Usability: Evaluating the Web Association's Registration Process

Submitted by John Soellner on Thu, 03/31/2005 - 22:11.

The Scenario: An Internet design professional, new to NEO, you hear about the Web Association and want to join. So starts a revealing look into usability testing and user thought process hosted by Progressive Insurance's Jeff Janis.

Isolated from the group were two test subjects given a set of scenarios and tasks to complete, such as "become a voting member." What seems like a routine confirmation of what developers already know can still hold a few surprises. Vital information can be off the screen, "below the fold," so to speak. Progress indication is vital to keeping the user from abandoning a multi-step process. Buttons labeled Next on one page can read Continue on another, and Confirmation pages don't really confirm anything; seen from the user's point of view.

Such are the discoveries you can make when running a user test.

When millions are at stake, it's easy to realize why Progressive creates paper prototypes and conducts user tests. In reply to a question, Janis confirmed how important it was to introduce user testing early in the process.

It's a different kind of experience to see users struggle with the interface developers are so used to the flaws seem to disappear. In the confines of a test lab, free from the rationalizations, users are left on their own to cope. But the lab setting is, ultimately, artificial. Most users won't confine themselves to a single site to complete a task -- they'll just leave the site for a competitor. Which makes NEOUPA; Northeast Ohio's chapter of the Usability Professionals' Association such an asset for NEO.

Related Link: IBM developerWorks Progress Indication: Concepts, design and implementation.