digital comics museum · Web viewdigital comics museum. usability report. Author: caleb laude...
Transcript of digital comics museum · Web viewdigital comics museum. usability report. Author: caleb laude...
digital comics museum
figure 1 – DCM BANNER………………………………………………………..7
figure 2 – PUBLISHER GROUPINGS………………………………………..7
figure 3 – Comic wanted…………………..……………………………….9
The Digital Comics Museum provides expertly scanned public domain Golden Age comic books. However, the site lacks a proper tagging system to organize the comic books, and needs general aesthetic and navigational refinement. I suggest DCM should provide an improved design with information cards for uploaders to fill out that bind their uploads to others through tags. In addition, DCM should separate the forum section of the site from the museum section as the site currently feels like a mix of the two.
Finally, in the process of working with people ages 20-82, I have concluded that DCM lacks a properly defined audience. The simplistic design of the website does not appeal to a specific audience.
The Digital Comics Museum is an online Golden Age comic book repository, boasting thousands of public domain comic books for download. My focus is on the site’s search function and the overall usability of the site’s organization. The goals of this testing were to figure out how easy or difficult it is to find a title on DCM.
The Golden Age of comics spanned around 1937 to 1954. After World War II, superheroes fell out of fashion in comics. They were lapsed in popularity by several diverse genres such as horror, crime, romance, science fiction, war, and westerns. This continued until 1954 when certain individuals linked crime and horror comics to juvenile delinquency. Today, DCM collects and organizes comics from this period that have lapsed into the public domain. The bulk of their collection is the sort of genre focused comic book common at the time that contains three to five one off stories with no licensed characters.
While preparing for this study, I noticed that Golden Age comic book titles often do not impart much information about their content. A science fiction title may sound like a horror title, and vice versa. Romance and western comic books generally have their genre—or a word that is related to their genre—in the title, but not always.
In this study I wished to know how big of an issue this title issue is when looking for comic books on DCM. In addition, I wanted to know if DCM had done anything to make certain writers or artists easier to find.
If one visits the forums on DCM, a section of the site I chose to not study although my participants ended up there anyway, one finds a bunch of people discussing Golden Age comic book writers and artists that are mainly forgotten about today. I noticed in my own use of DCM that if one wants to find a certain writer or artist they have to start a discussion thread. People may just be lazy, but it is a pretty common site on forum. This made me ask, why? Are the writers and artists not listed on the comic book’s download page? Are they not tagged? I wanted to find out if someone wanted to read a story by a certain writer, or see art by a famous Golden Age artist—like Jack Kirby—could they?
My study involved my participants performing a series of task based scenarios in which they were encouraged to verbally express their thoughts with think alouds. Rubin and Chisnell write that this method, “offers many insights to why a problem exists and how someone tries to work around it” (81). I wanted to know their thoughts in real time, as quickly as possible.
Originally, I planned to time the tasks, but I decided against that after reading about my method in Rubin and Chisnell’s book Handbook of Usability Testing. They write, “One important reason to avoid asking participants to think aloud is when you are measuring time on tasks. Thinking aloud slows performance signiﬁcantly.” (81).
These comics are not limited to one age group. I knew from the beginning I wanted to get a decent age range for my participants. Ultimately my participants range in age from 20 to 82. Digital literacy varied between everybody, with some users being craftier and more resourceful with the technology than others. Many of the comic books on DCM are donated by older collectors who have held on to their comic books for the last 50-60 years. It is entirely possible for an older crowd to visit DCM and riminess. I am a younger user and I use the site for free entertainment and to see comic books that I could never afford to own physical copies of. Other younger readers use the site to learn about the Golden Age of comic books and read some horror titles.
Getting participants to agree to the study was difficult. It is easy to forget that specialized vocabulary in any field, including usability, is not used by everyone outside of the field. I expected that when I told people I was doing a usability study they would know what I was talking about, realize that it is painless and simple, and agree to do it readily. After getting a few dirty, confused looks from people I like, I realized that I was going to have to explain way more than I expected. Usability as a term and a field was first. Then came the actual meat of the study. Most took it as a test of themselves originally, which was either the result of my laughable attempt to explain it, or is just the way these things are generally received. This would explain why it is so important to emphasize the user is not being tested, but the product. For some reason when I said that, people still did not believe me—at least not a first.
After completing the study, participants were asked to characterize their experience with DCM with a mix of scales and open-ended questions.
Characterize your experience with the prior tasks on a scale from simple to complex, and easy to difficult.
· Downloading comics on DCM (1 2 3 4 5, simple to complex) 3
· Finding a character or genre I want (1 2 3 4 5, easy to difficult) 4
Now, for two final questions. These are open ended.
· What was one thing about the design you really liked? It was simple, no pop ups
· What was one thing about the design you did not like? Did not feel refined, no button to get home. Weren’t a lot of ways to categorize the comics.
Following the questionnaire, I did a little of what Rubin and Chisel call retrospective review. In the text Rubin and Chisnell mention discussing the test with the participants after can take more time, but this was not an issue in my study.
My study ended up with two limitations. Although I had a good range in age and technological proficiency, I did not have that many participants as I should have. A second limitation of this study is that I only really used one method of testing. I had the above post study questionnaire, but the rest of my study was just think alouds while my participants downloaded comic books. Ultimately, my participants enjoyed the simplicity the of my study. I could have asked of more from my participants, but I felt what I was getting out of these people was good enough—and I did not want to push back much. I was just happy to have their time.
Task #1: You heard about the Shazam! movie going into production and decide you want to read some source material. So, you head over to the Digital Comics Museum to find a Captain Marvel title. Find and download a Captain Marvel comic book.
Task #2: You are facing a long weekend and need reading material. You’re a fan of comics and you have recently learned about the supposedly “graphic” and “lurid” horror comics of the 1950s. You decide to check one out at the Digital Comics Museum. Find and download a horror comic book for weekend reading.
Task #3: Now that DCM has made you a big fan of golden age comics, you decide to find a particular artist. Jack Kirby remains one of the most well-known artists of the golden age, so you start with him. Any Jack Kirby comic will do, you aren’t too picky. You just want to see his art.
Overall, task #1 seemed to be the most enjoyable for my participants because they seemed to appreciate having a specific character to look for. When first arriving at DCM my participants were greeted with three boxes. They are latest uploaded comics, top rated comics, and most downloaded comics. There was a tendency to start there and then scroll down. One participant noted it felt like they were bombarded with links. Another said the top boxes were confusing.
At this point on the page participants saw a long list of publisher groupings. Figure 2 shows the current method by which DCM organizes their comic books. They are grouped by publisher, with the titles grouped beside a “sub-categories” signifier. A user can hover their mouse over the titles and the little cover image on the left will change. This is a decent function, but it is only useful at certain times with certain titles.
One issue I noticed with this cover picker function is that it automatically picks the first comic in the sub-category. Comic books at this time—especially the ones on DCM—would be “relaunched” with different titles and occasionally different premises. This means organizing the comic books can quickly devolve into a tangle of comics that may not be related by anything other than a title or numbering.
When looking for the Captain Marvel comic book there was a tendency to look through the list in figure two for a Captain Marvel section. One participant kept returning to the list because he did not understand why/how the comics were organized.
The search function in DCM seems to be acceptable. Each of my participants ended their search by using the search function. However, DCM lacks a formal tagging feature, so the search operates by what the uploader writes in the file’s description. This was especially apparent on task #2, find a horror comic book. One participant passed over horror comics—that I was familiar with because I have read them before—because the titles did not tell her they were horror and there was nothing on the file that told her it was a horror title.
Navigating the site was an issue for each of my participants. There was a tendency to click on the banner to return home, but that brings one to the forums section of the website. Otherwise the download and preview buttons were clear.
The forums section was not tested in this study. Participants who encountered this part of DCM, which was pretty much everybody, said it felt like they had entered a different website. It seemed to jar them and they did not appreciate it. The page itself is not the main forums, but it is a thread by a mod trying to get the word out about missing comic book stories.
It is worth mentioning that the studies seem easier when there is more talking involved. Talking is a bit of a minefield as far as influencing somebody, but I still cannot imagine doing a study where I watch from another room or sit silently. It would be too weird.
The biggest limitation with my study is the number of participants I was able to cobble together. Going in, I knew getting participants would be my biggest challenge. I tried to compensate a head of time by testing as many different delivery methods as possible. Originally, I was going to test on my tablet, but realized it would be beneficial to test on a variety of devices to see any differences in the site’s usability between a laptop, desktop, tablet, and phone. Ultimately, there was not much difference. The iPad participant was hesitant, but the site performed decently.
As far as the forums go, that banner issue needs to be corrected. The page seen in figure 3 tells me that DCM knows people are going to click on the banner without thinking about it, so they put the message they want everyone to see on the other side. However, this is extremely frustrating for users who just want to get to the home page. This “wanted” post would be better served where the box trio is on the homepage.
Organizing Golden Age comic books can be tricky. They were produced to be read, then discarded almost immediately. Their titles changed constantly, writers and artists are not always directly credited. Organizing the titles by publisher seems to be the easiest solution to the problem of organizing this mess of comic books.
Human-centered design dictates that designers must resist trying to control their users, which may not always be the easiest request. Norman writes, “We have to accept human behavior the way it is, not the way we would wish it to be” (6). He adds, “It is time to reverse the situation: to cast blame upon the machines and their design…it is the duty of machines and those who design them to understand people” (6). It seems to me that the people who designed DCM may understand people in a broad sense. The site is simple and would be fairly easy to navigate if certain buttons were altered, like the banner. Yet, there was general agreement amongst my users that the site was just mediocre. Filled with interesting content, but the environment was not inviting. All but one wanted to stick around and look at other titles. Everyone else seemed content to be finished with looking at DCM.
Comics as a medium of serious storytelling is basically dead in this backwards country. Most of the demographic that historically read comics have no interest in reading anything, even something mostly pictures. The ones that care get hooked by Japanese magna and anime. DCM is a in a position to change some of that with some of the whacky, interesting, and provocative titles that they have in their collection. But with the unexceptional and unrefined design the website does not do any favors for the comic books it contains.
Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books, 2013.
Rubin, Jeffrey, et al. Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011.
DIGITAL COMICS MUSEU
ITY AND USER EXPERIE
DECEMBER 11, 2017
DIGITAL COMICS MUSEUM
ENGLISH 449 – USABILITY AND USER EXPERIENCE
DECEMBER 11, 2017