Sunday, June 22, 2008

10 Web Tools to Create User-Friendly Sites

Ten tools to improve usability ...

"Surprisingly many tools exist on the web that can help your site become more inviting and easier to use. By now, you are probably familiar with the free tools offered by Flickr, del.icio.us, or YouTube for embedding images, tags, and videos on webpages. I highly recommend experimenting with these. Here is a comprehensive list of some perhaps lesser-known but equally useful tools for your site.

Recording Software

Webinaria.com

www.webinaria.com

With Webinaria, you can create free screen recordings of your website during usability testing and record voice commentary along with the video. Screen recordings are valuable during usability testing to show others how participants navigate and complete tasks on your current site or redesign.

Webinaria runs in the background, silently capturing everything that appears on the screen and saving a video file. Recording what users do is a crucial aspect of usability testing. One of the most useful recordings you can make is a video of screen activity, recording everything on the screen, much like a VCR: the movement of the mouse, scrolling on pages, links being clicked, the search terms being typed, and so on. A visual record of these mouse movements, keystrokes, and other activities is most useful in evaluating testing results. While there is no substitute for good observational skills, it can be difficult to remember everything that happened during the test. Having a visual record not only reminds you of what happened, it allows for more detailed analysis after the test and for comparisons between individuals. Recordings are created in Flash. You can customize the capture area and adjust the sound. It is only available for Windows operating systems.

Website Views in Multiple Browsers

Browsershots

http : / /browsershots. org

Are you tired of viewing your website in dozens of different browsers and their various versions to make sure it displays correctly? Have you ever tested your site in the browsers Iceweasel, SeaMonkey, or Flock, or are you shaking your head, trying to recall what those are? It is not very practical to download and install all the browsers you have to use to test your site. You could easily install the most-used versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera, but what about their previous versions? Browsershots makes screen shots of your web design in different browsers. When you submit your web address, it will be added to a job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your website in their browsers. Then they will make screen shots and upload them to a central server. It can be slow, but it works well. You will see where layouts are off-center or where text breaks badly.

Online Card. Sorting

WebSort

http://~websort.net

Card sorting is a way to study how people organize and categorize their knowledge. Card sorting is a user-centered design method used to gain a bet- ter understanding of how a website should be organized and made easier to use. The process involves having a user sort a series of cards, each labeled with a piece of content or functional- ity, into groups that make sense to the user. After sorting the cards into piles, the user is then asked to give the piles a name or phrase that would indicate what the concepts in a particular pile had in common. However, this process can be very time-consuming, and it requires having participants travel to your location. With WebSort you can avoid this because it is all on the web.

WebSort enables researchers to perform remote card-sort studies. Create a study, send a link to participants, and analyze the results- all through a web-based interface. WebSort provides easy-to- understand instructions for participants; these instructions can also be tailored to your needs.

WebSort offers studies with a limit of 10 participants, free of charge. If you decide WebSort meets your needs, you can purchase a subscription (a 50% discount is available to nonprofit institutions). Create a free account in 5 seconds and a new study in 5 minutes. Results are available in two formats: a visual tree display and a tab-delimited text file."    (Continued via redOrbit, Pretlow, Cassi)    [Usability Resources]

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