U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines
Software Tools for Usability Studies
There are a variety of different tools that can be used to conduct online usability and user research studies. The following tools are free for use by staff and contractors who work on the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website. Please contact Wendy Littman, EERE's Web Usability Coordinator, for more information on using these tools.
||Research Questions This Tool Can Address
- Which users are coming to our site?
- What are their tasks?
- How satisfied are users with our site?
- Where do users click on the page?
- What content are users ignoring?
||Card sorting (to help create a site structure)
- How would users organize our content into categories?
- What labels do they use to describe our content?
||Site structure testing
- Does our site structure work for users?
- Can users successfully use our categories to find what they need?
What it does: Survey Gizmo is an online survey tool that can help you gain a better understanding of who is coming to your site and what they are looking for when they arrive. It can also be used to collect information on user satisfaction with your site, and to recruit interested users for future usability studies.
Show Me How it Works Want to see at a glance what Survey Gizmo looks like and how it works? Check out this short video on Survey Gizmo (WMV 3.9 MB). (Survey Gizmo text version.)
This tool collects and aggregates the data for you automatically. It also offers a series of advanced features for analyzing the data, including the ability to run custom reports, cross reference questions, create charts, and combine data sets.
How to use it: Contact Wendy Littman when you are ready to conduct a survey. Wendy will:
- Provide examples of user research surveys to help you craft your questions
- Walk you through the EERE and OMB approval processes
- Set up the survey for you in Survey Gizmo and give you access to the reports so you can analyze your data.
More information: See the Usability.gov website to learn more about using surveys to learn about your audience.
Show Me How it Works Want to see at a glance what Crazy Egg looks like and how it works? Check out this short video on Crazy Egg (WMV 3.2 MB). (Crazy Egg text version.)
What it does: Crazy Egg is an online tool that helps answer questions about how users interact with your Web pages. It does this by collecting information on where users click when they come to your page, and creates heat maps and other reports of usage patterns.
How to use it: See our detailed process for using Crazy Egg to test your Web pages for more information on setting up a Crazy Egg test.
Case Study: Crazy Egg Analysis on the EERE Home Page View our 35 minute webinar on Crazy egg (WMV 43 MB) (Crazy Egg webinar text version) for a case study showing how Crazy Egg has been used to inform changes to the EERE home page, a description of the tool's pros and cons, and a more in depth demonstration of how the tool works.
What it does: Web Sort is an online tool that is used for conducting remote card sorts. Card sorting is a usability activity that helps you understand how users organize and label your site's content. This technique can also help identify content that is difficult to categorize or terminology that could be misunderstood on your site.
Generally, card sorting is used to inform the decisions you make when developing the structure and labels (information architecture) for a website.
Show Me How it Works Want to see at a glance what Web Sort looks like and how it works? Check out this short video on Web Sort (WMV 4.7 MB). (Web Sort text version.)
You can conduct card sorts either in person or remotely—there are distinct advantages to each. With remote studies, you generally lose the opportunity to interact with your participants and understand their sorting decisions (to compensate for this, consider moderating a few of your remote sessions using remote meeting software). However, you gain the ability to recruit from a wide geographic area.
In addition, Web Sort makes the data collection and analysis process considerably more time-efficient than in-person card sorts because it:
- Collects and aggregates your data for you automatically
- Offers a series of reports to help you analyze your data and provides the ability to filter your data by individual or group
- Helps you gather feedback from users across a wider geographical area since users can participate from wherever they are located.
How to use it: See our detailed process for conducting online card sorts for more information on setting up a card sort in Web Sort.
More information: See the Usability.gov website to learn more about what card sorting is.
Show Me How it Works Want to see at a glance what Tree Jack looks like and how it works? Check out this short video on Tree Jack (WMV 3.2 MB). (Tree Jack text version.)
What it does: Tree Jack is an online tool for remotely validating your site's structure and labels (information architecture). It is generally used when you've created an outline of your new site structure and want to be sure users can find what they need. Specifically, Tree Jack helps answer questions about which labels work best, whether a structure is too deep, and where to put certain types of content.
As with the other tools, this software gathers data remotely and generates a report that can be used to make decisions about your site structure before going to the time and expense of adding content to your site.
How to use it: Contact Wendy Littman when you would like to conduct a Tree Jack study. Wendy will walk you through how the tools work and provide access so you can set up your study.
For more information on these tools and how they can be used, contact EERE's Web Usability Coordinator, Wendy Littman.