PA 9 – Beta testing responses

As I described in one of my previous blog posts I sent a questionnaire out to 10 participants. I received feedback from six over the weekend which I believe is enough to record my results.

Overall there were positive responses to my questions on functionality. Every button worked and every picture loaded, but I found a variety of critiques on the ease of use of my project. For the participants I sat down with I found myself explaining what to do a lot of times. One suggestion, that could go under style was to have each feature loaded in the sidebar as a waypoint, that way no one would accidentally skip over some features (which many participants admitted did happen).

In terms of the authors intent, the participants suggested that I place a blurb at the beginning of the neatline exhibit explaining the intent. While a few participants read through my introduction and literature review on the other exhibit pages, others admitted that those were a little long to read for a website. Many that I sat down with understood the intent once I explained how to work the neatline exhibit, but finding a way to limit my need for explanation would be helpful. I have instructions at the bottom of the exhibit but, again,one participant suggested for them to go at the top. While this is an excellent suggestion, I am not quite sure how to do this.

The questions that received the most feedback were the ones surrounding style. One suggestion was to include a variety of the images I have collected throughout my project. Because I have these already digitized, the participants argued that it would make the text seem a lot shorter if there are images to accompany it. While I do not agree that it will make the text shorter, adding pictures will add context and another visually appealing aspect. The trick now is to figure out how to add images without it getting to cluttered. I had a lot of feedback about the timeline feature. While I thought it was extremely cool that the participant was forced to scroll through time and various maps would pop up, one participant found this confusing, one was not sure when the chapters switched, and one admitted that she could not figure out how to use this feature. One participant suggested having each chapter available on the sidebar or make them visible on the actual timeline itself. While I was against putting them on the sidebar at first, the participant had a convincing argument. They said that although I want my text to be read in sequential order, one of the most powerful parts of my project is comparing maps from time periods that are very far apart.

The most useful feedback I received about the storytelling part of my project goes alongside functionality. For two participants it was their first instinct to click on the chapter title instead of introduction first. While I said in the instructions to select introduction to begin the story, two participants said that instinct will probably win over my instructions. With that they argued that my story would flow very well if I had the introduction be a part of the chapter title. I believe I want the introduction to be a separate step, but I think labeling each feature with numbers could direct the audience towards the linear story. One thing I don’t particularly like about that idea is that its interesting to click random features because many developments happened at the same time, and it allows for more interactivity. In all, the thing I will take from the suggestions about storytelling is that people will click on the chapter title first, and to make that an opening picture or statement about that chapter.

Many participants liked the interactivity of the project. One problem people ran into was the project looks different on different sized computer screens. For example, the project is very visually pleasing and easy to navigate on a school desktop computer, but a personal laptop was harder to see and click through buttons. I am not sure how to fix this besides explicitly saying that in the instructions. One participant did use her iphone with it which proved to be a huge disaster. Overall, all participants enjoyed clicking through the features, but mentioned that scrolling through the timeline was tedious. When I thought scrolling through years in seconds would not be tedious, I did not see the extra work it took participants who could not figure it out.

Lastly, I received interesting feedback on the purpose of my project. 8 5 informants said it added to their understanding of Davidson’s history and 1 said it added to their understanding of Davidson’s landscape history. This response was troubling to me. My purpose for my project was to examine social and landscape changes and how they are related, but I believe the environmental aspect was lost in the website. I think one way to fix this would be to explicitly state when I am talking about social changes, and when I am talking about landscape changes. Almost every introduction mentioned only social changes so I could rewrite that section to explicitly discuss social changes instead of presenting it as an overarching introduction to each chapter.

Along with purpose I added one question on my proposed map on the ideal Davidson. As I have already created this map I know I can add it easily, but I asked various participants what they thought and what they thought it would add. Overall 5 participants suggested that I leave the map out because it will not add to my overall purpose. 1 participant suggested that I put it in a different neatline exhibit. Because I want to spend my time making the best exhibit possible, I have decided to leave out this aspect of my exhibit. Hopefully this decision will not be a bad one.

In all, I received a variety of helpful suggestions which I plan to implement in the next few days.

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