New usability lab to study effectiveness of Web site designs

Sara Huebner

Logging on to a Web page is a normal day-to-day activity for many students, but it’s unlikely they’re thinking about what they concentrate on when they visit the page. A new lab in the Library will study just that.

The School of Library and Information Science in conjunction with the information architecture and knowledge management program held the grand opening of their usability lab yesterday in room 315 of the Library.

“This usability lab has taken a couple of years to get in place, but has finally come together,” said Rick Rubin, director of the School of Library and Information Science.

The purpose of this lab is to test what does and does not work on a Web site, said Aaron Rosenberg, information architecture and knowledge management graduate student.

Rosenberg said the company that is in charge of these studies is Tobii Technology, a company based in Sweden. They use ClearView Eye-Gaze Analysis software to track where the eye moves on a page and how long they are focused there.

“The program can even track pupil dilation and even frustration levels,” Rosenberg said.

And frustration levels were high for John West, vice president of research and dean of graduate studies, who was a test subject for Rosenberg yesterday.

West’s task was to find out how to apply to be a graduate student on the information architecture and knowledge management Web site.

West had a hard time finding the page to apply for the program.

“My frustration level just went way up,” he said.

Rosenberg said Web sites are arranged in a way that shows what is the most difficult and what is the easiest way to find information.

After the 20-second tests, the results are analyzed to see how people respond to the Web site. According to the Tobii Web site, the results show a screen of gaze plots, which provide a snapshot image of attention during a test. Gaze replay gives you a playback of the test session. It replays whatever the stimuli on the page were.

Hotspot visualization allows the researcher to clearly visualize the subjects’ gaze from multiple test sessions. The last analysis of the test is area of interest analysis. This allows the researcher to easily define and analyze areas of interest in the stimuli on screen. Test subjects answer questions after the test, and they help produce an evaluation of the Web site.

“This process works best when it is integrated into the building process,” Rosenberg said. “When a company comes in to build a site, we can track how well what they’re building works on customers.”

A usability panel discussion will be held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow in room 332 of the Library.

Usability professionals from Cleveland-area businesses will be discussing issues currently impacting the field. Among the panelists are Monica Fry of Intuit, Jeff Janis of Progressive Insurance, Jeff Pearl of eMergent Marketing and Ken Weiss of Progressive Insurance.

The event is being held as part of the grand opening week of the lab.

Contact libraries and information science reporter Sara Huebner at [email protected]