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More (and faster) Usability Testing

May 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

Earlier this year I wrote about the benefits of remote usability testing. Here on Cisco.com, we routinely use remote collaboration tools such as WebEx Meetings to run tests with our customers worldwide. These tools are highly effective, because they let you reach out to customers across the globe and also allows the user to view and control web site prototypes or software applications that are in your test environment (that is, you don’t have to push your test site live or make the user install your app). Your customers can help you make your web site and products better, and in turn you will make them happier. An emerging trend is fast-turnaround online usability testing. This is a way of doing more, smaller usability tests harnessing the power of the Human Network, via online services that find test participants and record video for your sessions over the Internet.This new brand of remote testing helps with one of the challenges of traditional testing: it takes time to recruit users and set up tests, so even if you’re very ambitious, you can only test functions in big “batches” a few times per month because of the recruiting times, schedule booking, etc. But, as the demand for more effective designs increases, companies need to turn around tests faster and do more of them. Traditional testing — even remote facilitated testing — though very good for in-depth studies, doesn’t scale very well all on its own.Fortunately, newly emergent on the scene are extremely inexpensive services that allow you to test multiple users quickly with a video as an output. One company, “UserTesting.com,” offers this service for 15 minute tests at $30/person. I ran a test recently, and here is how it worked:

  • At 6 PM on Sunday, I went to their web site and posted a task: Use Cisco.com to find wireless for your PCs and laptops in your small business.
  • I specified Small Business as the audience, and chose some other demographic information.
  • I paid the fee for the test for two users (usually we would test with 5 to 8 users, but this was an experiment).
  • Less than two hours later I had links to two videos in my inbox that showed the users’ complete browsing experience from their desktops, and included their commentary as they went about trying to find the right router for their company. (The good news was they figured out where to go, but I will say we saw some rocks in the path that we need to clear.)

You can also use this technique as an easy way to test other sites (e.g. Cisco could test users reactions and impressions on a consumer online shopping site, for instance, if we were interested in understanding catalog browsing or checkout behavior). A few things to keep in mind:

  1. If you have a specialized user base (for instance, machine tools experts who visit your web site, or perhaps CCIEs), you will need to “recruit” these users yourself. This may be easy if you have a relationship with those customers, but it’s something to consider.
  2. While it’s easy to set up tests from a mechanical perspective, if you’re doing serious testing you want to have an expert designing your questions. This can be someone from your staff (if you have such an expert), or an outside usability consultant you work with.
  3. You still need someone to analyze the tests. If you don’t have time to watch all the videos and analyze comments, or you aren’t skilled at analyzing usability tests, you probably want to have someone knowledgeable do this part.

The recorded self-tests are just one type of user research available to you, but make a nice adjunct to facilitated WebEx sessions and other remote testing techniques.

Virtual, Your Way

May 28, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

Since my last post on Cisco Live Virtual 2009 there have been a lot of folks buzzing about the upcoming show. Some great feedback coming in on the environment and live agenda and of course we hope to get more, i.e. keep it coming!One theme that has been cropping up frequently is regarding a perceived ‘shift’ to a web based virtual program from a virtual world program. Just want to clarify that there is no shift really as we have been using both web based and virtual world platforms for more than 2 years now, since we made the shift from an online portal in 2007. See below for a list of what we use and why. :)

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Spime Design Workshops in Second Life at Cisco Works

“We have friends of friends networks and reputation scores when we trade online. We share our preferences and our tag clouds as well we make sure that we are recognized in our professional lives in a given social network or even our hourly updates of what is going on with our lives are known to the entire world. It is once again not a coincidence but is a necessity as these tools become widely available geography disappears.Ideas flow freely in the flat world we are inhabiting and this flow of ideas is enabled by the tools reinforcing the message. Especially in online worlds of which SecondLife is an excellent example, go in an entirely new forceful direction with the concept of extending the frontiers of where a corporation must tread and dare to tread. Because in an online world not only in the ‘traditional Internet with Blogs’ for example, you can go on and eliminate the differences between provider and consumer, between seller and customer. In online worlds you start to and involve what used to be called a client at even earlier stages in co-designing your next generation products. Together with whoever cares enough to invest their time. To invest their creativity from whatever you want to earn then and profit from”. David Orban, Chief Evangelist, WideTag and host and moderator of the Spime Design Workshops Read More »

Virtual Account Management

May 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

Cisco and Cisco.com feature prominently in a new FastCompany article about how companies are preparing for the economic upturn.The article talks about the “Virtual Account Manager” model for Cisco.com, which is our way of describing a mix of smart personalization, helpful product and program content, and click-to-chat capabilities that allow us to orient customers and connect them to the right partner or Cisco representative. “There aren’t enough salespeople in the world for what we need to do,” explains my boss Mike Metz. The picture below is not of Mike, by the way, but of Sue Bostrom, our Chief Marketing Officer, who is a big fan of Cisco.com:imageP.S. I think of these capabilities more as “Virtual Customer Connections” since they are about suggesting the right things to customers and connecting them to the right events, partners or other Cisco representatives. Customers need connections and interactions with our partners and real “account managers” today more than ever. The name “Virtual Account Manager” has stuck, though, and I have to admit it rolls off the tongue better!Enjoy!

Watch the Archive of Intelligently Stop Threats with Global Correlation

May 14, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

imageIf you didn’t see the recent announcements from Cisco Security on how Cisco is enabling you to collaborate with confidence, read the details now.This TechChat featured Danelle Au, Senior Product Manager, Security Technology Business Unit, and Rush Carskadden, Product Manager, IPS Technology Group, both from Cisco. During this TechChat our speakers discussed the newest capabilities of the Cisco Security portfolio announced at RSA, including IPS updates (global correlation for IPS) and an ASA feature (Botnet Traffic Filter). These will help simplify operations while providing even better threat mitigation for your organization.

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View this archived discussion to hear how these new capabilities help to:- Keep intellectual property protected with improved attack detection- Reduce total cost of ownership using more robust network intelligence for reduced network downtime- Protect your organization’s reputation with intelligent troubleshooting for threats Read More »