Weekly user tests: Library hours

This fall, Web Committee planned to do weekly user testing. We started on the week of September 22 and have only missed one week entirely (last week’s was postponed to this week, so we’re doing two rounds this week).

The plan was to alternate between very short, guerrilla-style tests and longer tests. This way, we could take problems that arose in the longer tests and see if we could iterate a solution using the short tests. So far, we’ve done three short tests followed by three longer tests. So not much iteration. Yet.

The first two weeks’ tests looked at a possible change to the Library hours information on the main page.

We thought our main page was missing a place where we could promote services or resources for longer than would normally happen with a news item. We wanted to create a Spotlight for these kinds of things. When we moved to Drupal 7 we increased the width of the content portion of the page. Our Hours seemed to use a lot of space, particularly on smaller screens, and we thought we could easily condense it to make room for the Spotlight.

Week one

The fabulous Kevin Bowrin mocked up a design for the main-page-with-Spotlight. We printed it off and, clipboard in hand, headed for the quad for some guerrilla testing.

“Can you show us where you would find the library hours for today? Can you show us where you would go to find the hours for tomorrow?” Those were our two questions. And a lot of people couldn’t find today’s hours. Even fewer could find tomorrow’s.

This was not good.

To my eye, it was a classic case of ad blindness with a generous dollop of just too much content. The Spotlight was predominantly image-based, and the hours were immediately above it. Everything was to the right of our main Summon search box. People’s eyes slid over the whole section and didn’t catch on the hours at all.

More troubling was that people who saw the hours weren’t understanding that they could click “Library Hours” to get all of our hours. True, the link wasn’t underlined, but none of the links on the site are underlined. Time for another test!

Week 2

In week 2 we decided to test our current page design. We asked “Can you show us where you would find today’s hours? Where would you go to find out when we’re open this weekend, over Thanksgiving?” Everyone found today’s hours. Only one person found where to go to find the weekend hours.

Again, this was not good.

The problem seems to be that we have a header for Library Hours, which is also a link. After today’s hours we have a smaller link for “service hours.” This is where most people said they would go to find our weekend hours. The service hours link takes you to a page that lists our various service points; you must click on a service point to get to their hours calendar.

I looked at our analytics for that page. Most people came to it from the main page, but almost nobody clicked on a service point when they got there. Most people either went to the main Hours page or back to the main page.

Quick solution: we kept everything the way it was, but changed the “service hours” link so that it went to the main Hours page. The services points are also listed on that page, so anyone who wants service hours can still access them. But the majority of people will get hours calendar they were looking for.

Oh, and the Spotlight? We’ve decided to try to implement it in another way. After more testing of course.

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