by Jessy Ma, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates intern, Brown University
I conducted 8 usability tests for the alpha version of macroinvertebrates.org. Participants consisted primarily of people who had previously expressed in a survey that they were interested in usability testing for the website, so most of them were relatively advanced in macroinvertebrate identification. My interviews were conducted in four main parts: opening background questions, unguided exploration of the site, site tutorial, and closing questions. Overall, participants gave positive feedback. Some of them had used the older version of the site, and others were seeing macroinvertebrates.org for the first time. Most thought the site was easy to use and especially liked how interactive and high-quality the photos were.
Many suggestions for improvements to the site were made, shown below. The most commonly suggested changes were adding tooltips (hover boxes) to the set of view control buttons in the upper right, making the blue plus sign more intuitive, making the expanded character list more noticeable, and making the flip arrow button more intuitive. Many of these usability issues could be solved by having a site tutorial video or popup tutorial boxes to guide users through the site when they visit for the first time. Certain features of the site that often went unnoticed or were hard to find, such as the blue plus sign, expanded character list, and flip arrow button, would benefit from redesign. Changes were constantly being made to the website, so some features had already changed by the time I conducted my last usability test. For example, the expanded character list was moved to the Diagnostic Characters tab, and glossary hyperlinks were added to the overviews and expanded character lists.
Some people requested that certain information be added to the site. Multiple people wanted a ruler/scale to show size reference, more information about life span and different life stages, and location/distribution maps. People also pointed out that the site’s information is so thorough that it may be overwhelming for beginners. Overall, however, people were very happy with the site, said it would be useful to them in their work, and were excited to share it.
An interdisciplinary team