You: An Essential Resource!
Feedback from users is an essential element in the design and development of Catalyst Web Tools and our physical Technology Spaces. We employ a user-centered design process, which means that we design and develop based on user needs rather than the features and constraints of a particular technology or space. In order to do this well, we must continuously involve users in our iterative development process. Whether we are designing from scratch or making revisions to something preexisting, users inform our actions at three important points: needs assessment, usability testing, and post-release feedback.
I. Needs Assessment
The first step in our development process is to understand what goals users have for teaching, learning, research, communication, collaboration, or other work, and what they currently do to meet these goals. We gather this data using a combination of interviews, observations, focus groups, and surveys. In our data analysis, we look at the particular tasks people undertake to accomplish their goals, the sequence of these tasks, and any obstacles people encounter in completing the tasks. We also look for opportunities to improve the efficiency of their workflow. At the end of the needs assessment phase, we have an understanding of users and their needs that helps us determine the functional requirements for a new design.
II. Usability Testing
Our design process leads to the development of a prototype of the new design. When a prototype is ready to test, we invite users to participate in usability studies. In these studies, we ask users to carry out a number of tasks using the prototype. The tasks are drawn from our needs assessment phase and reflect what typical users would do to accomplish their goals. Usability studies allow us to test how well our prototype meets users’ needs and expectations. For example, in testing the Catalyst Web Tools, we look specifically at the organization of functions and screens, the terms used for labels and buttons, and the visual presentation of information on each screen. Based on users’ performance and feedback, we refine the design before it is released for general use by the campus community.
III. Post-release Feedback
After we have developed and released a fully working version of a design, we continue to gather user feedback through a variety of forums (such as face-to-face support, email, workshops, observations, and advisory groups). We compile and analyze this data to inform the next phase of redesign. For some new Catalyst Web Tools, or for complex upgrades to existing tools, we may choose to release a beta version. Feedback from users who try out the beta version is then used to make revisions to the tool before its final release.
Users are essential to our development process. Having CUE teams comprised of users who have a variety of goals and expertise ensures that we hear from a representative cross-section of the campus community. Your participation in CUE allows us to effectively and efficiently recruit users for each phase of design and development.