Weeknote 23rd Sept 2002 – Accessibility testing, live demoing & a car breakdown!

A 4 day work week this week due to the state funeral on the Monday. Unfortunately the week started with a dead car battery up a private track in coastal Suffolk. The AA responded swiftly, and I was pleasantly surprised at the price they charged us for a new battery, which was comparable to sourcing and fitting it ourselves from a shop.

While I was away my fellow User Researcher on GOV.UK Forms had booked in lots of the sessions we had been planning in the last few weeks so I jumped straight in.

We had 6 usability sessions this week on our prototype form builder with people with accessibility needs. We’re running sessions like this periodically through our Private Beta to get feedback from people with a range of needs, some of whom use assistive technologies.

My colleague was leading these sessions and I joined to observe and take detailed notes, with us both working together to analyse what we’d observed on the Friday. We also had quite a few colleagues join to observe and take notes through the week. There’s nothing quite like observing a session in real time to tune in to the testing and engage with what has been learned, so it’s great that many people from other disciplines on the team are able to do this.

We usually run analysis sessions with many others on the team, but with current deadlines and goals we covered these ones just among the user researchers and will present back next week.

We learned lots of useful insights. As usually seems to happen in these sessions, there were a number of key considerations for people with access needs that came out, and some other insights that may need to be considered for any users despite their access needs.

It was particularly useful working with users with visual impairment who use screen reader technologies to access websites. I’ve working with users using screen readers before, but I felt this round gave me some deeper insights that have shifted my mental model slightly about how many users of screen readers experience web based tools.

I also finished my planning for some work we are doing next week with document based form creators to better understand their mental models. We’re looking at the form building process in general, and then the way they think about a certain type of question our interaction designers are currently building. It’s going to be more of an interactive workshop than an interview so I’m looking forward to those sessions.

Following my live demo of GOV.UK Forms for the COO of the Civil Service a few weeks back, I was asked to do another demo for some senior colleagues from another department. It’s always interesting live demoing to people and hearing the kinds of questions they come up with.

Since I started I have mainly been focusing on the functionality of the digital product for Forms. However, there is a whole service design side to the project in understanding how departments might discover the tool, onboard with it and integrate it into their ways of working.

No doubt I’ll be doing more work on this as the product features mature and we look more towards a Public Beta. For now, these demo sessions are giving me some interesting insights into how senior leaders think about the product and how it might have an impact on their departments.

This weekend we’re just at home, with a friend’s birthday party in London to go to on Saturday evening.

Next week I’ll be running that first mental models workshop, looking into some technical workflows so we can test with users on our production platform in addition to our design prototype, and planning for next sprint.


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