User Testing & Evaluation Notes

A quick caveat: I’ve provided the recommendations below not knowing the constraints and circumstances under which your website has been designed. When I point out that something seems undesirable or might be improved upon, I say so knowing that there may be good reasons why your organization has chosen that approach or solution.

My goal is to provide a frank assessment, while always remaining open to the possibility that I could be missing key information, which may make some recommendations less than ideal or unfeasible.

Evaluation Notes

Communicating value

The ICM website does share some information about the power of play, but concepts like that, which could be key differentiators, are buried deeper within the site.

In testing, users struggled to describe how the ICM is different from other museums of its kind or why they might want to visit the museum rather than engage in some alternative family activity. The ICM might try testing content on the home page that communicates the unique importance of play and the museum’s offerings.

The museum could try going so far as to allude to other, weaker alternatives. More passive family activities, like going to the movies, can’t compare to going to The ICM. What if that were made more explicit in the museum’s marketing?

In the absence of any obvious unique differentiators, visitors will default to evaluating the museum based on admission prices. That can lead to a “race to the bottom”, which every organization would like to avoid. By communicating unique value, the museum can focus visitors attention on the museum’s offerings rather than competing on price.

Introduce a question protocol

You may not have a great deal of control over how DoubleKnot functions, but you should be able to modify what forms are required.

In testing, some odd things popped up. For example, the form system seemed to ask for a child’s phone number when buying an individual pass. This may not apply to small children.

And what does the museum do with parents’ phone numbers?

While collecting phone numbers may be necessary in some situations — for emergency purposes when the child attends a program in the parents absence, for example — is it necessary in all cases?

At the very least, it would be helpful to communicate to visitors how personal information will and will not be used. This will reassure privacy-minded visitors.

Surface “fundraising events” elsewhere on the site

Events that might appeal to adults or families — like “Game of Thrones Trivia Night” or “Move it! Dig it! Do it!” — are under “Support Us” and “Fundraising Events”.

By categorizing the events as a way to support the museum, the ICM assumes that the primary motivation in attending those events is to … support the museum.

It’s possible that some people who would not normally think of attending a fundraising event would be happy to attend one of these events. They may not find them if the museum classifies them as fundraisers.

Consider treating those fundraisers as the fun events they truly are and make them accessible elsewhere on the site. Some people may think of them more as belonging under a category like “Exhibits/Programs/Events” rather than “Support”.

Why no social proof?

The ICM could strengthen content throughout the site by including testimonials from actual visitors, members, and donors.

Consider developing systems to continuously collect feedback from these different audiences.

Review the calendar section on the home page on mobile

On mobile, the “What’s happening” section of the homepage may lead some people to believe that the museum has more limited hours.

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Text that communicates hours only may lead some users to believe that the museum has “odd” hours.

Program page improvements

Avoid dead ends.

Users may visit program pages, decide they wish to attend or participate, and then become frustrated when there’s no link to take the next step.

Even if a program is free with admission, link users to admissions info at the bottom of program pages to help them complete the decision-making journey.

The ICM might also consider developing program pages with more visual content to help users picture themselves participating in the program.

I was quite impressed with the virtual tour — but program pages do little to communicate the impressive scale and depth of the museum’s offerings. The tour was one of the few pages on the site that gave me a real feeling of the museum’s exhibits and atmosphere.

Newsletter

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After someone signs up, direct them to a page or form where they can provide feedback.

  • Send to a landing page and start collecting feedback.

  • Create a welcome email that reiterates the museum’s offerings and encourages new subscribers to take action — perhaps by becoming a member.

  • Consider developing a sequence of emails for new subscribers that keeps the museum “top-of-mind” for new subscribers.

Your videos

 

A FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND ABOUT LIVE EVALUATION USER TESTS

  • The participants in these tests are not segmented or screened. The advantage here is that we can be sure these users are first-time visitors and are more likely to catch outstanding usability issues that would surface for anyone who might use your website.

  • The people taking these tests have at least some experience in testing websites. They are not professional designers, but they may have more experience using the web than some who will be on your site.

  • Since I have limited access to your payment gateway and website, we’re not able to fully test transactions and email lifecycle content.

  • Occasionally, user tests reflect the personal opinions of the people taking the test. (Things like: “I like the color” or “I hate this font”.) Take this with a grain of salt. I review these videos carefully and if I find that the personal taste of an individual reflects a real design or credibility issue that might hamper someone’s interactions with the content, I’ll let you know.

Future testing with actual users — like your members or patrons — will help uncover more opportunities to improve the website’s content and user experience.

 
Kyle Bowen