UX testing on social networks

12 Feb 2009 - 7:22pm
5 years ago
4 replies
1628 reads
Frank Long
2009

As a commercial agency we are getting more and more UX design work in
the social network area. (which is good news)

One of the issues that we have come up against is how difficult it
can be to test the user experience on social network sites.

The way we use these sites evolves over time, so its not possible to
get a realistic assessment in a one hour user test. Conducting
multiple sessions with the same user over the course of a week-or-so
is difficult and expensive to organise.

I was wondering whether anyone has experienced the same issue and
whether you have come up with any innovative and commercially viable
solutions? Or is the solution to just put it up there and see if it
works?

frank

http://www.frontend.com

Comments

13 Feb 2009 - 2:34am
Anonymous

Hi Frank,

A diary study might be a good place to start. Diary studies get user
research participants to record thoughts, ideas, experiences etc etc
when using a product over time. A quick google search for "diary
study" will throw up some helpful info for you.

Also, have you considered putting together a "reference group"
which you could meet with semi-regularly to get their input over a
period of time. It is possible to do this sort of thing via an online
group.

Good luck!

Suze.

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13 Feb 2009 - 8:22am
Christopher Jam...
2009

I don't have experience with this technique, but I have heard of studies
that ask participants to log everything they do in one specific area of
their lives. They must be given detailed instructions on how you want them
to log their activities, even what to log and what not to log. Then you
meet with the participants once or twice to collect the logs and interview
them about their logs.

Can anyone offer more insight into this technique?

Cheers,
Chris

On Feb 13, 2009 2:20 AM, "Frank Long" <frank at frontend.com> wrote:

As a commercial agency we are getting more and more UX design work in
the social network area. (which is good news)

One of the issues that we have come up against is how difficult it
can be to test the user experience on social network sites.

The way we use these sites evolves over time, so its not possible to
get a realistic assessment in a one hour user test. Conducting
multiple sessions with the same user over the course of a week-or-so
is difficult and expensive to organise.

I was wondering whether anyone has experienced the same issue and
whether you have come up with any innovative and commercially viable
solutions? Or is the solution to just put it up there and see if it
works?

frank

http://www.frontend.com

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13 Feb 2009 - 12:41pm
Samantha LeVan
2009

I conduct a diary/log study once or twice a year and find it
incredibly valuable for understanding what people are enjoying and
what the biggest frustration points are. My favorite study was a
workbook that asked participants to describe themselves and their
interests, followed by a detailed task to complete and log. We then
reviewed that task and covered what information was most or least
helpful for my project. Then the participants were guided to document
their real experiences for a month. It was a lot of work for both me
and my participants and a relatively low completion rate, but the
information gathered really helped drive the perception of our users,
personas, and solution ideas with engineering and marketing teams.

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15 Feb 2009 - 5:14pm
Anonymous

I agree that Diaries can be useful pre and post launch. For early
research into use contexts I have used what we called Mobile Diaries
which combine mobile phones and blogs to allow people to moblog in
situ as well as correspond online later and reflect. (The emphasis
here is more about reflection, experience and participation than
"logging").

They are an extension of traditional diaries but making the most of
connected and mobile devices. Frog (digital diaries) and Cheskin
(digital ethno) have done similar things, and KDA has an online blog
like tool (Revelation) specifically designed for online remote
qualitative research.

The use of social technologies to do research into social
technologies/social software (I call them symbiotic methods) opens up
some interesting possibilities for participation in design, and remote
research over-time. For another academic approach to this see
http://www.vtt.fi/whatsnew/2007/20070419.jsp?lang=en

So much of the design of these systems happens "in use" so there is
a strong argument for putting a core "something" out there and then
letting it evolve through user input. (oldish notes about emergent
use here by Peter Merholz just touching on some of the challenges
http://www.peterme.com/archives/000793.html). Even better if you have
a strategy for capturing how people are evolving and appropriating the
service. To pick up on another of Suze's points, developing a user
community online for feedback as you release (early and often) is a
viable and growing approach. Some bigger brands are doing this alot
already, - will hunt out some more examples when I am back at my
desk.

(Design methods for this kind of software development is central to
my thesis so I think this is a great question and am keen to discuss
further)

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