The lessons of HCI and User Testing

So one of my side projects is producing a mobile app for logging workouts into Gainstrack. The prototype has been under development for the past couple of months and reached a stage where I was very comfortable dogfooding it for logging my own workouts on my phone.

Before unleashing it to a wider audience, HCI training kicked in and thought I’d run a user test where I set a user some tasks to accomplish on the mobile app, never having used the app before, while I quietly watched and took notes.

The participant in this case is my fiance… a largely non-technical user who is a regular user of Android/iPhone apps who is familiar with some strength training. Her tasks were to

  • Attempt to log a typical workout
  • Attempt to make amendments to a workout
  • Register her details with the app

I already took these tasks for granted but I got a plethora of useful feedback from this single participant.

  • The first menu item under the Home menu item was the Plate Calculator. She immediately started playing with that rather than doing a workout
    • Lesson: Make Log Workout the first menu item
  • She understood “Enter the barbell weight” as the loaded weight
    • Lesson: Make the text “Enter the empty barbell weight”
  • Back to logging, she said that Account should therefore be the top item because surely you need to register before logging.
    •  Actually, my site supports starting a log without registering but that fact she takes registration for granted, maybe that could be highlighted sooner
  • Adding an exercise was non-obvious. The layout of exercise/add/quick didn’t make sense for her. She couldn’t figure out how to add a typed exercise (press the add button!). So the layout is changing

  • She can’t add her Running exercises… weights only for now. Looks like I can’t convert her yet!
  • The keyboard jumps around a lot when adding new sets. Actually, this bugs me too, it’s a real problem that needs fixing
  • Pressing Add when no exercise is typed does nothing. This is double confusing when she didn’t know what Add was supposed to do anyway
  • Cancel button cleared the screen rather than cancelling
  • The “More Options” and Delete workout were oddly placed, according to her. It’s going to move

As with many HCI user tests, the feedback was both surprising and usefully constructive. Lots of minor interface improvements are on the way! A good learning exercise all around.

Oh, and I submitted my first workout from my mobile app proper… coming very soon.

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