Tag: usability

Device and browser testing tools

If you’re impatient, like me, you might agree that the worst part of making an online resource is testing the interface across devices and browsers. The golden rule that I tout is that all websites I make should look their best no matter how they are accessed: at any resolution, on any common mobile or desktop device, in all common browsers up to 7(ish) years old.

This is hard. Stupid hard. There are so many little quirks in how different devices/browsers choose to display even run-of-the-mill HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. So you either design super simple interfaces, or you do the legwork and make sure your code checks out across the spectrum. But how do you do that?

You can choose to own many devices (or virtual machines) and maintain a stable of old and new browser versions, which is tough but gives you the best taste of the user’s experience. Serious devs and tech companies usually have quite a collection of devices.

Your other option: you’ll have to rely on emulation software. My favorites:

Testing an Android device (click to enlarge)
Testing an Android device (click to enlarge)

BrowserStack — 60(?) minutes of free testing, then $19/mo for individuals thereafter. Test your URLs in a ton of browsers and in the most common desktop/mobile platforms. Their emulator is interactive, so you can click, scroll, and type.

Testing IE8 (click to enlarge)
Testing IE8 (click to enlarge)

NetRenderer — old reliable here. Test for free in IE 5.5–10. Paste in a URL and get a screenshot of how it looks on the screen, with the option to offset the screenshot by a number of pixels to peek past the fold.

What device/browser testing tools do you use?

Library website usability testing: sample scripts

If you haven’t done a usability test on your library’s online services in the last 12 months, you’re overdue! Web trends and user expectations change at a fast rate, as do the many parts of a library’s resource ecosystem. Before rolling out the new Lloyd Sealy Library website in December, I conducted a usability test on the beta version of the site in November. The feedback from students and faculty was helpful in refining parts of the site that weren’t as usable — in areas that were already of concern to us and in places we didn’t know were problematic.

There are a bundle of resources out there for usability testing, but not many example scripts specifically for library websites. Below are the scripts I used for students and faculty. Note that this is tailored to John Jay College’s Lloyd Sealy Library website, so some tasks might not be phrased the same way or even performed on your site. At the bottom of this post, I’ve included some notes about this usability study and my approach.

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