Notes from the User Testing Files: Content Grouping

[Photo Credit: Jocko B]

Useability testing, be your testers sheep or goats, is a fascinating, frustrating and (hopefully) enlightening process. Once you’ve chosen your tasks and assembled your testers, you sit back and watch them use your site. Grapple with it, actually. You wonder: Why are you looking there? Don’t you see that tab? Can’t you tell this is a local search? Whyyyyareyoudoingthatstopitanddoitright!

This sort of thinking is counter-productive.

Your poor, beleagured tester is doing this instead of that because that is not obvious. Or, alternatively, this seems to be a more likely goldmine than that. If the latter is the case(something you’ll need to ask the tester during the debriefing bit) then it’s time to rethink your categories.

Let’s say you run an online boutique that sells clothing for dogs, Um, yes, these exist! And no, I don’t dress my dog in argyle. Yet.

Right now, visitors who arrive on can navigate by:

  • Sweaters
  • Ballgowns
  • Slippers
  • Crowns
  • Shopping cart
  • About Que Chic Canine

If they click on a single content bucket, say, “Crowns,” they’ll be able to drill down by:

  • Gold crowns
  • Crystal crowns
  • Miniature tiaras
  • Paper birthday crowns

If they click on a single content item, they’ll be able to:

  • Look at pictures of dogs in paper birthday crowns
  • Read customer reviews
  • Add a crown to the shopping cart’s navigation is entirely product-based—fine for the customer who thinks in terms of products. But what about the customer who thinks in terms of price? While Sally knows she wants a pair of ruby slippers; Bob knows he wants some article of canine attire that’s less than $50. So for Bob, the optimal first-tier content categories would be:

  • Apparel and accessories under $25
  • Apparel and accessories $25-50
  • Apparel and accessories $50-100
  • Apparel and accessories $100+

And what about Cindra? Cindra doesn’t care about product and she doesn’t care about price—she cares about whether the product fits the dog, which in her case is a St. Bernard. For Cindra, the optimal first-tier content categories would be:

  • QCC for toys and miniatures
  • QCC for small dogs
  • QCC for mid-size dogs
  • QCC for large dogs

Depending on your site, you may have mostly Sallies, or mostly Bobs, or mostly Cindras or a pretty even split, and you can assign category tiers accordingly—but you need to take all three (or four, or ten) types of users into account. How you name your categories is a whole ‘nuther deal, but I’ll tackle that next week.

Thoughts? How many different navigation goals do your users have, and do you provide them?

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