Learning from Users

Unfortunately, many sites fall victim to the launch `em and leave `em attitude of site owners, who turn their attention to more urgent or interesting projects, allowing the content or the architecture to become obsolete quickly. Even for those sites kept current with respect to content, the information architectures are rarely refined and extended.

This is too bad, because it is after the launch of a web site that you have the best opportunity to learn about what does and doesn’t work. If you are fortunate enough to be given the time, budget, and mandate to learn from users and improve your web site, a number of tools and techniques can help you do so.

As you read this section, please understand that high-quality testing of site architectures requires experts in usability engineering. For pointers to expert coverage of tools and techniques specific to usability engineering, please review the usability area of our bibliography.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are one of the most common and most abused tools for learning from users. When conducting focus groups, you gather together groups of people who are actual or potential users of your site. In a typical focus group session, you may ask a series of scripted questions about what users would like to see on the site, demonstrate a prototype or show the site itself, ask questions about the users’ perception of the site, and get their recommendations for improvement.

Focus groups are great for generating ideas about ...

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