I sent out a survey to five people and then also included my family who had originally seen the project to get more formalized feedback. For my beta-test, I asked the following questions: What are the critiques of the overall format of the website; What do you think about the following features (Timeline, Glossary, Map Overlays); Does the project fulfill the goals that it sets out to achieve; What information about Davidson would you like/need to know to make the site more interesting. The website that is discussed below can be accessed by clicking here.
In terms of the first question regarding the overall layout of the the website, I thought that perhaps there were too many dots and that people would not want to spend time looking through all the memories. The timeline, I hoped, might simplify this process if a user wanted to look at a specific decade. The comments that I recieved were positive about the layout and many enjoyed looking at the map. One person found the main flaw that I find with Neatline maps, which is the ability to zoom the map beyond the scope of the project, and another commented that the zoom button should be larger. One user liked the fact that the project automatically zooms in when you press a button, however, I do not like this feature and need to fix it. Another respondent had an issue with technology that prevented the satelitte image–the background of the base map–from loading. Other technological issues included a user who thought that the dots were hard to click on and see on one computer, but using the website on another computer fixed the problem. In terms of the website layout, one respondent suggested providing a route to find the main page again after entering the map, however, I believe this issue can be more easily solved if the users just press the back button on their browser. Another user reasonably suggested that I provide more a ‘user’s guide’ on the main page to help people navigate the page.
The specific features–the timeline, glossary, and map overlays–received mixed feedback. For the timeline, many respondents thought it was not easy to use, and some were misunderstood the question and, instead of looking at the timeline on the map, went back to the Neatline site and looked at the timeline page that was incomplete. In order to solve this issue, I have removed the extra page on the website. One respondent who had seen the project previously said, “I think that the layout is a bit more navigable with the dragging timeline.” Another user thought it was odd that the Neatline timeline extended far into the future and the past (I agree) and suggested sarcastically that maybe I should include future memories as well. Still another thought (as I do) that the aesthetic of the timeline is visually unappealing because it is too wide and overwhelms the map. Unfortunately, this cannot be fixed. Although the glossary page was not meant to be accessed through the Neatline page, some users, instead of finding words that hyperlinked to the page, went and looked at the glossary in order to respond to my question. Others could not find the glossary at all either from hyperlinked entries or on website. The glossary pages came form the Davidson archive, and included pictures and other quotes about the places. One user liked the picture aspect of the glossary, which makes me think I should add pictures to the main exhibit. Most appreciate the map overlays as a “cool addition,” but I do not think that most found it to be helpful in terms of thinking about the history of campus. One negative response thought that the overlay maps were, “Not very interesting, the old ones are kind of ugly lookig, the google map is the nicest.” One user though that the overlays are not an intuitive feature and he said, “Map overlays were really pretty cool, and helped me better relate the stories I was reading to the geography in which they took place- that being said, I wouldn’t have found it if you hand’t told me what to click.” For the same user that had previously faced technological issues, the overlays maps were “blurred and not helpful.”
In terms of content, given the responses of the respondents, I think that my original suspicion that there are too many dots is true. Many people get tired of looking through the memories and, thus, give recommendations for entries that already exist. For example, one respondent replied that he would have enjoyed longer entries about activities that occurred in specific buildings that might not take place there anymore, which is the entire point of most entries. However, I believe that his response may have been because this particular respondent moves in the science circles of Davidson that are not as prominent on the map. Many people said they would have liked to see more modern memories although others expressed their appreciation in the historical aspect of the project. For example, a history major that reviewed the project said, “I really like the idea of being able to hear voices from on campus over the course of many years. Its a good reminder that this is a dynamic and changing place.”
Other content related feedback regarded whether the project is interesting and what information would make it more informative. In terms of the whether the project was interesting, I got feedback that ranged from responses that the project was “moderately interesting” to users who just wanted to know “Where have people made out in the last century?” One user wanted to know the source of the memory, which is something that I could include in the ‘About’ section or in a ‘User Guide.’
From the responses that I got, I think that I need some way to limit the user and also guide them on how to use the site. Also, because not many people were that invested in exploring the site, maybe I need to think of some way to make the site more engaging, such as including pictures with every entry, providing more maps, or entering more modern memories.