Kids in the lab.

Over the last few weeks the Semafores team has started the process of testing Curi™, our mobile social application for family caregiving, while development progresses. For the time being we’re demonstrating our user interface (UI) using a prototype we created using InVision, a web based application for creating and sharing clickable prototypes for web pages and mobile apps. We decided early in the process of creating our prototype that we would need to give our testers a guided tour to get the most out of the test. Curi™ is a complex application with many moving parts and making it seamless enough for our testers to wander at will would have taken months—time better spent in sharing the design and creating the working version. By giving our testers a tour we can direct them to the parts of our design that we want to learn about, and avoid the extra effort of creating similar screens and mocking up parts of the application, like help screens, that we felt we could safely leave for later.

We’ve started the testing process by giving the tour to close friends and family, partly because they are curious about how things are going, and also because they’ll forgive us for the missteps we make while we are still learning the tour route. It’s too soon to talk about what we’ve learned about our UI—we’re still figuring the lessons out ourselves—but we have already learned some things about our testing process by doing.

First, it takes time.

The first time I gave the demo I was surprised by how long it took, about two hours. I was doing the demo by liveshare over the internet, and perhaps a half hour was spent getting that set up, but that still left an hour and a half spent on the presentation itself. I knew Curi™ was a complex application with lots of things to point out and to ask questions about, but I hadn’t expected it to take quite that long. The good news is that I didn’t realize how much time it took until it was done. My colleague Gil also found that it took a while, though he did his demo face to face. It’s important that both you and your testers understand how long the process might take otherwise they might understandably be annoyed when it goes longer than they expected, or you might miss pointing out the really important bit when they have to run out to make another appointment before you are done.

Second, it takes some explaining.

There are many concepts in Curi™ that have to be understood to understand our UI. (Who is a Carer? Who is a Minder?) It takes some explaining to get them across to our testers because most of them aren’t obvious in the design. We’ll be explaining them during the onboarding process and in the help text when the application is complete. We already know it will be important to get these things right, but the time we have to take in explaining concepts during the tour drives it home.

Third, story matters.

When we give the tour of Curi™ we tell stories about what Curi™ does as well as showing how it works. It’s impossible to understand the how very well if you don’t have a who, what, and why to go with them. Our tour has some user stories built into it that we have to tell our audience during the tour. Do our user stories create an emotional response? Do our testers come up with their own stories about how they might use Curi™?

Last (for now), ask, and ask for, questions.

If you want feedback about something in particular you have to ask about it. Otherwise the people on your tour might just smile and nod their heads while they look at the pretty scenery you are pointing out to them. Don’t forget to ask if they have any questions for you. The questions that get asked may tell you more about how well they understand what you are telling them than the answers that they give to your questions.

We’d like to hear your story. What is your greatest caregiving challenge and how do you meet it now? What tools do you wish you had to help you be a better family caregiver?