Building usability testing tools

My colleague Carlos and I have been doing some usability testing recently, and have built some of our own tools to make it happen.

We created a testing interface using JavaScript, which has largely been a success. Our interface gives students tasks to complete, and workspaces to complete them. Reassuringly, students participating in our study seem to understand this interface intuitively. They are generally able to work through the tests with very little guidance. Developing this tool has been a positive experience, allowing me to level up my JavaScript skills and teaching me about some of the subtleties of JS.

We also needed to track the data produced by the tests. After a failed attempt to use Hotjar, a subscription-based analytics tool, we decided to do this ourselves too. I made a Flask application that would process and save parameters passed in the url when a user completed a test.

To do this, the Flask application would serve up a “Congratulations, you’ve completed this task” page, and record a bunch of data from the url about how the user got there. Ultimately the data was appended a CSV file and saved. Analyzing this CSV is still going to require a few more steps, but we’ll get there.

My lack of patience with existing tools led me to put far more time into building these solutions than I initially expected. Nonetheless, because we built them ourselves, they met our needs very well. Besides, building them has been a good learning experience.

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