Djangocon: Better web applications through user testing - Ludvig WadensteinΒΆ

Tags: django, djangocon

(One of the summaries of a talk at the 2015 Djangocon EU conference).

Ludvig Wadenstein is a developer, but he also does a lot of UX (user experience) work and user testing. What is user testing? You make someone use your application and see what comes out of it. Then you fix things.

Why user testing? You see if your user “gets” your UI. And you get a fresh look. And perhaps you discover small changes that can make a big difference.

Test while you build it and test it when it is finished. Keep in mind that the earlier you test, the cheaper it is to change something. A rule of thumb is to test it once a month.

Who should be your test participant? Don’t focus too much on finding the perfect participant, almost everybody is OK as long as they don’t have much experience with building the system. Aim for a mix of beginners and experts.

There are many ways to test. Their method takes about 50 minutes. They have two rooms, one is the test chamber, the other is the observation room.

  • In the test chamber you have the participant and a facilitator. The facilitator should make the participant speak out what they do. And of course a computer.
  • The observation room should include as many of the team as possible to learn from it. Snacks seem to work well to lure them in. You really want a separate chamber because you don’t want 15 team members hovering over the participant’s shoulder :-)

Ask the participant for first impressions about your landing page. This gets them to think out loud and get comfortable with testing. Tell them beforehand that it is about testing the website, not about testing the performance of the participant. Don’t help them unless they are really stuck. Prepare a couple of test tasks beforehand.

Afterwards, the facilitator meets with the other developers. Agree on the top 3 to-fix priorities. Plan when to fix those things. It is fine to also make a list of low hanging fruit.

Lastly, plan the next session. You really want to do it regularly. You will find new issues next time.

There are some alternative methods:

  • Remote user testing. Screen sharing tools. You might get technical issues. It is cheaper, though.
  • On-site user testing. You get a more realistic environment, but higher travel costs.
  • Unmoderated remote testing. Someone just uses your site for a while and clicks around and sends you the video of it afterwards. Cheap and it might be useful.

If you found it interesting, read some more about it. For instance the book “don’t make me think” by Steve Krug. Same author: rocket surgery made easy. And Donald Norman’s “the design of everyday things”. ( *Note: I liked that last book. You look at doorknobs and light switches in a different way afterwards :) * )

(Perhaps interesting: a report + video of a ui/ux course I did with some colleagues, including ‘paper prototyping’)

Holiday picture from the Eifel region
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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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