Developer tools Tools User experience

Usability and IA testing tools – OptimalSort, ClickDensity, Silverback

As the team has been working on a large array of new projects and sites of late we’ve been exploring some of the newer tools that have emerged for usability testing and ensuring good information architectures. Here’s some of what we’ve been exploring and using –

We’ve started using Optimalsort for site architecture – especially the naming and content of menus. Optimalsort is a lovely Australian-made web product that offers an online ‘card sorting’ exercise. In our case we’ve been using it as a way of ensuring we get a good diversity of opinions on how different types of content (‘cards’) should be stacked together (in groups) under titles (menus). Optimalsort lets you invite people to come and order your content in ways that make sense to them and then presents you with an overall table of results, form which you can deduce the best possible solution.

We’re also back using Clickdensity which is great for tracking down user interface problems on live sites. We used this when it first was released by Box UK and it revealed some holes we quickly fixed on a number of our sites. Whilst it still has issues working properly in Safari and, surprisingly, sometimes on Firefox, Clickdensity lets you generate heatmaps of your visitors’ clicks and mouse hovers. Armed with this you can quickly discover whether your site visitors are trying to click on images thinking that they are buttons or links; or choosing certain navigation items over others.

Sliverback is another UK product, this time from Clearleft. We’re gearing up to use this with some focus groups to record their interactions (and facial expressions!) as they use some of our new projects and products. Silverback is Mac only (which suits us fine) and records a users’ interactions with your application whilst using the Mac’s built in camera and microphone to record the participant (hopefully not swearing, cursing and looking frustrated). This should be perfectly geared for small focus groups with targetted testing.

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