Design, Technology, and Innovation Projects
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Usability testing the prototype

A woman stands in front of a usability test recruiting sign at the New Central Library After creating the prototype, we do usability testing. “Usability testing refers to evaluating a product or service by testing it with representative users. Typically, during a test, participants will try to complete typical tasks while observers watch, listen and takes notes.” Reference: usability.gov This lets us see how to make the new foster application work for our users.

Before you can test, you have to find representative users to test out the form. This the biggest challenge of research! This time, we had an idea of how to make it easier while also getting a better representation of the diverse residents of Austin - go to public libraries.

We chose our libraries based on which could get us a better diversity of ethnicities, digital literacy levels, ages, and socioeconomic groups - Little Walnut Creek Library, the Central Library, and Carver Library. As a result, we got much better diversity than the previous round of testing: Image of spreadsheet with diverse demographics

However, there was a flaw - we got less of the people who usually fill out the foster application - women, and people who are actually considering fostering. So next time, we will modify our strategy to try to satisfy both those and the diversity needs when recruiting test participants.

We had two stations at each library - someone signing up library visitors for test timeslots and the test station. We call it testing, but it’s not a test of how well the user understands the design. It’s a test of how well the design works for the user. We made sure to tell users this to make them feel comfortable letting us know what doesn’t work or what is confusing for them. We loved speaking with the community and hearing their feedback! We look forward to analyzing the data and sharing the results. Julia and a test participant sitting at a table at Little Walnut Creek Library

Celine and a test participant sitting at a table at Carver Library

Designing and testing for accessibility

We want to make sure the foster form is accessible, so we’ve been making those considerations from the beginning. We made sure to follow accessibility best practices during design, such as by only choosing design elements that work with a screen reader and by trying to simplify language as much as possible.

Our designer ran through the prototype with accessibility evaluation tools and her personal screen reader to identify gaps in the experience. It was the first time I have used a screen reader, it was a fun learning experience! Screen shot of accessiblity evaluation tool

Screen shot of a screen reader on page

We are also doing usability testing with users who have different accessibility considerations - a person with limited English, someone with ADHD, someone who uses enlarged text, and two people who use screen readers. Julia sitting down with a woman who uses adaptive technology and her service dog

A close up of the adaptive technology in use

Our next steps are to:

  • Determine results of the usability tests
  • Make improvements to language and design
  • Transition the prototype into the real form on the alpha.austin.gov site

If you have questions, contact julia.byron@austintexas.gov or amenity.applewhite@austintexas.gov.