Initial test user thoughts, and my cautious optimism

November 5, 2010

We recently had our very first guinea pig researcher evaluation exercise of the nascent Cambridge web pages for data management support. This was, as you might imagine, very helpful. We’ve been squinting into our computer screens for a while on these, and this gave us an opportunity to take a quick step back and make some adjustments.

We have now received a bit of support and encouragement for our (a) FAQ-centric format, (b) light-weight level of detail with many ‘further reading’ links for adventurous souls, (c) categories of support/guidance, i.e. ‘managing your data’, ‘organising your data’, ‘accessing your data’, and ‘looking after your data’, and (d) topics.  So, with this first data point, I breathe a tentative sigh of relief. Wheh!

There were also some well-earned criticisms and helpful suggestions. Here are some of those:

  • Practice what you preach! (We have instructed researchers to use open formats, and, where necessary, use PDF/A rather than PDF formats. But we had a lone Excel spreadsheet attachment on one of our pages. Hmm…)
  • ‘Teaser’ text explaining links or categories must be precise and complete. (This may sound obvious, but it’s encouraging to see that our test user read and depended on this text, and we will give it some more thought).
  • Including Pros & Cons is pretty much always helpful, especially when a question has no definitive answer that will serve all users best.
  • ‘Return to top’ buttons are a site user’s best friend!
  • Reminder: There are preferred formats for preserving file content in the long term, and preferred formats for preserving maximum file usability in the short/medium term, and the two aren’t always the same; we need to make sure that users understand this.

We’re continuing the work on the Cambridge and Glasgow websites, associated training resources, and data-management related workshops hosted at each institution.

As part of this process, we are hoping to send some of our draft resources your way soon, for your thoughts and appraisal. More on that soon– watch this space!

And, of course, as always, please send your thoughts on website usability and communication in our direction! Finally: have a safe, fun, and scalding-free fireworks weekend!


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