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鈥淣et Rage鈥?
A Study of Blogs and Usability




July 11, 2005




Catalyst Group Design
416 W 14th, Suite 202
New York, NY 10010
(212) 243-7777
www.catalystgroupdesign.com
Table of Contents

1. Introduction............................................................................................................................ 3

2. Overview and Methodology ..................................................................................................... 4
2.1 Objectives and Scenario ....................................................................................................... 5
2.2 Methodology ....................................................................................................................... 5

3. Executive Summary................................................................................................................. 7
3.1 Overview ............................................................................................................................ 7
3.2 Understanding the Page 鈥? What Is It? .................................................................................... 7
3.3 Commenting ....................................................................................................................... 9
3.4 RSS ................................................................................................................................... 9
3.5 Finding Other Posts.............................................................................................................10
3.6 The Main Blog Page ............................................................................................................11
3.7 Overall Reactions................................................................................................................12

4. User Interface Issues Summary ............................................................................................ 13
4.1 Overview ...........................................................................................................................13
4.2 Reiteration of User Interface Issues ......................................................................................13

5. Appendix: All Observations .................................................................................................. 15
5.1 Overview ...........................................................................................................................15

6. About Catalyst Group Design................................................................................................. 19




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 2
1. Introduction




It鈥檚 no secret that blogs are a hot topic. When both Walter Mossberg (Wall Street
Journal, June 15, 2005) and the Pew Internet and American Life Project (January
2005) weigh in on the subject, something is going on 鈥? especially in the wake of
the attention devoted to blogging in the 2004 presidential elections. Add to all this
IBM鈥檚 mid-May decision to promote employee blogging; BusinessWeek鈥檚 April 27th,
2005 cover story on the topic; and Microsoft鈥檚 June 24th, 2005 announcement that
RSS will be bundled into Longhorn - and you have a full-scale phenomenon.
Finally: Technorati and PubSub, search engines for the 鈥渂logosphere,鈥? currently
index 7million and 12 million blogs, respectively.

But how 鈥渞eal鈥? is the phenomenon in terms of the experience of the everyday
Internet user? Are blogs truly ready for uptake by millions who regularly use the
Internet 鈥? but who so far have neither written nor knowingly read blogs?

Answering this question from a cultural or content perspective falls to others. But
as researchers and designers focusing on user experience, Catalyst Group Design
set out to test just how well, from a design perspective, blogs would perform for a
typical end-user.

Our conclusion: Even assuming mainstream interest, current blog design
standards 鈥? at least in terms of navigation, nomenclature and taxonomy 鈥?
are a barrier to consumer acceptance. In fact, the design of most blogs
can incite 鈥渘et rage鈥? (in the words of one test participant).

Just this week, 鈥渂loggerati鈥? like Steve Rubel (Micropersuasion.com) and
commentators like the New York Times鈥? David Pogue have weighed in on these
consumer acceptance issues 鈥? mostly with regard to RSS, or the mechanism by
which blogs can be 鈥渟yndicated鈥? by publishers. The following report gives some
additional shape and substance to the realization that blogs need to meet a
different standard of behavioral requirements and expectations if they are to
succeed with the mainstream internet audience.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 3
2. Overview and Methodology




From June 29th through July 1st, 2005, Catalyst Group Design conducted usability
testing in New York City, NY in order to gather qualitative feedback regarding
mainstream internet users鈥? ability to understand and use blogs. Our overall
findings are summarized in this document.

Usability testing was conducted with nine (9) participants on a live site.
Specifically, we chose as a testing platform one of BusinessWeek鈥檚 seven recently-
launched blogs, a personal finance destination called 鈥淲ell Spent鈥?
(http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/wellspent/). This site was selected 鈥?
after a review of over 100 other blogs 鈥? for a combination of reasons:
It represents a likely direction for 鈥渕ainstream鈥? blogging 鈥? in that it is part of
鈥?
a family of blogs integrated into to a well-recognized, branded web
destination. As such it is a 鈥渂usiness鈥? blog, rather than someone鈥檚 hobby and
is clearly intended for broad readership.
Well Spent focuses on a topic 鈥? personal finance 鈥? of interest to most adult
鈥?
Americans regardless of demographic differences.
Correlative to the factors above, it was possible to create a realistic scenario
鈥?
by which mainstream users would arrive at a blog post landing page on Well
Spent 鈥? specifically, by searching for 401K information on Google.
Despite being part of the BusinessWeek site, Well Spent contains most
鈥?
鈥渃lassic鈥? blog functions including:
RSS subscription mechanisms (XML buttons)
鈥?

Main page with both full and truncated postings
鈥?

Landing pages with full postings and comment mechanisms
鈥?

Previously posted comments
鈥?

Recent posts
鈥?

Trackback capabilities and recent trackbacks
鈥?

Archives
鈥?

Recent comment logs
鈥?

Author photos and contact information
鈥?




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 4
2.1 Objectives and Scenario
The overall objective of this test was to explore the ability of people who were
capable internet users to navigate, use and understand a blog. Our intent was not,
therefore, to critique the BusinessWeek blog Well Spent. In fact, many of the
reasons supporting our choice of Well Spent as our test case are also reasons that
BusinessWeek should be praised for attempting the difficult task of integrating
multiple blogs into its existing site. The core assertion of this report is that the
design challenges typified by this integration must be overcome if Blogs and RSS
are to achieve mainstream acceptance.

Rather than using the qualitative feedback to implicate Well Spent鈥檚 page design,
however, Catalyst was principally interested in what that feedback would suggest
about design issues for standard blog features. To this end, we were interested in
obtaining feedback from the participants as they worked through tasks that they
would normally be expected to encounter when using a blog 鈥? even a 鈥渂usiness鈥?
blog like this one.

During the testing sessions, we focused on:
Whether those tested recognized that they were on a blog, vs. some other
鈥?
kind of website.
What their reaction was to learning that they were, in fact, on a blog.
鈥?

Whether they understood how to post a comment and what the outcome of
鈥?
such a posting would be.
Whether they knew what trackbacks were.
鈥?

Whether they comprehended both how to subscribe to the blog and the larger
鈥?
mechanism of RSS.
Whether they could locate other types of posts, by date or by topic.
鈥?

Whether they could find the main page of Well Spent.
鈥?

Whether they could navigate around the main page.
鈥?

The starting scenario for the test assumed that the most likely circumstances under
which mainstream users would randomly encounter a blog would be through
performing a Google search on a topic of interest and then clicking on a promising
link. This scenario also assumed that, as blogs gain popularity and prevalence,
people would be more likely to enter a blog at the post (via search), rather than the
main page, level.


2.2 Methodology

2.2.1 Testing Sessions
The Well Spent site was tested in a controlled one-on-one environment led by a
moderator who asked participants a series of qualitative and task-based usability
questions. Each test session lasted approximately 60 minutes. A note taker
recorded observations throughout each session and video equipment was used to
document the proceedings.

All of the participants satisfied the following screener requirements:
A mix of men and women (5 males, 4 Females)
鈥?




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 5
Used the internet at least 10 hours per week for activities other than email
鈥?

Mix of income and age
鈥?

Regular consumer of news and other information online
鈥?

On the Internet for at least 2 years
鈥?

Do not write their own blogs
鈥?

Either do not knowingly read blogs, or read blogs infrequently
鈥?

Nine interview sessions were completed over a three-day period. During each
session, we explored the following screens:
Post landing page
鈥?

Well Spent homepage
鈥?

A description of each task was conveyed to the user and they were then asked to
demonstrate how they would perform the task while thinking aloud. Also, users
were asked to describe what they expected to occur before they selected a link or
button so that their expectations could be compared with what actually happened.

If a user was unable to proceed or indicated that they would go in an unfruitful
direction, they would be encouraged to explore the screen for other potential
options. If they still could not proceed as intended, the moderator would indicate
the next step and encourage the user to continue with the task unaided. It should
be emphasized that the user was not assisted in completing the tasks in any way
unless it was obvious they were not proceeding as intended.

2.2.2 Findings
On the following pages, Catalyst outlines both observations derived from the
usability test as well as design issues likely to be associated with mainstream blog
adoption. We do not make any specific design recommendations, however, given
that our primary goal is speculating about the design challenges associated with
broad consumer behavior 鈥? rather than critiquing a specific site.

In this fashion, the report differs from a standard Catalyst client report 鈥? which
usually includes not only observations and issues, but also design solutions.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 6
3. Executive Summary




3.1 Overview
This section of the report represents the most comprehensive summary of
Catalyst鈥檚 test results. For particularly salient parts of the test, it contains the
following types of information:
Commentary 鈥? when deemed necessary, Catalyst provides a paragraph
鈥?
designed to help set up or frame our test observations.
Observations 鈥? trends in participant behavior during the test, culled from
鈥?
thorough review of transcripts and digital video as well as mouse movement.
Verbatims 鈥? quotes and/or paraphrases from users during the test that
鈥?
illustrate specific observations.
User Interface Issues 鈥? design concerns derived from observations and
鈥?
verbatims (also gathered separately in Section 4).
NB: the observations in the Executive Summary represent only a selection of all
those noted during Catalyst鈥檚 three-day test. Specifically, we have highlighted and
commented upon patterns that we viewed to be most pertinent to 鈥渃ore鈥? blogging
behavior, or which raised the most pressing issues. For a full set of our
observations, unaccompanied by commentary and verbatims, please see Section 5.


3.2 Understanding the Page 鈥? What Is It?

3.2.1 Commentary: Surprise and Confusion
It is true that participants were selected for their ignorance of blogs and blogging.
However, they were also targeted because they had a solid working knowledge of
not only the Web, but also of how to use it to find information that interested them.
It was thus interesting to contrast the degree of certainty they displayed on one
hand 鈥? when first encountering a post on Well Spent 鈥? with their visible
astonishment on the other, when told they were looking at a blog. Despite having
fuzzy ideas of what blogs were, those tested clearly wanted to understand 鈥渨here鈥?
they were, especially if it was a medium that was not familiar to them.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 7
Observations + Verbatims
When asked to characterize what they were looking at, almost every person
鈥?
tested called the post landing page an 鈥渁rticle,鈥? with several specifying it was
clearly from BusinessWeek. Two participants thought the post was some kind
of advertisement or promotion.
- I feel I am in the BusinessWeek environment and can navigate to BusinessWeek
sections.
- This looks like an article. [By] a writer from BusinessWeek who got paid to do
this.
- It looks like an article by Amey Stone informing me about how to get 401K help
for $10 per month.
- [It] looks like an advertisement.
- Seems like [the post] is promoting a service. [It] looks like a specific article that
is selling a service.
When informed they were looking at a blog, all but one participant was visibly
鈥?
surprised.
- Is it? I would not have guessed that. That wasn鈥檛 what I thought at all.
- I would be annoyed if I was reading this and then later realized, oh, this is a
freakin鈥? blog. Wow. Ok.
- I would have to take your word for it. I am surprised if I am on a blog.
- I would not believe that [this is a blog].
Nearly all those tested stated there was no clear distinction presented
鈥?
between the blog and BusinessWeek鈥檚 online magazine 鈥? and participants
were unanimous in declaring that there was no clear indication on the page
that it was a blog.
- I assumed I was on BusinessWeek. I don鈥檛 see any indication [that this is a blog].
I can鈥檛 see any difference.
- I would think this is part of the main [BusinessWeek] site.
- No indication of [this being a blog] at all.
- It doesn鈥檛 come out and say 鈥榖log.鈥?
User Interface Issue(s)
Visitors may not recognize they are on a blog 鈥? both because they have not
鈥?
knowingly seen one before, and because they are most likely to enter one at
the post, rather than at the main-page, level.
Blogs do not always identify themselves 鈥? particularly on lower-level pages 鈥?
鈥?
literally as blogs, something that test participants seemed to want.
Classic blog indicators, such as authorial photos, short-form writing, or the
鈥?
presence of categories and archives, are not signifiers for mainstream web
users.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 8
3.3 Commenting

3.3.1 A Whole Lot Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Most elements of the comment-submission system 鈥? email, URL and comment
fields as well as Preview and Post buttons 鈥? were comprehensible to test
participants. This did not equate with a high comfort level regarding commenting,
however.
There was general confusion regarding what would happen once comments
鈥?
were submitted 鈥? would they be posted immediately? Screened and posted?
Or would only select comments be posted 鈥? with others being answered via
email? The presence of several previous comments on the post did little to
allay uncertainty.
- If I press post, it would go up here with the rest of the comments. Instantly,
generally. I am used to Craigslist, where [things] get posted first and then taken
down [later if they are offensive].
- Once they have approved [the comment] they would put it on the site.
- I would assume there could be a selection [of posts]. Since there are only three
posts for a six-day period. It鈥檚 not clear.
- Someone could get back to me if I put in my email and URL [with a question].
User Interface Issue(s)
The core purpose of submitting comments to a blog is not universally
鈥?
understood.
Few, if any, blogs declare exactly what will happen when a post is submitted 鈥?
鈥?
though some indicate after submission that there will be a review. Doubt
about whether or not an obviously non-offensive comment will get posted
could have a dampening effect on a core tenet of blogging: real-time
reader/author dialogue.


3.4 RSS

3.4.1 Mainstream Value 鈮? Mainstream Appreciation, Or Use
Aside from commenting and browsing other posts, RSS is arguably the core of what
makes a blog a blog. Being able to review dozens 鈥? or more 鈥? of posts as they
update in real time is central to the value that blogs can provide. Unfortunately,
the presentation of both the concept and the mechanics of RSS failed utterly with
test participants. And in fact, even the basic idea of RSS ran afoul of users鈥? fear of
unwanted costs and spam.
Participants were unanimous in declaring that the site was unclear in
鈥?
explaining the purpose, value and function of RSS. All also felt that the site
was aimed at an audience other than them 鈥? specifically, technically-
advanced people or heavy bloggers.
- [Those links and terms] mean nothing to me鈥here鈥檚 this whole language you
have to be immersed in鈥 don鈥檛 feel like it鈥檚 accessible at all.
- I think it鈥檚 a free-for-all. They didn鈥檛 do a good job explaining it. They aren鈥檛
doing a very good job if they are targeting me.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 9
- [It鈥檚 aimed at] a person that knows blogs inside and out. That is up on blogs,
blogs, blogs. Like on eBay, with the鈥ie-hard eBay鈥檈rs who know the ins and
outs.
- I would not know at all [that I could do that with RSS]. I think it鈥檚 targeted at
someone who knows computer programming or website design. I wouldn鈥檛 see a
lot of people knowing about this. It looks like a technical thing.
- [As] my first encounter with RSS, I would not know what to do with
it鈥omewhere I would need an education.
Even once the basic mechanism of feeds was explained to them, several
鈥?
people鈥檚 first reaction was to have cost and security/spam concerns.
- In concept that could work. Functionality would be a concern 鈥? so many viruses
exist...I don鈥檛 know if it could work up to its potential without compromising the
security of my system. It sounds like those toolbars you have to download.
- There鈥檚 a problem with [subscribing]. You can create your own blog for free. I
wouldn鈥檛 subscribe to this for [money].
Unclear to most participants was the distinction between the left-hand
鈥?
navigation to other blogs in the BusinessWeek blog family, and the links
containing the XML buttons.
- I think [one] is their way of telling me that this is a blog. And the [XML button
list] is their way of getting people to sign up to get feeds.
- I see the blog names up top. And [underneath] these are the same things. The
URL cache looks the same, so these [sections] are the same.
- The bottom section is going to give you the ability to read these blogs in XML.
The ones above will just give you what you are seeing right now. [The XML
version] is more dynamic, more visually pronounced. More than just seeing the
regular text.
User Interface Issue(s)
RSS terminology and mechanisms are powerful 鈥? but currently also not easily
鈥?
understood.
RSS value and uniqueness is easily overlooked or misunderstood by audiences
鈥?
used to other 鈥渦pdate鈥? conventions such as newsletters, email alerts and
bookmarks.
Without a call to action to actually use RSS and perhaps an explicit assurance
鈥?
of e-security, most people will ignore even brightly-colored XML buttons.
The fear of spam and spyware cannot be underestimated, as it seems that
鈥?
mainstream experience with the web is teaching users to be extremely wary
of persistent or automated functions that are not enabled through trusted
sources.


3.5 Finding Other Posts

3.5.1 Blog Taxonomy Is Not Understood
To anyone who spends a fair amount of time reading or writing blogs, certain
features are very familiar: recent posts, a category structure that organizes older
posts, and archives that contain all posts filed by date. While these appear to be
fairly straightforward informational motifs, they mostly proved opaque to those
tested, with the exception of archives.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 10
There was general confusion regarding how to find related posts 鈥? with
鈥?
participants being divided between using the search box, going to
Blogspotting (which is actually another BusinessWeek Blog), looking for a
main page and browsing recent posts.
- I would look over here under recent posts.
- I would try search.
- I would click on Well Spent.
- Maybe Blogspotting. I would look at that. It鈥檚 a bunch of blogs that have caught
the moderator鈥檚 eye, that they want you to look at [to find things].
- I assume from the name that Blogspotting would denote a blog search.
Most of those tested had no trouble, however, figuring out that the archives
鈥?
were where they should look for a post written on a certain date 鈥? although
two people had trouble finding the archives on the far bottom right of the
page.
- I would go to the archives area. That鈥檚 pretty straightforward.
- Those I didn鈥檛 see.
User Interface Issue(s):
The connections between current, past, and topically-organized posts is not
鈥?
easy to grasp as they are currently rendered in many blogs.
Individualized category names in particular are misleading to casual browsers
鈥?
鈥? who may have problems understanding the way categories in general
function in a blog environment.


3.6 The Main Blog Page

3.6.1 What Makes a Main Page 鈥淗ome?鈥?
When entering from the 鈥渂ottom up鈥? due to use of a search engine, users had
difficulty anticipating what the homepage of the blog would be or why they should
go there. In addition, they re-encountered many of the taxonomy problems that
had plagued them on the lower-level pages.
Only one participant correctly anticipated what the main page would contain,
鈥?
with every other participant expressing surprise at some aspect of the page 鈥?
such as it containing many different posts or full and truncated posts vs. just
a listing.
- I would not have expected to see this. What does this have to do with 401k鈥檚 or
$10?
- I would not have expected the posts to be all right here.
- This is totally not what I was expecting. It looks like a bunch of articles. Kind of
crunched together. I assume 鈥榗ontinue reading鈥? will get me to the full article.
These other ones 鈥? I guess they aren鈥檛 all a full page?
Regarding the links to Time, Categories, Comments and Trackbacks at the
鈥?
bottom of each post on the Main page, few understood categories and no one
understood trackbacks.
- Why does it say My Finances?
- Trackbacks? I don鈥檛 know.



Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 11
- It would take me a while to understand [these]. There鈥檚 nothing definitive about
how to get around.
User Interface Issue(s):
Organizational connections between higher- and lower-level pages on blogs
鈥?
generally flow better in only one direction: from the top down. But current
web behavior rarely adheres to that convention.
RSS works against top-down navigation of blogs.
鈥?

Truncating some posts and not others leads to user confusion 鈥? especially
鈥?
when commenting on both types of posts requires access to a landing page
(which for the truncated posts is otherwise unnecessary).


3.7 Overall Reactions

3.7.1 Good News鈥nd Bad
Test participants all had positive attitudes at the conclusion of the tasks, indicating
varying degrees of interest and newfound appreciation for blogs. But they expect
more from them.
Following the tasks, most felt that blogs were a good or interesting
鈥?
development 鈥? with almost everyone saying that they would consider visiting
blogs in the future.
- I think I would visit blogs [in the future]. It鈥檚 interesting. It鈥檚 huge already and
it鈥檚 only just started. I think there is a lot of possibility.
- I would use blogs in the future.
- I will use blogs more in the future. One, I will explore RSS to bring feeds into My
Yahoo!. Also, I am just realizing there is much more mainstream information in
blogs [than I had thought]. Or I would use them to get the 鈥榦ff the record鈥?
ramblings of favourite writers.
However, almost everyone also felt that there was not enough assistance on
鈥?
the site to allow them to take advantage of what was offered.
- Some people have road rage. I have 鈥榥et rage.鈥? I would just have gone
someplace else, without having explored this, because I don鈥檛 know what鈥檚 going
on.
- The amount of help provided is very limited. There are cues, but I want to know I
am in the blog section. Just like [in a newspaper] I want to know I am in the
editorial section vs. the opinion section.
- It鈥檚 not well explained at all. This is the thing with a lot of these Internet trends:
people assume you have the knowledge already, because why otherwise would
you be looking at blogs? That can be alienating to prospective users.
- There鈥檚 only so much I can figure out on my own. This is leaving me to do that.
User Interface Issue(s):
Mainstream consumer expectations for assistance, education and context far
鈥?
outstrip typical implementation of blog interface and feature elements.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 12
4. User Interface Issues Summary




4.1 Overview
Many of these issues will seem neither earth-shattering nor insoluble to user
interface and other designers 鈥? especially when viewed as a standalone foundation
for design requirements. It is all the more remarkable, then, that blogs have not
yet addressed most of these challenges. BusinessWeek is hardly alone in adopting
architecture and conventions for its blogs that it probably would never consider for
the remainder of its site. But this is exactly our point: most of these issues are
easy to deal with 鈥? though doing so may alter the format of blogs from what is
currently the norm. Exactly how that should happen, however, is beyond the scope
of this particular paper.


4.2 Reiteration of User Interface Issues

Visitors may not recognize they are on a blog 鈥? both because they have not
鈥?
knowingly seen one before, and because they are most likely to enter one at
the post, rather than at the main-page, level.
Blogs do not always identify themselves 鈥? particularly on lower-level pages 鈥?
鈥?
literally as blogs.
Classic blog indicators, such as authorial photos, short-form writing, or the
鈥?
presence of categories and archives, are not signifiers for mainstream web
users.
The core purpose of submitting comments to a blog is not universally
鈥?
understood, and the design of the comment function may have to take this
better into account.
Few, if any, blogs declare exactly what will happen when a post is submitted 鈥?
鈥?
though some indicate after submission that there will be a review. Doubt
about whether or not an obviously non-offensive comment will get posted
could have a dampening effect on a core tenet of blogging: real-time
reader/author dialogue.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 13
RSS terminology and mechanisms are powerful 鈥? but currently also not easily
鈥?
understood.
Without a call to action and perhaps an explicit assurance, most people will
鈥?
ignore even brightly-marked XML buttons.
The fear of spam and spyware cannot be underestimated, as it seems that
鈥?
mainstream experience with the web is teaching users to be extremely wary
of persistent or automated functions that are not enabled through trusted
sources.
The connections between current, past, and topically-organized posts 鈥? is not
鈥?
easy to grasp as they are currently rendered in many blogs.
Individualized category names in particular are misleading to casual browsers.
鈥?

Organizational connections between higher- and lower-level pages on blogs
鈥?
generally flow better in only one direction: from the top down. But current
web behavior rarely adheres to that convention.
RSS works against top-down navigation of blogs.
鈥?

Mainstream consumer expectations for assistance, education and context far
鈥?
outstrip implementation of blog interface and feature elements.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 14
5. Appendix: All Observations




5.1 Overview
In this section, Catalyst has collected all the observations derived from the three
days of usability testing related to blogging. A subset of these observations is
collected and expanded upon in the Executive Summary (Section 3); here, those
particular comments are demarcated in italics. However, for those interested in a
more in-depth review of how participants performed throughout the test, this
section may prove helpful.

5.1.1 Starting Scenario
Almost every participant preferred to find information online using Google as
鈥?
a starting point 鈥? and then branching out to other sites from there.
No participant had trouble envisioning the blog arrival scenario 鈥? i.e.,
鈥?
conducting a search on Google for 401k information, seeing a link to a post on
Well Spent (鈥?$10 a month for 401K help,鈥? by Amey Stone), clicking on that
link and arriving at the post landing page.

5.1.2 First Reactions
Just over half the participants stated that the first thing they noticed about
鈥?
the post landing page was the photos of Karyn McCormack and Amey Stone in
the upper right hand corner of the page. The presence of these photos was
not always a positive, however 鈥? especially prior to people understanding they
were looking at a blog.
The next most immediately noticeable page attribute was the 鈥淲ell Spent鈥?
鈥?
title on the upper left corner.
Most participants said that the first action they would take on the post landing
鈥?
page was read or skim the article to see if it contained the information they
were expecting.

5.1.3 Understanding The Page: What Is It?
When asked to characterize what they were looking at, almost every person
鈥?
tested called the post landing page an 鈥渁rticle,鈥? with several specifying it was



Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 15
clearly from BusinessWeek. Two participants thought the post was some kind
of advertisement or promotion.
It was not surprising, therefore, that when informed they were looking at a
鈥?
blog, all but one participant was surprised.
Nearly all those tested stated there was no clear distinction presented
鈥?
between the blog and BusinessWeek鈥檚 online magazine 鈥? and participants
were unanimous in declaring that there was no clear indication on the page
that it was a blog.

5.1.4 Reactions To Mix Of Media
Over half the participants were unsure of the significance of the post being
鈥?
part of a blog 鈥? but almost all felt that a blog was somehow less credible as a
source of information.
Nearly half those tested stated that because of this perceived difference in
鈥?
editorial standards, the blog should be more clearly separated from the main
BusinessWeek site. Of particular concern was the fact that the authors鈥?
credentials were not readily visible.

5.1.5 Task One: Post A Comment
Most participants found the comment area at the bottom of the post and
鈥?
understood they could submit a reaction or a question. Almost everyone also
grasped the basic function of the email and URL fields, as well as the preview
and post buttons.
However, there was general confusion regarding what would happen once
鈥?
comments were submitted 鈥? would they be posted immediately? Screened
and posted? Or would only select comments be posted 鈥? with others being
answered via email? The presence of several previous comments on the post
did little to allay uncertainty.

5.1.6 Trackbacks
Not a single participant understood the function or significance of trackbacks
鈥?
or trackback pings.

5.1.7 Task Two: Subscribe To The Blog
When asked how they could receive regular updates about new content on
鈥?
Well Spent, half the participants looked for somewhere to submit an email
address. Several others simply said they would bookmark the page.
With few exceptions, participants had not heard of RSS, RSS Feed Readers, or
鈥?
XML. Of those that had, none were certain about the terms鈥? definitions. And
no participant understood the process for enabling feeds.
Ironically, most participants quickly noticed the bright orange XML buttons on
鈥?
the left nav bar. Of that group, most dismissed them because the meaning of
the buttons was unclear.

5.1.8 Reactions To RSS
Participants were unanimous in declaring that the site was unclear in
鈥?
explaining the purpose, value and function of RSS. All also felt that the site
was aimed at an audience other than them 鈥? specifically, technically-
advanced people or heavy bloggers.


Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 16
Even once the basic mechanism of feeds was explained to them, several
鈥?
people鈥檚 first reaction was to have cost and security/spam concerns.
Ultimately, while people seemed to think RSS was a positive, fewer than half
鈥?
the participants stated unequivocally that they would use it 鈥? with others
expressing indifference or uncertainty that they would be interested enough in
a blog to need real-time updates.

5.1.9 Task Three: Find Recent, Related, Dated Posts
Most participants failed to notice the Recent Posts category.
鈥?

There was general confusion regarding how to find related posts 鈥? with
鈥?
participants being divided between using the search box, going to
Blogspotting, looking for a main page and browsing recent posts.
Most of those tested had no trouble, however, figuring out that the archives
鈥?
were where they should look for a post written on a certain date 鈥? although
two people had trouble finding the archives on the far bottom right of the
page.

5.1.10 Reactions To The Left Nav
Unclear to most participants was the distinction between the left nav module
鈥?
for accessing other blogs in the BusinessWeek blog family, and the one
containing the XML buttons.
Some participants also thought the other blogs in the family were simply
鈥?
other parts of Well Spent.
Only two participants understood that the remainder of the left nav pertained
鈥?
only to the main BusinessWeek sections.

5.1.11 Task Four: Get To The Main Page Of Well Spent
Over half the participants figured out how to get to the Well Spent main page
鈥?
without assistance 鈥? via either the Main link, or through clicking on Well
Spent.
However, only one correctly anticipated what the main page would contain,
鈥?
with every other participant expressing surprise at some aspect of the page 鈥?
such as it containing many different posts or full and truncated posts vs. just
a listing.

5.1.12 Exploring The Main Page
On the main page, just over half the participants noticed and understood the
鈥?
significance of the Continue Reading links 鈥? though many were thrown off by
the fact that only some posts were truncated.
Regarding the links to Time, Categories, Comments and Trackbacks at the
鈥?
bottom of each post on the Main page, few understood categories and no one
understood trackbacks.
Several participants felt that categories for Well Spent would be the same for
鈥?
every blog in the BusinessWeek family.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 17
5.1.13 Overall Reactions
Following the tasks, most felt that blogs were a good or interesting
鈥?
development 鈥? with almost everyone saying that they would consider visiting
blogs in the future.
However, almost everyone also felt that there was not enough assistance on
鈥?
the site to allow them to take advantage of what was offered.




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 18
6. About Catalyst Group Design




Founded in 1998, Catalyst Group Design (www.catalystgroupdesign.com) improves
websites and other interfaces through insights into and testing of key audience
behavior. The firm specializes in user-centered research and design that extends
from core interface architecture into visual design, marketing and branding
strategy, and usability-related communications planning.

Contact:
Nick Gould, CEO
Catalyst Group Design
212-243-7777
nick@catalystnyc.com




Catalyst Group Design Confidential Page 19

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