Intranet task based testing (TBT) - Thoughtfarmer webinar

Where would you find the toilets?
Earlier this month I listened in on a very interesting webinar hosted by ThoughtFarmer on Intranet task based testing. This was the second in a series of webinars, following on from their previous session on card sorting. Unfortunately I hadn't attend the card sort webinar but it didn't matter as the speaker provided a quick review of card sorting and how task testing can work alongside card sorting when designing a new intranet or looking at updating an existing intranet.

The first thing the presenter looked at was what TBT could be used for, this includes:

  • Improving the organisation of your intranet
  • Improving top down navigation
  • Improving your structure terminology
  • Isolating a part of the intranet structure
  • Focusing on content design, not visual design
  • Getting user data early
  • A cheap and quick way to try out ideas (online only)

However TBT isn't good at everything so it shouldn't be used for:

  • Checking other navigation routes e.g. Search, contextual links or embedded links
  • Testing search
  • Testing page layouts
  • Testing visual design
  • TBT is not a substitute for site users testing usability
  • TBT is not a replacement for card sorting

Once you've decided that you're going to use TBT you need to think about what tasks you're going to select.

Selecting a task

When selecting a task it's vital to think about the following:
  • How critical are these tasks for peoples day to day work
  • How do the tasks align with your intranet strategy
  • What are some of the things people are currently having problems finding
  • Keep the task to a maximum of 10
  • Keep the time spent to a minimum and no more then 10 minutes

Writing the tasks

This is where it starts to get really interesting, when writing tasks you should ensure you think about the following:

  • Use real scenarios to make it believable
  • Don't use the name of the location of the information in the task
  • Keep it simple and to the point - don't embellish with a whole story
  • Read the task out loud

Once you've selected and written your task the final task is to choose your participants. The most important thing here is to choose participants from across the organisation and to choose a large number of participants. According to the speaker, you can never have too many participants, the feedback you receive will just add to the results. Once the tasks have been undertaken the only "task" left is to review the results, when doing this, the following are important:

  • There should be a success rate of 75-80%
  • How long does it take to complete the task
  • How direct was the route to find the information
  • Where did people go first was there a patter in the click paths

If it's obvious that people are struggling to complete certain tasks then an intranet manager should think about updating the information architecture to make the click path to the content easier.