AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | Internet

My name is John Fallowsmith and I’m a Firefox lover. I’ve tried not to be so attached to my foxy little friend, but I can’t help it. Each time I stray elsewhere, I come back to her open arms, her many talents making any other browser seem limited and limiting.

Lesson Learned: Firefox is a free web browser created by Mozilla. It does many of the same things as other browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, in that it lets me surf conduct research on the web, read webpages, etc.

Where Firefox stands out is in its add-ons. Add-ons are little programs that add functionality to the browser, and there are over 5,000 from which to choose. Add-ons can make reading easier and safer, they can help you to find things more readily, they can greatly expand your bookmarking and annotation capability. Here are a few add-ons that have helped in my evaluation work.

Hot Tip – CoolPreviews: Mouse over a link to preview the website in a little pop-up without having to navigate to the site.

Hot Tip – FoxLingo: This all-in-one translation and dictionary tool supports over 3,000 languages. I’ve started collaborating with colleagues in Vietnam and Europe. Although we communicate primarily in English, they regularly share content in other languages. FoxLingo adds a little toolbar to my browser that will translate entire webpages, lets me put phrase into the search bar for translation, gives me a world clock to find common times for meetings, and a whole lot more. This is a daily go-to tool.

Hot Tip – Diigo Toolbar: I can highlight and clip text, bookmark pages, annotate pages, and save it all to my own Diigo account for access later. This makes online research – whether for your next trip or for background on your evaluation site – so much easier. Luisa Guillemard wrote more about Diigo back in December on aea365 (thanks Luisa – you got me hooked!).

Hot Tip – Read It later: So simple, yet so useful. Does two things that I love (it may do more, but this is all that I need): (1) one click saving of pages for reading later – including reading offline (great for plane), (2) has an option for stripping away images and ads so you can save just the text.

I can trick out Firefox to look just the way I like in a smart skin that makes it cute as a button and with tabs organized for easy browsing. Now I know that I may be blinded by love, so tell me – what are your favorites for Firefox? Or is your love Chrome, Safari, something else? Do share!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello! We are Xin Wang, Neeley Current, and Gary Westergren. We work at the Information Experience Laboratory (IE Lab) of the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri.  The IE lab is a usability laboratory that conducts research and evaluates technology. What is usability? According to Jakob Nielsen’s definition, usability assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. With the advancement of Web technology, in the past eight years, our lab has successfully applied a dozen of usability methods into the evaluation of educational and commercial Web applications. The evaluation methods that we have frequently used include: heuristic evaluation, think-aloud interviews, focus-group interviews, task analysis and Web analytics. Selecting appropriate usability methods is vital and should be based on the development life cycle of a project. Otherwise, the evaluation results would not be really useful and informative for the Web development team. In this post, we focus on some fundamental concepts regarding one of the most commonly adopted usability evaluation methods–Think-Aloud protocol.

Hot Tip: Use think-aloud interviewing! Think-aloud interviewing is used to engage participants in activities and then ask users to verbalize their thoughts as they perform the tasks. This method is usually applied during the mid or final stage of Website or system design.

Hot Tips: Employing the following procedures are ideal:

  1. Recruit real or representative users in order to comply with the User-Centric Design principles
  2. Select tasks based on frequency of use, criticality, new features, user complaints, etc.
  3. Schedule users for a specific time and location
  4. Have users operate a computer accompanied by the interviewer
  5. Ask users to give a running commentary (e.g., what they are clicking on, what kind of difficulty they encounter to complete the task)
  6. Have interviewer probe the user about the task s/he is asked to perform.

Pros:

  1. When users verbalize their thoughts, evaluators may identify many important design issues that caused user difficulties, such as poor navigation design, ambiguous terminology, and unfriendly visual presentation.
  2. Evaluators can obtain users’ concurrent thoughts rather than just retrospective ones, so it may avoid a situation where users may not recall their experiences.
  3. Think aloud protocol allow evaluators to have a glimpse into the affective nature (e.g., excitement, frustration, disappointment) of the users’ information seeking process.

Cons:

  1. Some users may not be used to verbalizing their thoughts when they perform a task.
  2. If the information is non-verbal and complicated to express, the protocol may be interrupted.
  3. Some users may not be able to verbalize their entire thoughts, which is likely because the verbalization could not keep pace with their cognitive processes–making it difficult for evaluators to understand what the users really meant.
Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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