I’m closing down the second round of usability testing on the application that I’m developing for my web UI development class. I’ve gained a lot of good insights and caught lots of things that can be improved through these rounds of testing. But one of the most interesting things I’ve found has been a certain peculiar difference in behavior between the two groups of people I’ve tested on my application.

The application I’m developing allows users to create proposals by sorting and organizing chunks of boilerplate text. The target audience is proposal development professionals (technical writers and marketing people, generally). In the first round of testing, we just tested whoever was convenient (friends and family). The second round of testing is supposed to be more formal, so I focused on testing people squarely in the target audience. I know a lot of technical writers and former technical writers from my day job, so I’ve been testing those folks this round.

A couple of the tasks in my usability test required the participants to sort through a large collection of data in the boilerplate text stored in the database. They would see a screen like this and select the desired topic from the screen:

Screen shot of a topic list

And while it was a small sample size, there’s been an interesting divergence between the two groups:

  • In the first group, friends and family, no technical writers allowed, 4 of 4 participants immediately went for the search form to find the required topics.
  • In the second group, technical writers, 4 0f 4 participants (with 2 to go) searched for multiple topics by scrolling through the whole list, only changing over to search as a last resort when they couldn’t find the topic they were looking for. Update 4-1: All 6 were scrollers!

I’d be interested to see if this was different with proposal developers from the marketing side of the world, but that’s outside of the scope of this project.