Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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M&W07 – Day three: Usability lab

April 14th, 2007 by Seb Chan

The Usability Lab sessions are fascinating dissections of museum websites. A potential user is taken out of the room whilst the website owner explains their site and suggests two popular tasks to be performed by the tester when they return to the room. Marty and Twiddle explain their rapid testing methodology behind these sessions over at First Monday.

I sat in on the testing of a fellow museum’s website and it was painful to see the semantic disconnect between the sort of common terms that the user might search for and the actual naming of menu items – surely a ‘discount ticket’ or a ‘multi-venue ticket’ would be called that rather than a name that sounded more like an exhibition title? Overly text heavy pages with embedded links forced the novice user to scan blocks of text for what they were looking for – as if they were scanning a print brochure – rather than offering quick links to frequently used and important sections.

In many ways the experience reminded me a lot of the pain of the old Powerhouse Museum website – where the organisation had defined its external presence using its own language, rather than the language of the users. And where we had a site that users had to navigate in the ways internal staff thought about the organisation (and what was important) as opposed to by what the users logically wanted to do.

(the Powerhouse Museum site back in 2001)

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