Drupal usability testing

When I predicted that there would be a big and concentrated effort to further improve Drupal's ease of use in 2008, I was cheating a bit ... The past months we've been preparing some formal usability testing for Drupal that will be conducted at the University of Minnesota Office for Information Technology's usability lab. The university has a professional usability lab that will allow us to record eye-tracking data and video which will be provided to the Drupal community. Très cool!

Chad Fennel and Cody Hanson of the University of Minnesota Libraries have taken an incredible lead in this; they secured the lab, they prepared test scenarios, they recruited test users, they are coaching us how to do usability research, and last but not least, they are footing part of the bills. Needless to say, this is a significant contribution to the Drupal project -- and hopefully one that will have big impact on Drupal 7.

Needless to say, formal usability testing is only one way to make Drupal easier of use. There are a lot of usability findings out there already (example 1, example 2), and many of us know first-hand which changes need to occur to improve Drupal's usability. All it takes is a knack for usability, some development skills and a lot of time and effort. Ultimately, everyone can help -- with or without a professional usability lab.

The past years, I've pushed hard to make usability reviews part of the development and patch review process. I strongly believe that usability reviews should be tightly integrated with the software development process; rapid usability feedback and incremental usability improvements allows us to build better software faster. And it is working -- every major Drupal release has become significantly easier to use.

Nonetheless, there is a lot of work left to be done. I hope that the formal usability testing at the University of Minnesota Libraries will provide us with a fresh perspective and that it helps train the Drupal community's eye for usability. Because more than anything else, I want to us to flatten the Drupal learning curve.

More information about the usability testing will be made available shortly. The goal is to share some first results at DrupalCon Boston next month.

Comments

Litrik De Roy (not verified):

In my previous life I was always interested in the feedback of new users of our product.

How do you suggest a Drupal newbie like me can help? Blogging about UI annoyances often turns into a negative rant.

Is there an issue to track? A discussion group to follow? How do I make a positive contribution?

February 03, 2008
Bevan (not verified):

Hi Litrik,

See the Factory Joe usability report linked above (example 2) and its response on g.d.o to see how to positively contribute usability feedback, reviews & informal testing reports.

Bevan/

February 03, 2008
BryanSD (not verified):

This is very cool. I once spent a good chunk of time in a class discussing usability. One thing you find out quickly is that while as an individual you can learn about usability, it's another thing entirely to be able to properly evaluate and observe how well people interact with a Web site.

Will there be some representation from the Drupal community present during the evaluation? If some sort of mini-Drupal meetup is planned in Minneapolis...I and I'm sure others would like to hear about it. Those of us in northern Plain states don't get too many chances to see Drupal activities taking place in our area.

February 03, 2008
Cody Hanson (not verified):

Bryan,

We'll have a number of developers (including Dries) on-hand here in Minneapolis for the usability testing, and are planning a local meetup. If you'd like details, send me an email at hans1794 at the University of Minnesota's domain.

February 04, 2008
Chad Fennell (not verified):

We've just begun to plan a public meetup, please RSVP and give feedback here:

http://groups.drupal.org/node/8648

Thanks!
-Chad

February 04, 2008
BryanSD (not verified):

Cody/Chad: Thanks for the heads up and I'll check the links for details. I have a tight schedule at the end of the month, but I might try to swing a trip to the Twin cities. It might help comfort me with the fact that I likely won't make it to Boston.

February 04, 2008
Chad Fennell (not verified):

For those who want to get more directly involved in this process, feel free to make comment here:

http://groups.drupal.org/node/7929

or contact Cody (above).

February 04, 2008
oteller (not verified):

In my previous life I was always interested in the feedback of new users of our product.

How do you suggest a Drupal newbie like me can help? Blogging about UI annoyances often turns into a negative rant.

Is there an issue to track? A discussion group to follow? How do I make a positive contribution?

May 21, 2008

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