Getting Ready for Usability Testing a Responsive Site

At AEP, we’re in the midst of a gigantic redesign of our corporate site, AEP.com. We’re developing the site using responsive design, which means our one design adapts to work on any device. We’ve already conducted at least 5 rounds of user experience testing already, in order to nail down the global navigation (how does it change from full desktop to iPad to small tablet to iPhone or Android phone), contextual navigation, dealing with long content pages, and other UI elements. Now, with the site earnestly being developed, we prepare to bring in customers to test the full experience.

The usability testing, which will begin next week, will have users complete common tasks that explore aspects of navigation (findability and context) of a deep site; readability of content on small devices; usability of tables containing lots of data; the usability of completing a form on a mobile device; getting customer service; general touchability and effectiveness of interaction design.

Working with our outside recruiting firm, we’ve enlisted participants who are very mobile and internet savvy and who have experience looking at information on corporate sites. As of this writing, we will be testing on two iPhones, two iPads, two 7-inch e-Readers, one Android phone, and one 10-inch Android tablet. Our testing hardware will allow us to record both the mobile device screens and the picture-in-picture of the users’ faces.

Because responsive design is meant to work on any device, we’ve invested in a bunch of mobile and desktop gadgets. Here are a few pictures of our gadget lab.

Some of the gadgets in our lab. Not pictured are the Google TV, Playstation 3, and Samsung SmartTV.

Some of the gadgets in our lab. iOS devices, Android phones, e-Readers, even a BlackBerry.

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Another view of our gadgets. The Dell monitor on the right is our eyetracking equipment.

Viewing our site on a Samsung SmartTV. Also pictured are a Sony Playstation 3 and Google TV.

Viewing our site on a Samsung SmartTV. Also pictured are a Sony Playstation 3 and Google TV.

We keep the devices in the UX Lab, but we’re also using the room to do QA on the devices. Thus the room has taken on the moniker of QUAX Lab, which I find amusing given that many people think my name is “Eric Dux.” It also speaks to the general craziness we’re all feeling with this project.

The following week after we test on the small gadgets, we’ll run another set of participants through the full site experience — using our eyetracking equipment. This will let us see exactly where people are looking as they traverse our site, providing excellent insight to our designers. And, of course, we’ll learn about how the navigate and complete tasks, and to what degree of satisfaction.

Being part of a corporate responsive design project has been a significant learning experience for everyone in our group. It’s been a heck of a lot of work and we could probably write articles on content governance, iterative design and usability testing (aka, being agile), nuances of designing for breakpoints, structuring design and development teams, quality assurance, and so on.

Our upcoming usability testing is one portion of a huge project — but an important one to validate that the site works for real people.

Wish us luck!

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Utility Web Week West

This week, I’m at Utility Web Week West, hosted by Conferences Connect. Hearing some great presentations from utilities and utility vendors. Thought provoking discussions about mobile web, apps, online customer self-service, and best practices in user experience. We’ve heard from SCE&G, SoCalGas, Duke Energy, KCP&L, iFactor, eSource, Union Gas, and more. Plus, I sat on a panel discussing online self-service and electronic bill payments. It’s a fun group to associate with. I hope to provide a better recap when I have more time.

TXU Energy Has an App for That

Today’s blog entry is a reblog of Sierra Energy Group and Energy Central author Christopher Perdue. He reports that given the prevalence of smartphones, it is surprising that most utilities have not exploited this channel to allow customers to pay their bills and manage their accounts. A recent announcement from TXU Energy may signal that this is changing.

via TXU Energy has an app for that | Intelligent Utility.

Usability Testing Vendor Products

Author’s Note: This blog was originally posted on March 30, 2011, on a company Facebook page. Now that I have a WordPress presence, I thought I’d post it here. Plus, there’s some good news at the end.

This blog posting looks at some recent examples of usability testing of vendor products, the challenges and resistance we faced from the vendor, and the lessons we have learned about why it’s valuable to conduct vendor testing while the project stakeholders observe live.

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