In the last series of blogs, I’ve been examining and developing a cell phone application, ‘Visit NBMA’ offering city events and information to visitors and residents of New Bedford, Massachusetts. During the previous step of the app development, I created a paper prototype of the app. The next stage of the process is usability testing.
Usability testing is probably the most exciting part of the process. In this step, users access a prototype version of the app. Developers will ask users to proceed with various scenarios within the app and research and record their findings.
The main goal of usability testing is to gather as much feedback as possible. This feedback ensures the developer the ability to fix errors and issues before the app completes. Time is money, and for developers, it’s essential to resolve the problems before it gets too costly in the process. The earlier usability testing occurs, the better the product will become.
The testing process is straightforward, provide a working prototype to a user. Ask the user to complete a series of task scenarios and record observations. Developers need to be hands-off with the process and allow users to attempt the task scenarios without guidance. Once the tasks are complete, developers must gain critical insight into the application, including navigation, strengths, and weaknesses.
Once developers have valuable feedback, they can go back to the drawing board, make corrections, streamline the experience, and improve the application. This feedback is critical for the success of the application.
Visit NBMA Usability Testing
This week, I had the opportunity to test a working prototype of Visit NBMA, the companion app for New Bedford, Massachusetts residents, and visitors. I was able to develop a working paper prototype using the Prototyping On Paper (POP) App.
If you are unfamiliar with POP, the app is incredible! It allows developers to insert images of their paper applications and link elements together using simple commands. For someone with zero codings, this application made developing a working prototype incredibly easy. Then the app creates a virtual version of the app and can be shared with users.
You can visit my working paper prototype of ‘Visit NBMA’ here.
For my user testing, I wanted to find two different types of potential users. I tried to find a resident of New Bedford and someone who often visits the city but doesn’t live here. I was fortunate to convince my good friend, Jeremy, and my wife, Nora, to test the application. We met over zoom, and I asked them to perform five user tasks.
User Task Scenarios
You have heard on the news that New Bedford, Massachusetts, is home to the New Bedford Folk Festival. Use Visit NBMA to visit the New Bedford Folk Festival Website.
A friend told you about this restaurant, Moby Dick Brewery, in New Bedford that had a new burger special. Use Visit NBMA to locate Moby Dick Brewery on a map.
After viewing the New Bedford art documentary, Restart 2020, you are interested in viewing a mural located in the city. Use Visit NBMA to find the location of the Jazz Mural on a map.
After viewing the Jazz Mural, you are curious about some of the other artists in the area. Use Visit NBMA to find information about Alison Wells.
You’d like to take your family to visit Martha’s Vineyard. You remember a friend mention you can take a ferry from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Use Visit NBMA to locate tickets for the Seastreak Ferry.
User Testing #1: Jeremy
Jeremy’s testing was excellent. Jeremy was able to navigate the application quickly and found the app streamlined nicely. He indicated he would use the app and affirmed my decision to create the app. There were a few navigational issues during Task #1 and Task #4.
During Task #1, Jeremy had issues navigating the ‘Explore’ page, as I designed the app to scroll down to provide other options. However, I did not include header options, and he got stuck trying to go back to the navigational screen. I realized I needed locked header icons as users scroll downward.
In Task #4, Jeremy struggled to find information about New Bedford Artist Alison Wells. I included her on the ‘Gallery’ page. Jeremy instinctively chose the ‘Artist Studios” page and couldn’t access her information. This experience makes me think I need to consolidate the ‘Galleries and Artist Studio” pages together.
Jeremy also offered excellent feedback regarding parking and felt like that was missing in the app. Parking in New Bedford was not on my radar when developing this app, and I agree that parking needs including in the app. From this experience, I intend to establish a parking aspect in the app.
User Testing #2: Nora
Nora’s testing was a great experience, and she was able to navigate the application very quickly. She did not have an issue navigating the explore page and relying on the side navigational menu.
During the testing, she also had issues finding the New Bedford Artist, Alison Wells. She, too, instantly went to the ‘Artist and Studio’ tabs instead of the ‘Gallery’ page. This situation occurred twice in both testing sessions. It inspires me to rethink the Gallery and Artist Studio pages. While Alison Wells does include a gallery, she also runs an artist studio in the same space. It would behoove me to combine the two pages.
She was also reluctant in confirming that she’d be interested in downloading this application as she already lives in the city and knows about happenings and places to go. She did share that she would recommend visitors and friends to download the app if they were planning on visiting the Whaling City.
The usability testing for Visit NBMA was excellent and provided me with a ton of data and feedback to improve this app. I found that users struggled with the ‘Explore’ tab and developed ways to improve that section. Users had issues navigating to and from that page and didn’t realize other options scrolled downwards.
I’m also inspired to include a parking section and think that I received the best feedback during this process. Next up, I’ll start developing a high-fidelity prototype of the application. I’m looking forward to revamping those problematic sections.