Results from our usability test with the beta version of StreetARToronto’s web map.

Jason Farra
Aug 20 · 5 min read

GRIT Toronto is a civic usability testing service that connects technology creators — including governments, startups and civic tech groups — with diverse and underrepresented communities to help test their products. Our mission is to make usability testing more accessible, inclusive and effective.

One of the ways we do that is by working in the open. These blog posts open up our testing process, introducing readers to some of our clients as well as key findings from our tests.

The StreetARToronto web map displaying the locations of street art in Toronto.

StreetARToronto’s web map features projects that have received support from its Partnership Program, helping residents and visitors search for and browse street art across Toronto.

Read more about the development of the StreetARToronto map here.

After our first usability test of the map prior to its public launch, we conducted a second test — this time of the post-launch beta version. The purpose of this round was to identify further improvements to the map that would make it even easier for people to use.

There were four participants in this round of testing, representing a diversity of ages, genders, and comfort levels with technology.

During the test, participants were asked to complete up to six key tasks using the map on both desktop and mobile — things like finding a specific mural or looking for art located nearby. Proctors from GRIT Toronto assessed how well users navigated the map, how easily there were able to complete the tasks, and whether they could understand the information shown.

Results

Interface issues

In nearly all of the sessions, the geolocation button was not functioning on both desktop and mobile. Some participants were also unable to find the button when asked to do so.

Additionally, the mobile version had bugs such as the dots on the map not displaying artwork when clicked and the list view not opening and closing properly.

We recommend fixing these bugs and styling the geolocation button to be more prominent.

Filter functionality

Some of the functionality for filtering the artwork displayed on the map was confusing for participants. They found it inefficient to have to remove one filter at a time in order to return to the default state where all artwork is shown.

Screenshot of the mobile version of the StreetARToronto web map filters.
Screenshot of the mobile version of the StreetARToronto web map filters.

Participants also expected that changing the filters would automatically update the map, rather than having to click the ‘Apply Filter’ button first. The map also did not zoom in on the filtered results and the ‘Apply Filter’ button sometimes became hidden by the filter dropdown menus.

We recommend adding a way for users to reset all of the filters quickly. The ‘Apply Filter’ button could be removed altogether if the map were to automatically update and zoom in on the dots representing the results.

Map and artwork content

Participants found the map dots on both desktop and mobile to be too small and difficult to click on. There are also four different colours of dots, but no clear explanation of what they each represent.

Screenshot of the mobile version of the StreetARToronto web map displaying street art locations.
Screenshot of the mobile version of the StreetARToronto web map displaying street art locations.

Additionally, when an artwork was selected in the list view, participants expected that the corresponding dot on the map would change in appearance to reflect this selection. Without this, participants weren’t sure which dot the artwork description was referring to.

We recommend making all dots on the map larger and having them change in appearance when selected. We also suggest adding a legend to the map to denote the meanings of the different coloured dots.

Participants found some of the basemap information, such as restaurants and stores, to be unnecessary and distracting. Relatedly, some participants wanted the basemap to show transit stops and stations to help them get their bearings in neighbourhoods they weren’t familiar with.

Screenshot of the desktop version of the StreetARToronto web map, displaying the locations of filter results.
Screenshot of the desktop version of the StreetARToronto web map, displaying the locations of filter results.

We recommend removing unnecessary information from the basemap and potentially adding transit stops and stations.

Participants also repeatedly came across artworks that didn’t include any images. When images were included, some participants were disappointed that they couldn’t enlarge the images to get a better view of the artwork.

Artwork images should continue to be added to listings that currently don’t have any. If it’s not possible to add images imminently, we recommend adding a placeholder image. We also suggest allowing users to view images of the artwork in a larger format.

Additional features

Participants expressed their desire to be able to filter artwork by artist name, or even by theme or subject matter. They also wanted to have more information about distances to artwork and how to access them by walking, transit or driving.

As this project develops over time, we suggest adding more filters and functions, as well as a Google Maps link for each artwork listing to make it easier for users to access directions.

What we learned

The developer working on the web map was able to observe the test sessions, which allowed them to see first-hand the way participants were using the app, as well as their reactions. The developer commented that being present enabled them to spot things that may be difficult to communicate or fully grasp in a report. This was obviously very valuable for our client, and we’ll encourage developer participation in future tests.

Additionally, while we typically work on a faster timeline than our test partners, in this case it was StreetARToronto working more quickly. When a partner is working in an agile way and eager to make improvements to the product, we want to be able to quickly provide test results while also taking the time to write a thorough and fulsome report. We’re interested in how we can reconcile the two timelines and still meet both of our needs.

Test it yourself

Head over to streetart.to to try out the beta version of the StreetARToronto web map and discover street art near you!


Interested in working with GRIT Toronto? Join our waiting list to become a participant or even run a test with us. If you have any questions, reach out to Marisa Bernstein at marisa@codefor.ca.

Code for Canada

Technology and design for the common good

Jason Farra

Written by

Program Coordinator at Code for Canada. MSc Planning Candidate at the University of Toronto.

Code for Canada

Technology and design for the common good

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