Selecting usersOne of the first steps is figuring out who is testing your designs. In our experience, we’ve found that the demographics aren’t as important as behavior and familiarity with technology. How often do they use similar platforms, and how comfortable are they? [pullquote]demographics aren’t as important as behavior and familiarity with technology[/pullquote] Yelp has a huge user base (138 million unique monthly visitors, according to Yelp’s Q2 2014 numbers) so our redesigned site still needed to be familiar to the average current user — it wouldn’t make sense to alienate existing power users in favor of wooing first-time users. We didn’t focus on age, gender, income level, or experience using the Web, since Yelp users come from all backgrounds. Because we’re handling qualitative data, we did not need to worry about statistical significance. We followed industry best practices and ran our study with a total of 5 users which would help reveal around 85% of usability issues (good enough for the exercise). One of the tasks required users to login to an account. This meant we needed to create two segments for our test base: one with Yelp accounts (3 users), and one without (2 users). For the segment with Yelp accounts, we only selected participants who had been Yelp users for less than 6 months to further eliminate the likelihood that they would be power users. Finally, for the sake of simplicity, we only tested Yelp’s website on desktops, not on mobile devices. (If this was more than just an exercise, we would have tested the experience on as many devices as possible.)
Creating tasks for our usersEvery usability test should start with the question, “What do we want to learn?” For us, we wanted to learn how semi-frequent Yelp users complete very common tasks (to identify which features were most important) and at least one less-common task (to test the intuitiveness of advanced features). We gave all users these types of common tasks:
- Focused task — Find a business based on very specific parameters
- Open-ended task — Find a business without being given very many guidelines
- Highly specific task — Look up a specific location to learn a specific piece of information
- Imagine you need to reserve a private dining space for a group of 15 people. You are looking for an Italian restaurant with a classy ambiance. Your budget is about $20 per person. Try to find a restaurant near you that matches all of these needs.
- Imagine you are driving through Boise, Idaho, and your car starts to make a strange noise right as you’re about to stop for the night. Your passenger recommends 27th St Automotive. Use Yelp to find out if they are open at 8:00 pm on Tuesday.
- Imagine your best friend is having a birthday soon, and you’ll be planning a party. Find 10 bars or lounges near where you live that you would be curious to look into later for the party. Save them so that you can easily find them again on Yelp.
- Go to the place where you saved the 10 bars for your best friend’s party. Keeping his or her tastes in mind, choose one that would be a good match.
- Use Yelp to find a new restaurant near you that you haven't been to yet. Spend no more than 5 minutes looking.
- Imagine you are looking for something fun and unique to do in your neighborhood this weekend. Try to find a concert, play, or other event using Yelp.
Breaking down the usability dataTo compare with the qualitative data we now had, we ran a quantitative test with 35 users with a closed card sort and a first-click test. You can learn more about the quantitative user tasks, but we’ll just summarize the top insights:
- The Search bar was the starting point for almost all tasks. It was also the preferred backup option when users weren’t sure how to interact with the site UI (e.g. searching for “Bars” instead of clicking the category). Our redesign definitely needed to prioritize the Search bar.
- The Events tab wasn’t noticeable. When asked to find an interesting activity, one user went to the Search bar while the other navigated through the Best of Yelp section. If we wanted users to actually interact with the Events feature on Yelp, we would need to make it easier to find.
- The price categories weren’t clear. When given a budget to find a restaurant, some useres weren’t sure what the dollar signs meant. In our new design, we added price ranges to the symbols.
- The filters aren’t prioritized correctly. People didn’t use 7 of Yelp’s 47 filters, and the most popular filters that arose in testing (such as “Accepts Credit Cards” and “Open Now”) take several clicks to access. Our redesign reorganizes filters into clusters of 4 for easier access.
- Photos are a key part of the experience. When asked to find restaurants with a certain ambiance, users relied on photos the most. Our redesign makes Yelp more visual.
- Bookmarking needs to be simpler. Currently, you can’t just save a restaurant or business straight from the search results — you need to visit each individual page to bookmark them. Our redesign lets you save a business with one click on the search results page.
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