Alleyoop: Turning Math Into Play

UserTesting.com spoke with Alleyoop product manager Matthew Mamet about how customer feedback and usability testing fit in their product development cycle. Alleyoop is a brand new college readiness network for teenagers created by Pearson. Matthew helps turn the company’s vision into a reality, and gets detailed feedback from UserTesting.com with a hand-picked group of beta testers.

UT: What are the most surprising things you’ve discovered from user tests?
MM: These tests surprise us all the time! When you’re looking at design features and copy through fresh eyes, you really begin to see what works the way you imagined it would and what doesn’t.Also, remote testers are honest with their feedback because they feel comfortable in their own environment. They’re simply following the tasks set before them and speaking out on what they like and dislike, what engages them, what frustrates them, and often, what they think would make the site better.

 

 

 

 

 

UT: Do you ever retest with the same users?
MM: It depends on what features we’re currently testing. Some elements of the site demand that we retest the same users twice (for example, if we’re testing a feature for the site for someone who has already registered.) Other times, we’ll want to get unique users to test out features like first-time site registration.

UT: How does your team use the videos and test results?
MM: Because our site is in development, we’re constantly adding new features that we need to test weekly. One of our team members watches the videos in their entirety and makes notes on each tester’s words and screen actions about the features we’re developing at the moment. Each week, the entire team watches a 15-30 minute highlights reel of key points from the videos. Afterward, the team makes suggestions about improvements for iterations of the site.

UT: What have you changed about your site/community as a result–content, user interface, other features?
MM: There’s really no aspect of our web application that has not been changed as a result of direct feedback gathered from our users. Much of the feedback we gather is on how to improve the user experience of Alleyoop, which mostly deals with design, layout, and accessibility of features in our app. However, we often receive feedback on the quality and readability of our content that is extremely useful. User tests also help us learn about our target’s affinity toward future feature ideas that we haven’t even built yet.

UT: What can we look forward to at Alleyoop, as the site moves beyond beta to a larger audience?
MM: Alleyoop has turned getting ready for college into a game. Currently, we’re in our beginning stages. We’re primarily focused on making learning math a game for middle and high school students.

In the very near future, we’ll be rolling out content that increases the scope of the game beyond academics and into 21st century skills like time management, critical thinking, and more. Next year, we’ll be able to show whether middle and high school students are actually on track to be successful when they get to college. If they’re not on track, we’ll be able to help them with activities and content to get them where they need to be.

UT: Bottom line: What’s the value of a service like UserTesting.com to Alleyoop?
MM: In the same way that online services like Mint.com and WebMD.com enabled consumers to take control over previously complex, but very personal decisions in their life, Alleyoop is taking on education. We’re empowering teens with tools and content to take control over their education, so they can achieve the college and career outcomes that make the most sense for them.

As we build Alleyoop, it’s invaluable to maintain consistent and direct lines of communication to and from our users through services like UserTesting.com. There’s no piece of content, layout changes, color choices, or features that ever get launched without users first giving us their feedback.

UT: Anything else you’d like to add?
MM: UserTesting.com has been incredibly good at helping us overcome some of the challenges specific to working with teenage users. For instance, our testers have short attention spans and limited patience for reading and following directions, and may have technological challenges with their computers or software, which prevent them from properly uploading their videos.

The online chat support team at UserTesting.com is always able to work with our team so we can access that tester’s video, or even restart or access an incomplete test. Without a doubt, the customer team at UserTesting is what makes the service so unique!

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UT: Thank you Matthew, Mandy, and the rest of the team at Alleyoop.

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