Assuming the user is already at the portal page, we've come up with a set of tasks for them to do
- Adding Content (Bookmarks/RSS) - We want our users to be able to customize their portals with minimal knowledge of web technology. By asking them to add content to the web page, we can see what kinds of sites they frequent. The main benefit, of course, is seeing whether or not our model for user interaction (a dialog format where the portal talks to you as if it were a person) is confusing or not.
- Add a Website with RSS - In this case, the user either explicitly adds a RSS feed or a site that contains RSS feeds. This will of course allow us to gauge the knowledge of the user by seeing if they add explicit RSS feeds or if they just add a site. Also, some users might not appreciate being offered an RSS feed, and this would allow us to see that as well. Having users peform this task might also have the added benefit of spreading knowledge of RSS and perhaps increase use.
- Add a Website without RSS - Adding a site without RSS means that the site they entered didn't have an RSS feed. The RSS feed finder in the portal might not be the best, so, again, we can gauge the user's knowledge by seeing if they enter the explicit RSS feed. If most users enter sites without a feed or choose just to add a bookmark instead of a feed, we know that RSS isn't a very important aspect of the portal.
- Viewing Calendar - You want to see if you're free to attend a holiday party on December 14th, but you know you won't want to go if you'll have class or an exam the following morning. The goal for this task is to understand how users view calendar information and if there's any way we can easily signal what's going on for a particular day. Is color coding a good option? How much information should we display? The next day? The next week?
- Finding Contact Information - We want users to find the contact information for a specified person. This will show us where they expect to find this type of information and whether it is presented in an intuitive manner.
- Looking up Classwork - By asking users to look up information about their classwork, we can perhaps answer a few questions like:
- "What's the best way to organize a person's classes? Alphabetically? By course number? Should we let them organize their own classes?"
- "How much information does the user need about the assignment? If it's a problem set, is all they need the chapter and problem numbers? If it's not a problem set, do they need to be able to read more about their assignment, or is title okay?"
- "Should we have the problem numbers visible on the portal? The problem description? Or should we have them navigate away from the portal to see the problem numbers or description?"
- Following up on a News Item - This particular task assumes that the user has already added at least one RSS feed to their portal. This task will allow us to see how they navigate away from the portal. For example, if the user has Slashdot on their portal, and they see something interesting and click on it, it is important to see whether or not they open a new browser tab, a new browser window, or just navigate away from the portal entirely. If users tend to do a lot of navigating away from the portal, we can infer that the portal is merely a stepping stone to the internet, and we might be able to focus our attention more on the specific to Olin aspects.
- Adding Weather/Sports Scores/Stocks to the Main Page - Like adding RSS feeds above, we want our users to be able to customize their portals without needing to know how the backend works. In addition to the bookmarks and RSS feeds, some users frequently look up at a glance information such as the weather, sports scores, or stocks. Can we use the same method of adding normal content? Do we need a specialized interface to add this specialized information? Or should we just make a robust enough interface to handle both situations?