Online Journalism Review continues its occasional but helpful series on how to test web sites during redesignÂ with an articleÂ describingÂ about howÂ theÂ The Decatur (Ala.) DailyÂ (weekday print circ 20,500) foundÂ cheap and cheerfulÂ ways to get feedback.Â The paperÂ gotÂ a graduate student atÂ the University of Alabama journalism school to ramrod the project.Â Under the guidanceÂ of faculty advisor Wilson Lowery, that student, Steve Stewart, usedÂ cheap online tools like SurveyMonkey to solicit email feedback and took lessons from useability testing books (notably: “Don’t make me think,” by Steve Krug).
One immediate success of this Jschool-newspaper collaboration was that, Stewart, theÂ newly-minted J-school grad, got aÂ job asÂ Internet supervisor of the site he helped redesign.
StewartÂ authored the OJR piece and in it he passes on many useful tips that any weekly, small daily or Web zine could use to make its site more navigable, including this notion from useability consultant Jared Spool:
“The [metric] that’s probably the most useful is what people are typing into your search box,” (he) said. When people search for something, it’s because they can’t find it on the current page. “If you know what page they were on when they typed it, they’re telling you what page it should have been on.”
Here is another link to Stewart’s OJR pieceÂ which is well worth reading for anyone embarked on a Web siteÂ redesign.
I see a couple of other lessons here, for:
— journalism students; look who got the job.
— for journalism schools; can you partner withÂ local media?
— for older working journalists (like me!); do not rest on your newsgathering or editing laurels; get new media capable. That doesn’t mean becoming a useability expert butÂ there are skills like basic picture grabs, possibly sound and videoÂ grabs, andÂ postingÂ text and photosÂ to blogs that hiring editors will simply demandÂ of anyÂ reporter or editor.Â Copy editors, in particular, need to brush up because they are increasinglyÂ laying out pages for print and online.Â (I wrote about the new hiring requirements here.)
Reporters: here is another set of suggested skills posed as a challenge by mediaÂ blogger and newspaper guyÂ Howard Owens. I’ll say more about his challenge later but wanted to park it here for those who haven’t seen it earlier.