User Testing and Prototyping
While at Cengage, I led the design of user testing tasks, and conducted 10 sessions with University of Michigan undergraduates. The product under study was Gale Cengage’s Artemis Literary Database, a massive online repository of literary criticism.
The goal of conducting the user testing sessions was to determine why the search graphs (shown in the screenshot in the middle “row” with the off-white background) were under-utilized by students using the database.
I found that the placement of the search terms graphs on the original screen (not shown here) – which was underneath the search bar – impeded their ability to grasp users’ attention. This was because the search bar was so prominent (it was placed in the center and spanned the width of the content section). In Image 1 above – my redesign – screenshots of each graph are placed immediately adjacent to the search bar, which facilitates the ability of the user to see them with the search box being less dominant. Also, the depiction of the graphs using visuals instead of just text (as was the case in the original) draws attention to them by creating interest, sparking curiosity, and showing their usefulness before requiring the user to click any links.
I developed this screen using Axure RP Pro, after conducting 10 user testing sessions in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Test participants were undergraduates in the humanities. This project was undertaken in October of 2013.
Interaction Flow Map Design
The interaction flow map at left depicts a section of the Smithsonian site that involves information-finding. It displays the paths for search, advanced search, and browse, and key actions associated with each screen are listed in blue boxes that point to their respective screens.
I created this interaction flow map using PowerPoint in November of 2013.
Heuristic Evaluation Excerpt
One of the Heuristic Evaluations I conducted at Cengage was for a product called, “My English Online,” or MEO. MEO was a joint endeavor between the National Geographic Society and Cengage to offer free online English lessons to non-native English speakers. My approach to evaluating the application was to look closely at terminology, clarity, and simplicity; these are all important in an interface design, and especially so when non-native English speakers make up the primary audience. A screenshot of the application’s registration screen is shown below (Image 3).
Of note in the first screenshot of the application (Image 3, at left) are the two images of teachers, the first on the left indicating that the user has an instructor, and the second indicating the opposite with the universally-recognized symbol of a red circle with a line drawn through it. The images that accompany the text provide important keys to the user that may complement or take the place of fully understanding the verbiage.
The second image of the application (Image 4, at left) depicts one of the screens from the test. It could be improved by orienting the words in the right-hand side boxes so that the test-taker can read left to right instead of bottom to top. While it’s certainly possible to read it as is, it’s not optimal for readability.
The above observations were pulled from my Heuristic Evaluation, completed in November of 2013.