Running the usability test

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Session programme

For each session we ran through the steps listed in the test protocol. In brief these were:

  1. Welcome and introduction.
  2. Pre-test questionnaire (on skills)
  3. Test the map-based computer interface.
  4. Post-test questionnaire (on 3)
  5. Spend up to 15 min. filling in the conventional paper questionnaire as send out by PBNI.
  6. Post-test questionnaire (on 5)
  7. Group discussion on usability of 3 and 5.

Low participation

On 13 April we set up the software on a number of machines at NIACRO.

As this was the Thursday before Easter Friday, many trainees did not turn up for the session. We were left with one ex-offender in the morning, and one ex-offender and one non-offender in the afternoon. As they were at different stages of the NIACRO training, their familiarity with computers and the Internet differed.

As only three people turned up before Easter, we left copies of the forms and instructions at NIACRO , so that other trainees could be offered the chance to test the software after Easter. But not one trainee did so.

A possible explanation is that non-offenders do not know anything about probation offices, and probationers are less willing to help the PBNI (or do not trust that their comments will be anonymous). We are looking at ways of following up this preliminary study by designing geographical tasks that young offenders would perceive as more interesting and less threatening.

User performance

We had to help the ex-offenders at times. For example, one needed help entering the comments on the map. Otherwise, there were few difficulties with the map. All needed help in reading the consultation questionnaire (at times it used phrases that were more complicated than the language used in tabloid newspapers), and two had difficulties filling it in (one only ticked the boxes, the other had to get a research assistant to write down the free text answers).