Remote user testing – or what I learnt from Michele Ide-Smith

I was tipped off that I should talk to Michele about remote user testing at the recent UK Govcamp 2012.

I was lucky enough to meet Michele who very kindly gave up a fair amount of time to cover some of the basics.

Some of us have probably seen some kind of user testing that either involved a facilitated discussion or maybe one to one script testing watched by a one way mirror. This is always fun and revealing.

But what do you do if you don’t have much time, budget or you want to test a very specific point? This is where remote testing might help and compliment other approaches.

If you want to film what users do generally you use a tool such as Gotomeeting to start the initial log in. You then use one of the filming tools below to track what users actually do. Of course there is a bit more to it than that which is why you might need to approach an expert like Michele.

So here are some tools or sites that you might want to have a look at:

Camtasia – if you want to film online what a users does with your content.

Silverback – Guerrilla usability testing software for designers and developers (of course)

Chalkmark – screenshot testing with heatmaps

Crazyegg – heatmap tracking

Treejack – to test your IA – lots of advice

UXdesign.smashingmagazine – even more advice

You can also read the article by Nick Breeze on the Government Digital Service site with a useful slidedeck.  

I have also used Clicktale to log what users do on my other blog.

Q. So what was the one key message from Michele?

A. Keep testing on a regular basis – all those small improvements add up. 


Recommended book – Rocket surgery made easy by Steve Krug of course.

If you have any sense you might also want to follow Michele @micheleidesmith




Tracking social media sharing with Google event tracking

I mentioned a while ago some great training we had with Andrew Hood on Google Analytics.

The one big thing that we have followed up is setting up some event tracking. These are actions that involve some kind of interaction with a site usually involving clicking on something.

Helpfully the new version of Google Analytics has, under Content, an Events option.

So what have we done?

Recently, and much later than we should, we have put some share buttons on our website. We did not what to use Sharethis and similar tools as they are not as accessible as we would have liked.

So now we have buttons for Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Google+ with Delicious and Stumbleupon to follow shortly.

We also have sign-ups on each page to our email alerting system which we imaginatively called NAOdirect; plus a collated RSS feed.

We then added event tracking to each of these buttons, the email sign up and the RSS feed.

Now the amazing bit. If you go into event tracking there is an overview of how often each of these tools have been used. Which is nice.

There is another view by page so you can see how much and by which tool the content on a page has been shared.

So what are the scores on the doors?

Click here to view full size

The good news is that the email sign-up is extremely popular followed by Twitter with lesser amounts of Facebook and RSS.

So what does this tell us?

Well it helps indicate which channels are more popular with our users. Also it gives a bit of a feel as to the relative level of popularity of content.

Click here to view full size

So how useful is that! Very I would say.

What is the value of our content – part 2

This is a variation of my previous musing about what would we do differently if we, or our authors, got a pound for everytime their report was downloaded.

I was telling a new colleague about this idea recently which then made me follow this line of thinking a bit further.

I once went on a site visit to Sainsbury’s HQ in London. They said that every senior manager was an advocate for a particular brand. This meant that they had to push it internally, encourage their friends to buy Jaffa cakes, or whatever their particular line was.

Just imagine if our authors did get a pound for every report downloaded. What if they were the author of the report about Neurological services?

They go to a party and introduce themselves.

‘Hi, I am Fred I work at the NAO I wrote the report on Neurological services. You might have heard about it on the news? Do any of your family have any neurological conditions?

‘Oh they do – it might be worth you having a look at our report and see what we found out?’

Occasionally Fred picks his boy up after school, he is a busy auditor after all. If he is not too late he has a chat with the other parents. As new people turn up all the time he starts introducing himself and talking about the report he worked on. Ker chink. That’s another pound.

Fred decides to have a look at his profile on Linkedin and realise that though he says he works at the NAO he does not really say what they does. That is soon fixed – ‘I work in the area that audit health issues’. ‘ I was part of the team that worked on the Neurological services report’ – of course he includes a link to the report because he will get a pound for each download.

Ahem, Fred suddenely remembers his Twitter account. What about adjusting his profile?  It’s quickly done and another link is created.

It takes a while but it suddenly clicks with Fred that if he used his Linkedin account to join some networks that deal with health issues he could push the Neurological services report. Ha, money in the bank he thinks.

Nearer home Fred remembers his overused Facebook account. Time for another link. Of course now that he is getting a pound for each download the next time a friend starts talking about health issues he’s pushing his report.

You get the idea.



What happened to my digital camera at Christmas? Not a lot!

I would not call myself a Luddite but equally I would not call myself a forward thinker. As you are about to see….

When mobile phones first came out with cameras in them I thought ‘well that’s a waste of time’, ‘what fools are going to use such a thing?’ I distinctly remember being at a Tube station and inwardly mocking someone using their phone to take a picture of their friends.

I do a lot of inwardly mocking by the way, a bad habit.

So in the end I got a phone with a camera, an Iphone of course. Over time I even got to use it a bit and linked it to an Instagram account, Yfrog etc.

At Christmas as I was packing I thought ‘must take my camera’ which I duly packed in my bag.

When I was back in London, and unpacking after visiting my relatives, I found my camera again and went ‘oh I never even took it out of my bag!’


Of course because I was inside relatives’ houses if I needed to take any pictures I used my phone.

Then I thought back to the time when I had inwardly mocked those new users of cameras in phones.

How the mighty (mockers) are fallen.

Dare I add that I never thought that Kindles would take off either? Of course now I feel a fool finding out that over 1 million were sold at Christmas in this country.

All I will say is don’t rely on me for technological predictions.