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Fors Marsh Group Wins NIH Contract to Improve Website Usability

featured / news / health / usability
Fors Marsh Group (FMG) earned a contract with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct usability testing of the NIMH website. FMG will identify ways to improve the web content, navigation structure, mobile friendliness, graphics, communication tools, and interactive content. The NIMH website serves as the principal resource for communicating and disseminating information about mental health and mental illness, grants, research, and training to the public. "We are excited to partner with NIH on improving the usability of such a critical public resource," said Dr. Brian Griepentrog, FMG’s Senior Vice President of Research. "This work draws upon our extensive health and usability research experience and will be a great effort for both groups." To learn more... more
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District of Columbia Civic Engagement Makes Local Government Forms Work!

featured / ux / user experience / usability / government / blog
Have you ever received a government form and struggled to complete it? Maybe you were confused by the instructions, unsure which boxes to use to enter information, or scratching your head about the terminology. You are not alone! We’ve all struggled at times with completing what we think should be a simple form. Although they can give us a headache at times, forms are absolutely critical—they are the primary way we interact with the government. DC Government agencies, with the support of The Lab@DC, have made a commendable, concerted effort to improve DC Government forms. The Lab@DC’s mission is to apply scientific insights and methods to inform DC Government’s most important decisions. About three months ago, three user experience (UX) researchers from Fors... more
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Making Websites Work Well for All - Usability and Accessibility

featured / usability / user experience / voting / evaluation
***This post was co-authored by Drs. Thad Hall and Sou Montazeri. Dr. Thad Hall has over 14 years of experience conducting public policy research for public sector clients and in academic settings, and works as Project Leader over FMG's Public Policy and Evaluation division. Dr. Sou Montazeri has over 10 years of experience in human-centered product design, design with intent, and user-experience thinking and research. At FMG, she is responsible for working with clients on the design, execution, and interpretation of UX research.*** As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is important to remember that the population of individuals with disabilities is not small. According to the Census, approximately 34.2 million Americans aged 18 and... more
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Webcams in Remote User Experience Testing - Advantages and Drawbacks

featured / user experience / eye tracking / usability
When it comes to UX testing of desktop websites and prototypes, our preference as UX researchers is to conduct moderated sessions in the lab because we collect richer qualitative data; however, remote moderated sessions have their own advantages. For starters, it's generally less expensive in that you don't have facility costs. It also allows you to obtain a more geographically diverse sample, because it eliminates the requirement that your participants be located within a certain distance from the facility. Lastly, it also helps mitigate lab effects because participants will (ideally) be interacting with the interface in their natural environments (1). The advantages of remote moderated testing are well-known, but some aspects that don't get discussed enough are the technical requirements and the necessary equipment. In... more
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Threats to User Experience Research Validity

featured / ux / usability
Many parallels can be drawn between experimental psychology research and summative user experience research. In experimental research, we take a systematic and scientific approach to understanding the effect of the manipulation of one or more variables, while holding other variables constant. User experience (UX) research is usually more qualitative in nature, but at FMG, we feel that UX deserves the same systematic and scientifically rigorous treatment as experimental research. In most laboratory experiments, researchers only have a small number of variables that change and these studies are tightly controlled. Independent variables are those factors manipulated by the experimenter or demographic in nature, while dependent variables are where the effects of the independent variable are measured. In UX testing, we have many independent variables (for example,... more
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Eye Tracking in UX Design and UXPA's User Focus Conference Made for a Busy October

featured / eye tracking / ux / usability
It’s been a busy October for FMG’s UX team. The week of October 13 was jam-packed with two professional conferences both chaired by our team lead, Dr. Jennifer Romano Bergstrom. David Hawkins presented at the Eye Tracking and UX Design Conference, while the rest of the team (Jake Sauser, Jon Strohl, Christian Gonzalez, and Jen Romano Bergstrom) presented at UXPA's User Focus DC 2014 Conference. To share our experiences with you, I'm including a few of the UX team's favorite takeaways. Eye Tracking and UX Design on October 16, 2014 Eye Tracking in UX Design David Hawkins and Jen Romano Bergstrom presented “Eye Tracking the User Experience of Forms and Surveys.” They talked about the studies we... more
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Jumping Right In -Two Workshops Highlighting Eye Tracking and User Experience

featured / eye tracking / ux / usability
After joining Fors Marsh Group a few weeks ago, I’ve had the privilege of attending a few events in the DC-area. The first two workshops I attended were fantastic and both shed light on the benefits of eye tracking and mobile usability. DC-AAPOR’s Eye-Tracking Workshop at Gallup Institute on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014 Dr. Jennifer Romano Bergstrom led a day-long workshop that introduced eye tracking, why we should/want to do it, the pros and cons, protocols for conducting, what we learn from eye tracking, and the best way to position it to clients. The participants came from very different backgrounds, and to my surprise, not many were UX practitioners. What we all had in common was that we were interested in learning more about eye... more
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An Introduction to Bayesian Data Analysis for UX Applications

featured / usability / ux / quantitative / blog
Quantitative methods are an essential part of user experience (UX) research. They allow researchers to provide accurate estimates of user performance in terms of errors and response time. However, because of the constraints of traditional statistical approaches, the small sample sizes and high variability of most UX studies preclude meaningful inferences in most situations. In this post I will present Bayesian Data Analysis as a viable alternative and one well suited to address challenges and settings common to UX researchers.

Belief versus ‘the long run’

Traditional, frequentist approaches refer to long run frequency, or how likely an event would occur over N number of replications. To illustrate this, imagine flipping a coin. If the coin is fair, after flipping it 20 times you should get... more
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Conference Season Not About to Slow Anytime Soon – Looking Ahead to Fall

ux / conferences / usability
On July 22 and 23, Fors Marsh Group sponsored and attended the DC Chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (DC AAPOR) Summer Conference. In addition to poster presentations, there were three panels that provided some great information worth sharing. The first panel focused on incentives and adaptive design, in which the speakers discussed new findings, such as the fact that a $5 dollar incentive results in a 16% increase in response rate compared to no incentive at all. That number increases to 22% with a $10 dollar incentive. In other words, spending money up front to incentivize your respondents to complete the survey leads to a dramatic increase in response rate, and the more you incentivize, the better response you’ll... more
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The ROI of UX Research

ux / featured / usability
It would be tough for anyone to argue that user experience (UX) testing prior to launching a product is not beneficial – we only need to look at Healthcare.gov and Lawn Darts to see why. The success of design changes following a UX study can be easily assessed with traditional metrics like error rates and Likert scale satisfaction ratings. These traditional metrics make it easy for UX researchers to pinpoint successful and troublesome areas of a product. However, how do traditional metrics of user experience, like errors and satisfaction, impact the bottom line? To see how tough that question is to answer, imagine you are proposing a usability study to a CEO. He has heard your spiel on assessing the user experience. You’ve... more
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Usability in the Urban Environment: Street Parking Signs

arlington dc / user experience / usability / blog
How often have you been in a city, as a resident or a visitor, and come across something that seemed so insanely complicated that it boggled your mind? “Why on earth did they do this this way? They should have just [enter brilliant alternative idea here].” Usability in the Urban Environment is designed to be a monthly blog series that seeks to apply basic usability standards to issues that residents and visitors grapple with daily when interacting with an urban environment. First on the agenda: Washington, DC’s parking signs. DC Parking Signs Look at the image to the right and ask yourself if you could answer the following pertinent questions relatively quickly from this signpost: a) Can... more
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Usability testing your signs and designs: The Washington Nationals logo takes a bow from DC road signs

arlington dc / usability / user experience / blog
While driving the beltway last year, you may have noticed road signs with the Washington Nationals’ Curly W (see photo). On first impression, this seems like a great idea. The symbol would presumably aid in recognition while the highway was congested with hurried fans trying to make that first pitch. However, while the ‘Curly W’ logo blankets the ballpark and Nationals merchandise, it can’t be found on any road signs. So what happened to all those Curly W’s?! Nationals Logo on Road Sign In a Washington Post article from February, Dan Steinberg investigated this and uncovered some interested findings. The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), conducted a survey with ballpark attendees to determine... more
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Creating Usable Personas

client work / usability / user experience / blog
UX practitioners use many tools to evaluate websites and apps. Utilizing a variety of tools is what UX research is all about! Give a UXer a webpage and voila! In no time they can evaluate a webpage with any number of their tools. When the evaluation is complete, the end product is a detailed list about what works well and what does not work well from the end user’s perspective. Common UX evaluation tools include usability heuristics, eye tracking, think aloud protocols, personas, and focus groups. Normally, UX research is focused on the use of these tools to evaluate other products. What happens then when you don’t need to fix a broken website and you actually need to fix one of the tools you... more
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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Conference Season

conferences / current events / usability / user experience / company events / blog
April is a really exciting month as it kicks off the start of the busy conference season and plenty of speaking engagements. My calendar seems pretty booked and I am excited to meet new people and talk about UX with others in the DC/NoVa area, and at conferences across the country. Here is a brief rundown of what’s to come – hope to see you at a few: Tuesday, April 8 - DC Web Women’s Code(Her) Workshop Series: I will be teaching about integrating usability testing methods in development. This should be eye-opening and encourage lots of conversation because many people do not even know that they can or should test their products even as early as during the coding stage. (David discussed this last... more
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Iterative Design: Three Prototyping Guidelines

usability / user experience / blog
Designing a website or mobile application from scratch is tough. Getting the creative juices flowing is no easy feat. When you do get lucky and think of something new, it can be hard to execute your plans as you had originally intended. Following through with lofty goals for your UI can seem impossible, especially when you take a look at the coding requirements. A seemingly endless mountain of code can dissuade someone from continuing the development of their web tools. Recent FMG research using iterative prototyping and usability testing can turn the mountain of code into a mole hill. FMG’s User Experience Lab recently worked on a series of usability studies using iterative prototypes. Prototypes are a very helpful tool to use during the design... more
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Better Data in Five Steps: UX Testing

eye tracking / research design / usability / user experience / blog
Last week, Jen wrote about resolutions for being a UX Champion. This week, I want to highlight five simple ways that UX research teams can improve the UX testing environment. Improving the testing environment in the following ways will ensure the validity of data and provide participants with a more pleasant experience. 1. Don’t interrupt. The UX data collection process often relies on concurrent think aloud protocol. In this method, researchers ask participants to think aloud and narrate everything they are doing (e.g., reading, searching for links, interpreting graphics). This method is valued by UX researchers because it allows us to hear things like initial impressions of design features and experiences using site search and navigation. Users’ comments are very powerful when inserted into... more
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UX Resolutions for 2014: Become a UX 'Champion'

conferences / market research / usability / user experience / blog
I attended UXCampDC on Jan 4, which was a new style of conference for me. There was no pre-planned schedule. I had no idea who I was going to hear speak (or if I would give a presentation) and what I was going to learn about. There was a board with time slots throughout the day, and people who were interested in speaking wrote their name and topic on a post-it note and posted it to a time slot. In the morning and after lunch, each speaker gave a 1-minute pitch about their talk so attendees had a little more information, and then we split up and went to the different talks. Some were planned – people had prepared slides and gave lecture-style talks... more
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Eye Tracking Your Mobile User Experience

eye tracking / research design / user experience / usability / blog
Mobile devices are transforming how we use technology. Pew Research Center reported in June, 2013 that 56% of all US adults own a smartphone (1), and that number is only expected to increase in the years to come. As a result of increased ownership, there has been a surge in usage of mobile versus desktop computers for exploring online everyday needs – from checking email and social media, to shopping, banking, document creation, and socializing. For example, Pew also reported that 32% of US adults now bank using their mobile phones (2). As a result, the usability of mobile platforms and applications is more important than ever as people rely on their handheld device. For the average mobile user, even after becoming comfortable using a... more
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