumors, stop them immediately, avoid a crisis and to respond to bad information being promulgated. The Air Force had some good examples of why they think this is mission-critical. There is a follow up Crisis Communications camp – how to use Twitter and similar services in crisis communications. Many people in the class recommended Ragan Communications for their great seminars on Twitter and how organizations (Ford, GM, Comcast) monitor it for customer complaints – learn more hereIdenti.ca and SMS were mentioned as Twitter alternatives, with SMS being the best proven alternative. Presentation: Rumors Quashed at the Speed of Light. Tips: Air Force uses Hootsuite.com to monitor Twitter. The Mass. State government creates an RSS feed from search.twitter.com, and O’Reilly Media uses TweetGrid. Bit.ly – was recommended as a url shortener and clickthrough counter.

Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin at Gov 2.0 Camp Wash DC

Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin at Gov 2.0 Camp Wash. D.C. Photo courtesy of Eric S. Brown (@ericsbrown), http://www.politicalactivitylaw.com

Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media, and Bev Godwin, White House Director of Online Resources and Interagency Development.

Tweets from this session:@macon wants to inspire innovation stuff outside whitehouse-‘we’re not the hub’ very encouraging.

RECOMMENDATION: Create a cache of “White House Approved” methods for engaging citizens that any given agency can follow.

We want top down endorsement to encourage us: “Go!”

Tweets for Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin to answer or comment on appear on stage with them

Tweets for Macon Phillips and Bev Godwin to answer or comment on appear on stage with them. Photo courtesy of Eric S. Brown (@ericsbrown), http://www.politicalactivitylaw.com

Tweets for Macon Phillips (@macon) and Bev Godwin (@bevusa) to answer or comment on appear on stage with them.

While at first the commentary was related to the first-of-its-kind Internet town hall meeting at the White House, camp goers could and did ask other questions and make other comments.

Typical of many, one questioner asked if her agency had to wait to use new media? What permissions were necessary before they could start? Should they wait for a new agency head to be hired?

The audience was told that all agencies should use new/social media now.

“The White House is HERE at #gov20camp” that’s an endorsement of social media right there. ( Steve Raddick @sradick).

-Video: people who worked on Obama’s campaign and were in charge of creating YouTube videos for that campaign talked about that experience. They said that video was no longer just an add-on, but an important media component that helps citizens visualize important concepts. Without it, all citizens have is text. The class talked about the challenges that federal/state/local agencies would face creating video content. Bev Godwin was there, and made it clear that Section 508 applied to all videos and that all videos made by agencies must be captioned before publishing. They (sorry I did not write down their names) mentioned that the Google Audio Indexing Tool: GAUDI – automatically created transcripts of Obama’s speeches, which was very helpful for their needs.
-Wikis: the EPA talked about how they used wikis to quickly create and maintain documentation internally. The OMB wiki has over 11,000 users. There are over 108 open source engines for wikis at wikimatrix.org Using wikis to develop new employee orientation materials was mentioned as an excellent example – one wiki for new employees (policies, forms, transportation, etc.), one wiki for managers (how to hire, how to request an office, pc, etc.) The Coast Guard mentioned that they are using wet paint as their internal wiki. The media wiki is powering wikipedia. The social media survey indicated that many citizens would prefer to get gov’t information from wikis – over web portals.

-Social Media Survey: Lead by Jed Sundwall of Captura (@jedsundwall) this session was a compelling survey of over 500 users, asking them what type of social media they would want to use to get information from the government, and what kind of info. they would want to receive. Ambient intimacy was mentioned as a term that people feel when they develop online friendships, and something the government should cultivate with citizens. Highly recommended: Social Media Survey.

-Disability: Census has created a fully accessible flash player (Lisa Wolfisch). There is an Accessible Rich Internet Application (ARIA) standard API that can be used for social media sites like Facebook, so why isn’t anyone doing that?  Steve of Maine(@steveofmaine), a self-identified blind guy on twitter, routinely tests and comments on his experiences with various new media applications like Facebook.  Ian Lloyd of WGBH.org is an expert on captioning. Firebox is a free screen reader for Firefox browser. Note: could not find, however try Accessibar for Firefox. There is a Google Accessible Web Search for the Visually Impaired – finds sites that work well with screen readers – and the class wondered if the Google Audio Indexing Tool: GAUDI – could be used to create transcripts for videos or podcasts. If transcripts could be generated automatically, captioning would be faster. Jacob Nielsen recently wrote an article on a new flyout mega dropdown menu done in AJAX which is better for the disabled than flyovers. The Census has figures from 2007 of the numbers of the population that are disabled. Nat’l Fed. Blind has a page where people can report access problems with any page Note: I could not find this.

The US Now film(actually a UK film production) was premiered at the #gov20camp. Just clips are available now and it is expected to be more available in April 09.

Links to the Gov 2.0 Camp Produced Stuff
Friday, 3/27/09 and Saturday, 3/28/09 sessions.
Murals
Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy
Friday Photos
Saturday Photos
#gov20camp Flickr Group

Blog/News coverage:
CNET, Craig Newmark (Craigslist) SFGate.com, and Huffington Post, Air Force, Dorobek Insider, Network Solutions, Federal Times, Nextgov, Personal Democracy, Poynter Online, Seattle’s CTO, Sarah Bourne, Future gov, You2Gov, 13th Floor Governing.com Ellen Perlman (videos of agenda making), (videos of posters, Gov 2.0 Camp Recap, Steve Radick BAH, Viget Labs, Gov Social Media, Diane Cline Mural Maker Extraordinaire, Doug Watson, Future Fed – Microsoft Federal Blog – Trip Report from Gov 2.0 Camp, Paul Canning, Tony’s Place – an Outsider’s Take on Gov 2.0 Camp, Blackstone Technology, Devost, Mindtouch.

Groups for the Gov 2.0 Camp:
Facebook
Gov 2.0 Bar Camp
Linkedin
Twitter
Gov 2.0 Google Group
Govloop

Upcoming events (similar):
MuniGov 2.0 April 10, 2009 Online only
She’s Geeky, Sat. 4/18/009 in McLean, VA.
Coders for Charity – Geeks Giving Back 4/24 – 4/26/09, Kansas City, MO
eDemocracyCamp2 4/19/09, Wash., DC
Enterprise 2.0: Social learning strategies GCN, 4/21/09 Wash., DC
Crisis Communications camp June 13-14, 2009, Wash., DC
Online Social Networks to Support Community Collaboration, Penn State, PA June 25-27, 2009
Gov 2.0 Summit (O’Reilly) 9/2009, Wash., DC
Bar Camps in the USA
Social Media Club event near you – (Google Search)
eGovernment at W3C