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Usability Observation with Inspectlet

Inspectlet Homepage - This week's usability tool review

First Impression with Inspectlet

We place Inspectlet in the category of  ‘Heatmaps / Mouse Tracking Tools’ and ‘Screen Capture Tools’.  In the past, I had used Userfly, another tool in this category and had been underwhelmed.  The code snippet slowed down the page and I eventually took it off.  I don’t want stuff to load from another site on my page.

So, I was alittle leery Inspectlet, but Ben was favorable in his survey of UX Tools and we decided on this review. So keeping an open mind, I started to use it.

Here it is: Inspectlet let’s you observe people using your website – Actual users on the actual site.  Like Coca-Cola, it’s the real thing.  Paste a code on your site, and <magically> a recording shows up on the Inspectlet dashboard with a video along with key metrics –  time on site, browser information (screensize and type) and number of pages viewed.

The numbers are good. It’s good to know that a visitor using IE found the site thru a google search for this spent 2 mins on this page.

The video is GREAT. It’s invaluable to know where they scrolled and clicked on the site.  It’s the thing you can’t get unless you discover a cloak of invisibly and a teleportation device  (Hey, I could build a kick-ass business in England if I could hook up with the Chosen One)

Inspectlet - It's Like MAGIC!... psst, it IS magic. (I'm two for two on chosen one references!)

What is the experience of using Inspectlet?

Inspectlet is surprising simple to use, considering it’s magical abilities.  It’s straightforward process and nothing seemed counter-intuitive to me.  I was expecting to sign up, get the code and paste it into my site, and watch some videos.  Real-Time Analytics and Heatmaps are two other features.  These were not so valuable to me because of the low traffic the testing sites.  Analytics would be more valuable if the sites got more traffic.  And, the heatmaps would be more valuable if the sites had more interaction / clicks.  I suppose over time the patterns would become clear, but in the few days I tested not enough data was collected to make Real-time Analytics and Heatmaps valuable.

The videos are ‘The show’ – the real value for me.  You get a table of all the captures for the site which includes – IP address, starting page, capture length, browser (type), screen size, and referer and date.  Click, and you get a video display page which is very well thought out and easy to use.  Each page viewed by the user gets a new ‘chapter’.  You can pause the video or speed it up (up to 5x speed).  Unfortunately, you can’t scrub back and forth.  There is a nice feature where the video automatically skips parts with no interaction AND the sections with the most interaction (clicks and mouse movement and scrolling) are highlighted in red.  All of this can be viewed in their demo -that’s what sold me on it.

The Process of setting up the test

  • Sign up / login / get to the dashboard
  • Add a new site
      • give it a name
      • RealTime Twitter Query (Twitter should be capitalized in the form – new tool!)
      • skip some stuff that’s not documented (Exclude IP, screen capture method, and screen capture frequency)
  • Get and Install the code on each page you want to test
  • Watch the videos – scribble notes frantically, and look quizzically
  • Analyze the results – Come up with ideas for testing questions and changes to be made

Doing this process is fairly straightforward, but I do wish for more documentation. Getting comfortable with stuff you don’t understand is key for using alot of stuff on the webs – you can’t be an expert in everything.  Still I wish for more documentation.  Yet, the tool just works.

I did have a problem – no data was coming in – and it was quickly resolved by tech support via an email – ON A SUNDAY.  Once again, support is good.  The problem was that I had the ‘Staggered Captures’ set up incorrectly. (some more documentation would be good here)

How to get the most value from ‘Usability Observation’

Here’s my thing:  Using Inspectlet will benefit your usability plan.  I think a tool like this should be in every UX toolbox and here’s why.

Like I’ve said before, user-testing is about observing users with the intent of improvement – to make changes.  Inspectlet gets directly to the observation.  You are like a fly on the wall (Great name Userfly!) You don’t disturb the user and they are having an authentic experience with your site.  This by-passes many of my issues with user-testing.  This is really Usability Observation.

We aren’t taking them out of the flow – they don’t know they are being watched.  It’s like security cameras in a retail store.  But we aren’t watching them for shoplifting.  We’re watching to see where they go, how they got there, where they click.

My big issue with testing – the thing I can’t get my head around.  Is what to test?  What questions to ask?  Observation is the answer.  Observation and testing go hand in hand. Observation leads to  exact and specific test questions. Those test questions lead to more observations.

Here is the pitfall: You can’t observe and test at the same time.  We’ve talked about this many times, but now I’m having an ‘Inward Singing’ moment. Avoid this pitfall: by observing first.  We listen first, correct?  So, listen to your users.  If you listen, they will tell you what to ask next.  Observe first. Test second. repeat.  Hmmmm.  Or Observe. Change. Test. repeat.

Like a three step Waltz. 1,2,3 - Observe, Change, Test. ... And, let the user lead, plz.

My thoughts get unclear here: But bare with me a sec.  Maybe these are the three fundamentals and they each relate and rely on the other.  Observation is a form of Measurement.  Inspectlet is both Qualitative and Quantitative measurement.  The point is that it’s dangerous to mix the elements or try to perform them together.

We tried to remove the observation from the testing in our testing script – by starting with the participant simply using the site.  Ben even suggested leaving the room while they complete the tasks. Like: “Here do these tasks and I’ll come back and we can talk about it”.  That’s good.  But, Inspectlet is better.  They don’t know they are being watched.  They are thinking about their goals and needs – not being a test subject or providing insight to you, the builder.

Natural users are better than un-natural test subjects.

So, how do you avoid messing up at writing a test question? Start with observation or a measurement.   Then specifically ask / test about that measurement.  Bounce Rate is a common metric we want to lower.  If it’s high, people are leaving your site within 10 secs and are not going deeper into the site.  You see it in Google Analytics and you SEE it in the Inspectlet video screencaptures. That’s an observation.  Inspectlet would show you this – and more, you can see if the user did anything during those ten seconds.  Now, make a change to lower bounce rate – put key content above the fold, make a clear call to action, make text bigger and bolder.  And, the final step, make a question and test with a Usabilla type tool – “What are you most interested in on this page?”; “Where would you click if you wanted to do [insert Critical Path step one]?; “Which text would you likely read first?”.   These questions test if your change made a difference. Well, you could measure again over time to see if the change made a difference.  Or, you could create a Usabilla test to ask about first impressions of the site – or 5 sec test.com or Feng-GUI it.

Okay: Enough rambling.  Point that started that digression is good, I feel.  Here are my findings:

  • Observation is different than testing.
  • Both are important and relate to each other.
  • Inspectlet is an observation tool – it will provoke questions to test and changes to make.
  • Three general types activities in usability or design are: Observe->Change-> Test and can be followed in that order.

A few final thoughts:

Using Inspectlet, I found myself wishing for an intercom button.  “Excuse me, website visitor.  Why are you scrolling up and down like a madman? ”  I realize now, that I want to switch from observer to tester.  And, of course, I wanted to make changes.  The big insight I had – do something for smaller screen sizes. Could I have seen that in Google Analytics?; yes.  Did I know we have 10% ‘small’ screen use?; yes.  Did it have a big impact seeing those numbers?; no, not until I SAW it with my own eyes.

We talked about finding users to test in previous posts.  Inspectlet [because it is an observation tool] doesn’t have this problem.  The users are right there on the site now – right now.

I bet site owners get addicted to watching the videos, just like some are addicted to watching visitor counts.  There is data there – actionable data that will bring in more money.  Because of that, I think Inspectlet is a great value at 8 bucks a month.

By way of explanation of that digression into the process of design and testing or website revision.  I’ve just finished David Zull book on the brain Learning Cycle and I think that’s where those ideas came from.  He basically says the brain learns in four stages: Gathering, Reflecting, Creating and testing.  Inspectlet is a gathering tool – a sensory tool.  Usabilla is a testing tool – an active probing tool.  Reflecting might be Analytics – where you integrate the data and decipher patterns.  Creating is where you make changes to your design and plan.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

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