Crowdsourcing, Usability and Accessibility with the Federal Government

image curtesy of Jisc via flick

image courtesy of Jisc via flickr

Today’s guest post comes from user experience experts, TryMyUI.

Think about the last time you wanted to look up a statistic, apply for a new passport, or had a tax question. The federal government provides vital services to the citizens via the Internet, and with the use of a website your questions can be answered in a matter of seconds.

Naturally, the usability of a website is crucial. We have all been frustrated with a site that loads too slowly, has confusing navigation labels, or has a color so flashy that your head hurts. If a site does not have great web usability, usage becomes difficult, and for the less web savvy – impossible.

Crowdsourcing (the child of crowd and outsourcing), coalesces input from the collective brainpower of the public into rich, humanized data. Through a crowdsourcing application, Government agencies can gather information directly from representatives of target demographics. The data accumulated can be mined for any number of uses, in this case, for tweaking websites for accessibility.

Use Case: the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
To find relevant facts and statistics on labor and employment in the US, the Bureau requires consistently high quality data. This data comes from online surveys and evaluations targeted at the general population, and in turn is presented in written web material on various websites. The BLS needed to test the usability of its online survey questions and written web material in order to weed out any errors or confusing patches.

They used TryMyUI, a crowd sourced remote UI usability testing company, for this feedback. The BLS used specially selected testers (in their desired demographic) to narrate their thoughts and actions as they performed a series of tasks on a statistical dissemination site or took a survey, in addition to answering pre-set questions by the BLS. TryMyUI’s software tapped into the mic and screen of the testers’ computer, presenting a live screen video with vocal accompaniment of real-time feedback.

The BLS was able to view this raw, high quality data within two hours. TryMyUI coins the real-time experience of people who are interacting with the surveys as “meta-feedback”, as it can be used to measure the efficacy of feedback systems (in this case, surveys) as well. By seeing what users were gravitating towards or having trouble with, this federal agency was able to optimize written materials for its intended users.

Want to know more about the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ experience with crowdsourcing and usability testing? Check out this link!

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