Usability Test on Quora: Browse & Search Results

Part 1 in a series of reimagining the Quora Android experience.


Quora is one of my favorite products, but a quick usability test reveals that people run into two critical issues with Quora’s Browse and Search Results.

Objective

Identify the pain points of Quora’s current “Browse” and “Search Results” interfaces:

Current Quora Android UI for Browse and Search Results.

Test Parameters

  • What: Quora Android Mobile App
  • Who: Existing Quora users
  • Why: To validate whether others experience the same usability issues I’ve identified in Quora’s Browse and Search Results interfaces.

Usability Test

I sat down with 5 individuals and captured notes while they performed the following tasks:

  1. Homepage Tour
  2. Look for Topic-Specific Questions & Answers
  3. Search for a Topic
  4. Browse for Content of Interest to the User

Tasks were determined to validate my hypothesis that Quora’s Browse and Search Results need improvement.

Synthesis

Color-coded sticky notes for issues found in each session.
Issues grouped by category and further divided by Browse and Search Results problems.

Findings: Two Key Issues

BROWSE

Users expect interesting content recommendations (but get Unanswered Questions, People to Follow, and Shuffle).

“This is terrible. I expected to see things that may be interesting. Doesn’t seem like a good way for people to actually discover new stuff. ”

Upon clicking the Browse page, users were confused because they expected a screen for personalized content discovery. “Unanswered Questions” is geared more towards the 1% of users in the oft-quoted 1-9-90 rule (1% will answer, 9% will edit, and 90% lurk) in content-based networks. “People to Follow” is one degree of separation from from the personalized content that users want (i.e. Questions / Answers, Topics). “Shuffle” is too undirected and doesn’t cater to the user’s interests.

Summary of user comments while interacting with “Browse” screen.

Currently, users are introduced to the Browse feature is by reading through the “I Just joined Quora from my Android phone or iPhone. How do I get started?” question, which is shown after a user signs up. But as the test points out, users are unclear why “Unanswered Questions”, “People to Follow” and “Shuffle” belong in the Browse page.

ASSUMPTIONS: Although all 5 users found the features in the Browse page confusing and questionable, there is no statistical significance to generalize these behaviors / preferences across all of Quora’s users. However, with roughly 90% of users lurking, there’s still a high probability that other users face the same challenges.

RECOMMENDATION: Allow users to determine what “interesting” content means to them for personalized content discovery, as they expect to. Redesign the Browse page to allow self-conducted curation and customization of content. Self-curated collections is a prevalent design pattern within content-based networks (i.e. Medium, Pinterest, Youtube).

SEARCH RESULTS

Users find it difficult to sort through search results because they all look the same and because the quality signals are hard to find (i.e. upvotes, number of answers, answerer background).

“All the results look the same — no distinction between topic and questions. I had to sort through unwanted stuff (blog, questions, answers) just to find topics.”
Summary of user comments while interacting with “Search Results” screen.

RECOMMENDATION: Allow users to easily distinguish between the different search result types and see clearer quality signals. Improve the visual hierarchy for search results by making the differences between search result types more apparent (i.e. Topic vs. Blog vs. Profile) and by displaying highly-visible quality signals (i.e. Upvotes). Possible solutions include typography adjustments, search results filtering, and other applications of Gestalt Laws.

Design Solution: Small Fixes vs. Deeper Design Challenges

In usability testing, small (yet caustic) usability problems usually arise and can generally be fixable without requiring elaborate redesign. For example, a fellow Tradecraft UX Designer recently conducted a usability test on Dropbox Photos and proposed simple but impactful solutions.

In Quora’s case, however, the product is not so contained. Changing the entire content taxonomy of Quora (Question / Answer, Open Question, Topic, Blog Post, Profile, Answer Wiki) is very different from improving how a user interacts with one screen. The categories are difficult to untangle because they’re not mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Changing any of these intermingled items can have large ramifications for the entire user experience.

As a designer, I want to make sure I solve the user’s problems, not weave together patches and end up with a frankenproduct. Content Discovery and Visual Hierarchy / Quality Signals are deep design challenges that require more scientific rigor in the design process to address. To address these usability issues, I’ve borrowed elements from Adaptive Path’s design process as taught in their UX Intensive workshop.

My design process: Currently in Part One, I focus on the Usability Test and some personal Research I’ve conducted in the past.

In my next post, I explore the design problem much further and propose higher fidelity prototype solutions.

Some example sketches during my Ideation phase of my Design Process. Diverging and coming up with as many solutions as possible is critical.

Up Next — The Solution & Process: Persona, User Stories, Sketches, Wireframes, and Prototypes.


Note: I don’t work for or represent Quora. I’m simply flexing my UX muscles under the excellent tutelage of Laura Klein & Kate Rutter @Tradecraft. Quora is one of my favorite products so I’m exploring how I might help their mission of sharing and growing the world’s knowledge!