This week I had the opportunity to conduct some user tests on Matthew’s wireframes for the Teach site.*
The goal of the user test was to validate the information architecture. We tested two nav variations:
Nav B performed slightly better, but both variations had some challenges. We shouldn’t draw any solid conclusions from the tests, partially because it wasn’t a large enough sample (we had five user testers, which meets the best practice standard, but since we tested two variations, we should have had more), and partially because most of the participants were highly familiar with our work already, making them a somewhat biased sample.
However, the user testers were fantastic, and we were able to generate some valuable insights that will be useful moving forward. Here are some of the key learnings:
- Mentors want to connect with other mentors. Regardless of the task we gave them (“find something to do for your after-school program,” “find a way to improve your own skills,” “find people to connect with in your community”), nearly all of the user testers wanted to accomplish those tasks by seeing profiles of other mentors, learning about what those mentors had done, and finding ways to connect directly to them.
- Mentors make distinctions between independent, bite-sized activities, and full-blown curricula. There’s a need for both. The word “activities” seems to suggest shorter, one-off icebreakers and games, whereas some of the mentors expected to find full curriculum somewhere else (e.g. under “Clubs”).
- Mentors tend to know what they’re looking for. The wireframes introduced the idea of curated content—featured mentors, featured activities, and featured discussion topics. However, user testers consistently had a specific idea in mind, and gravitated towards the search field (even though it was nearly below the fold). We may want to promote searching over browsing, though we’ll likely want to pair it with the browsing framework provided by the web literacy map
- “Badges” is not a destination. Several testers were confused by the idea of a “featured badge.” In the users’ minds, badges are tied to skills and accomplishments, or perhaps pieces of curriculum, rather than being an end in themselves.
- People need pathways for becoming a mentor. For those who want to contribute as a mentor, but who don’t have regular access to learners (i.e. those who aren’t professional educators), we need to provide clear pathways and opportunities for mentorship.
That last point hints at a critical discussion we need to have about the various audiences we’re serving. Mentors who have regular access to learners have different needs from the mentors who don’t have that access. There are some overlapping needs, of course—namely, access to high-quality activities and professional development—but how we package those offerings will be different.
We’ll be exploring some options through the ongoing design process over the next few heartbeats.
Thanks to the very rad user testers who volunteered their time to help with this!
*I’m tempted to call this The Site That Shall Not Be Named, because the name is a little bit up in the air. It’s unlikely that we’ll go with “Teach.webmaker.org,” at least in part because our resources for teachers are not entirely tied to the Webmaker tools. In fact, our curriculum and resources are pretty tool-agnostic. “Mozilla Learning” might be a better encapsulation of our product offering.