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The Usability Phone Interview

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peter van dijck

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User since: 22 Oct 1999

Articles written: 23

Yes you�ve read that correctly. Necessity being the mother of invention, I recently had the chance to conduct some usability tests � over the phone.

What happened:

I wanted to test if a site gave enough information and led its� first time visitors smoothly through a subscription process. I wanted to find out if any questions were left unanswered, and if the navigation was clear.

This was a site that only really works for people when they subscribe to it. It gives highly specialized content to a highly specialized group of (highly paid) people. I couldn�t visit any test subjects for this test, or get them to visit me, but I wanted to test them, not other people, so I decided to test them over the phone.

The plan was like this:

I would phone these users (they were expecting the phone but were not told anything about the site) and ask them to think out loud over the phone and go through the site. I asked them specifically to voice the questions that came to them that weren�t immediately answered by the website, and any navigation problems they might have.

Would it be useful? I was to find out soon enough�

The test:

The test went surprisingly well.

The people I talked with were happy to be asked their opinion, and gave me quite a bit of valuable feedback. I walked them (or they me) through a subscription form, and they voiced their comments. I also asked them a bunch of questions afterwards, and had pages full of hastily scribbled notes to start redesigning on. A success.

Obviously this kind of haphazardly gathered feedback is no replacement for more extensive testing, but when you need to test a very specific audience on a specific part of a site and you don�t have time to visit them (or they to see you), it�s an option. And options make us happy. (me anyway)

Peter Van Dijck is an Information Architect with an interest in localization, accessibility, content management systems and metadata.
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