Thursday, June 19, 2008

MindCanvas Review

A review of a usability testing tool ...

"MindCanvas describes itself as a remote research tool that uses Game-like Elicitation Methods (GEMs) to gather insights about customer’s thoughts and feelings. It was developed by Uzanto Consulting, a web product strategy firm. When I first learned about MindCanvas, I understood it to be an online card sorting tool. Happily, it’s much more than that.

As a veteran IA consultant, I have used MindCanvas a handful of times during the course of different projects. I have also conducted card sorting exercises without the tool. I am thrilled to have a useful—and user-friendly—tool at my disposal. One of my main reasons for selecting MindCanvas was the reputation of one of its creators, Rashmi Sinha. She is well known and respected, and I felt assured that any tool designed by a fellow IA for IAs couldn’t be all that bad. I was right.

MindCanvas provides open and closed card sorting capabilities, as well as a host of other UT tools: Divide-the-Dollar, Clicky, Sticky, Concept Test, and FreeList. Clicky and Sticky allow users to react to a wireframe or prototype by answering questions about images and content, or applying stickies (Post-it–like notes) with attributes to a visual image. FreeList and Divide-the-Dollar allow you to elicit product ideas and prioritize them by having participants list and rank the features they find most useful. All of these methods offer easy-to-use interfaces to help your research participants along.

Deciding which MindCanvas method to use is one of the more complicated parts of the tool. It’s card sorting methods are good for validating a site’s navigation or information hierarchy. You can also explore user needs and values and gather feedback on brand and positioning by using some of its more specialized UT methods. MindCanvas’ website and supporting help wiki provide information on selecting the appropriate testing method for your website or product.
Using MindCanvas

The basic process for using MindCanvas is as follows:

1. After payment, sign an agreement to obtain a login and password.
2. Decide which method (i.e. Sticky, FreeList, etc.) addresses your research needs.
3. Create potential research questions and tasks based on the MindCanvas method you have selected.
(I’ve used OpenSortand TreeSort).
4. Upload questions to MindCanvas’ Workbench.
5. Test the research study and make changes until you are satisfied with it.
6. Send out the test site URL to your participants.
7. Monitor the study (i.e. see how many people have completed all the tasks).
8. When the study is concluded, send a report request to the MindCanvas team.
9. Receive the reports in visual form and download raw data from the MindCanvas site.
10. Embed reports into PowerPoint or Word document and review results with client.

I usually take several days to review the reports before showing them to my consulting clients. Doing so allows me to more easily explain the results."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows, Sarah A. Rice)    [Usability Resources]

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