User testing, is not, as Contributoria designer Dean Vipond was at pains to stress, about the testing of users. No, it’s pretty much a poorly named activity which is more accurately a test of all the tools and processes we’ve been busy building for our writers on the crowdfunding journalism platform.
In my first visit to the mysterious UX Lab on the ground floor of Kings Place inside The Guardian (I’ve often walked past but not been invited in for all these years) I got to see first-hand exactly how some of our most experienced writers approach their work on the platform.
Contributoria.com is now in its 8th month and has grown to become the workplace of choice for many freelance journalists in the UK and elsewhere in the world looking for financial and professional support for longform writing across a huge range of topics.
Today’s session involved some invited writers from the London area who were asked to use some existing tools as well as consider some ways in which their day-today could be made easier and so more enjoyable.
The UX lab room itself looks how those interview rooms in police crime dramas are depicted – a large space divided by one way glass with the users and facilitator on the nicely decorated, bright and airy side of the space with the testers observing in the darkness of the other side, illuminated only by screens showing close-ups of the activity within.
Cameras are located behind the user as well as focussed on hands and faces to track what happens in terms of keystrokes, mouse moves and expressions and, together with many microphones, the experience of the testing is beamed through to the testers behind the divide.
It was fascinating to see and hear from the writers as they were challenged with various activities such as formatting their work, finding and responding to comments and using the online currency of points to reward their peers with funding for articles.
The resulting notes capturing all the responses will now help us prioritise the development work for the next few weeks as we continue to evolve the site. Plenty more features to come and a big thank you to the writers who gave up some of their busy day to help us, it’s great to be working with you all.
If you’re an independent journalist looking for a marketplace for your work, feel free to check us out at Contributoria.com here.