This morning I was up early, along with seven other folks, to dig into the first day of Drupal usability testing at the University of Baltimore. Our community has been able to take part in some other usability tests in the past, but the timing of this one is particularly exciting because we will be testing Drupal core while it is still in code thaw. This means that we can try things out and get valuable feedback while we can still make changes to the code.
We all met at the lab in the morning and then spent time double-checking the equipment and getting coffee and tea into our team. After a few technical checks and getting settled, we reviewed the plan for the day, and walked through the task lists that we would have the subject's run through. We are all ready with text editors and sticky notes for writing out specific issues. We also papered the room with some traveling whiteboard sheets so we can freely write and organize our issues.
This is my first time in a testing lab and it is pretty darned cool. We have a room split with a one-way mirror and we can see the test subject's computer screen as well as watch their eye-tracking. The eye-tracking is fascinating stuff but the real good stuff comes from having the subject talk through the things they are doing, what they are looking for and why they are approaching things the way they are. The folks we had in today had both built Drupal sites before and so we set them up with a range of tasks, from basic, like adding content, to the "not so straight-forward as they sound," like setting up search or sending emails when new content is created. There was an interesting mix of surprise and frustration at times, along with places where things just worked and made sense. We spent time after each test talking through our observations, writing and slapping sticky notes all over the walls.
The testing days are long days, this one wrapped up after 10 p.m., and we are all pretty tired, but also energized with thoughts and ideas generated from the first two tests. Looking forward to continuing tomorrow.