Sunday, September 12, 2010

Practical Usability Testing -> China Tour

A question to automation experts, testers, developers -> "Can you automate usability testing?"
My answer to this question is I can't, you have to have human intelligence involved in it. Exploring the user's experience and thoughts and asking questions and noting down information about as how user is using, seems to be the effective way of evaluating usability testing. Though usability testing can be structured in a various way according to needs and available resources.

The common questions I ask while doing usability testing are :

"What is it?"
"Can I use it?"
"Does it make sense?"
"Is it easily understandable to how to do it or how it is done?"
"Where am I?"
"Where can I go and can't go?"
"Why I did what I did and why I didn't do what I didn't?"
What is the most attracted thing appeared?"

How usable to tour China(Guangzhou city):

The first usability issue I faced was language barrier as I didn't know Chinese language. But then I have managed to understand most of the material's functionality through the pictures and signs printed on the materials which made me realize the usefulness of pictures and signs for understandability of functions.

This scenario can be linked to websites that is not being localized. So if there were pictures and signs along with the terms/menus/links then I think it would have more been user friendly website. From then I continue to promote to add pictures and signs along with the menus/links in the website to boost the user friendliness of the website's functions understandability.

For example if you look at the first image below, you can see a box and some label is being printed upon it but as the language was not known by me I can not understand what was the functionality of materials inside the box. But if you look at the second image, there are some signs also printed along with some Chinese texts. Now by seeing the signs I can easily understand the functionality of the materials inside the box which is "Fire Hydrant".


Other than that I have faced and experienced some interesting scenario which can be linked with some scenarios which I have faced during software usability testing.

Evaluating Boarding Pass:
This is a sample boarding pass of China Eastern airlines.


Issue 1: Passenger's name is being overlapped on the next field "BD TIME". [GUI problem]
Issue 2: The seat no. is being printed far from from the "SEAT" field. There are other similar issues.
Issue 3: The term "BD Time" means Bangladesh Time, but it would have been better if the term was written as "Departure Time". And may include the term  "BD Time" at the end of the time shown.
Issue 4: There is no " : " or " - " to separate the minutes and seconds shown at "BD Time" field.

 At Bus stoppage:
Wherever you go "Bus" seems to be the only solution as transportation for moving around the city efficiently and cheaply. But if you don't know which bus to take and where will the bus go, then it might not be the best solution. However I have managed to understand the system by looking at the boards at bus stoppage where the stoppage names are printed like below images.

Lets see how I have figured it out though I didn't know Chinese language. I used to make my hotel manager write down the destination name in chinese in a paper before I leave my hotel. Then I would show that paper to taxi driver/ bus driver/people if I get lost. But the problem was which bus to take and to understand after how many stoppage the bus will reach the destination.
If you closely analyze the stoppage names, you will see that in the horizontal list of stoppage names some are printed as red color. And vertically all red colored texts are same. The made me understand that this is name of the stoppage I am currently standing on left ones from the red stoppage name are already visited by the bus and right ones are to be visited.
Which made me realize the importance of coloring and navigational panel which we see often in the websites and sometimes we don't see as navigational panel. But a well designed navigational panel surely will improve any website's usability as the navigational panel and proper coloring would help the user understand where s/he is and after what sequence of actions s/he reached at current state of the website for backtracking and to have a sense of actions performed and for mapping out the website.

At underground Metro Station:
I found a very good example of navigational map at underground metro station where there is a word "You are here" and pointing at where you are in the map. See the image below:

At road traffic stop:
At road traffic stoppage I have seen an interesting thing which I have not seen in my country's traffic stoppage. And that is a timer is being shown at every stoppage which is indicating after how much time the red signal will become green or when green will become red. See the below video:
How many times you have seen the loading scenario when you go to a website. But there is no timer is shown to help the user estimate the time needed to load the website. Which may occupy user's valuable time starring the loading animation of that site because the user doesn't know the time needed to load. But there were timer, the user can switch to other tasks that can be done within the time left to load the website.
This traffic signal timer made me realize how can the loading scenario can be improved by adding a simple timer.

I don't bind myself to test only software. I try to test everything evolving around me. And learning through practical scenario.

8 comments:

gizmo said...

I just went through your Boarding pass section. Here's my comment

Issue 1: Passenger's name is being overlapped on the next field "BD TIME". [GUI problem]

- not a GUI problem, it is rather a dot-matrix printer vs paper alignment problem.

Issue 2: The seat no. is being printed far from from the "SEAT" field. There are other similar issues.

- Same issue, printer/paper alignment problem. This happens a LOT when you are using a dot matrix printer.

Issue 3: The term "BD Time" means Bangladesh Time, but it would have been better if the term was written as "Departure Time". And may include the term "BD Time" at the end of the time shown.

- BD Time means Boarding Time, not Bangladesh time. They won't print ticket for each of the countries. Besides that, Boarding/Arrival times are always printed/mentioned in Local time.

Issue 4: There is no " : " or " - " to separate the minutes and seconds shown at "BD Time" field.

- They have used "24-hour clock" because it eliminates extra : or - or AM/PM, and confusion about AM/PM.

I'd say the design is pretty feasible. Printing an extra character means extra second for per ticket. Consider 200 passengers on a queue. You can save 200 seconds = around 3 minutes just by not printing a character!

scornik said...

@Gizmo:
Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

quoted from gizmo's reply->"not a GUI problem, it is rather a dot-matrix printer vs paper alignment problem."
==> Alignment problems are considered as GUI issue at testing field. Alignment issues are subset of GUI issues.

quoted from gizmo's reply->"Same issue, printer/paper alignment problem. This happens a LOT when you are using a dot matrix printer."
==> Again as I have explained as above, alignment issues are considered as GUI issues. And nice to see you have find out the root cause behind this alignment issues. Then the solution may be changing the hardware that used to print the boarding passes, I guess :).

quoted from qizmo's reply-"BD Time means Boarding Time, not Bangladesh time." ==>Didn't know that. Thanks for letting me know. But it seems like "BD" term doesn't seem to be global enough and user friendly term. It fooled me, and it can fool others too. Because in Bangladesh, we write "BD" in short instead of writing "Bangladesh". So, may be for other countries the term "BD" is OK, but I think for BD people, for some who is first timer seeing boarding passes may get confused seeing "BD" term. The issue can be considered as localization problem.

quoted from gizmo's reply->"They have used "24-hour clock" because it eliminates extra : or - or AM/PM, and confusion about AM/PM."
==>Hmm, didn't know that information that using 24 hour clock eliminates ":" and "-". I was fooled by the following link: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24-hour_clock", where 24 hours time showing with ":". But how can a user know that the time is showing as 24 hours system? My suggestion would adding "hrs" after digits as a standard of distinguishing between 12 hour time and 24 hour time.

quoted from gizmo's reply->"I'd say the design is pretty feasible. Printing an extra character means extra second for per ticket."
==> Well, the design is feasible but but not good enough to me. And I completely agree with your second point. :)

Selim Mia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Selim Mia said...

Nice post!! all the examples of usability attributes are splendid except the layout issues of Boarding Pass :)

Keep blogging!!

scornik said...

@Selim Mia,

Thanks. :)

The reason I have pointed out the layout issue is that sometimes workable products are not good enough for customers like me :D. There is always scope for improvements. Though I know that user/customer satisfaction value may vary from company to company.

Will keep blogging as long as I continue to gather new knowledge. :)

Santhosh Tuppad said...

Good post Ashik. Keep it up. And also help others understand importance of usability by interacting with them, meeting them etc.

*Thumbs up*.

Thanks,
Santhosh Shivanand Tuppad

scornik said...

@Santhosh, Thanks :).

Rizwan said...

Ashiq,

Found your blog while searching for some stuff. really liked the way you've judged every smaller stuffs. Interesting and innovative post. keep it up :).