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RAIN 4/15: Even NPR.org benefits from low-cost usability testing

Posted on: 04/15/2010


NPR Digital Media’s Callie Neylan, who’s a senior designer in the User Experience group, blogged about a recent experiement in low-cost, “guerrilla” usability testing she and her team conducted. Instead of the usual paid listener panel answering formal questions while they’re remotely monitored at NPR’s headquarters in D.C., Neylan simply hung out at a nearby coffee shop and paid willing patrons $5 to spend 15 minutes on NPR.org.

Neylan writes she asked subjects questions like, “You want to see a list of all the stories that were on today’s episode of All Things Considered, listed in the order in which they aired; how would you find this on NPR.org?” Or, “Suppose you were a fan of the regular segment ‘Sunday Puzzle’ on Weekend Edition Sunday; how would you find a list of the most recent ‘Sunday Puzzle’ segments?” She cites Ideo Method Cards (here) and lean usability testing (here) as inspiration for the experiment.

“When you are probing for users’ thoughts on interacting with an interface,” she writes, comparing the experiment to more expensive studies with far larger sample sizes and extensive controls, “sometimes who you’re talking to is less important than the simple fact that they offer you a perspective that’s different than your own.”

We thought this story was interesting and included it because it shows that even a well-funded operation like NPR benefits from low-cost, easy-to-conduct usability testing. This sort of testing is well within the reach of nearly any webcaster or broadcaster and, as Neylan observed, offers the benefit of outside perspective. Recommended reading: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug (see more here).

Read the NPR blog post here.


Billboard announced yesterday its new “Music App Awards,” to recognize “the most innovative music-focused apps created for smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android and Nokia devices.”

The awards are broken out into the following categories:
Best Artist-Based App; Best Music Streaming App (such as Internet radio or on-demand); Best Music Engagement App (“apps that engage in music in various ways outside of creating or just listening”); Best Music Creation App; and Best Branded App (“apps that incorporate a sponsor with music capabilities”). Submissions are being accepted through July 30 at mobileentertainmentlivefall.com. Winners will announced at Billboard’s Mobile Entertainment Live conference Oct. 5. Read more here. Most importantly, thought, what’s the nickname? The “Appies?” The “MAppies?”


Hulu has the package ABC’s “Nightline” produced on Oakland-based personalized Internet radio service Pandora here. In the video, Pandora founder Tim Westergren explains his company’s goal to be everyone radio is, and Pandora’s ability to target ads to small niches of its audience. Mark Ramsey at Radio Intelligence commented, “Recognize that what fascinates the media is what fascinates the consumer. Pandora is bright and shiny and authentic in its passion. So should we all be.” Read more here.


ComScore ranked Internet and mobile radio ad network TargetSpot top in the “Entertainment – Radio” category for March, reporting its network of affiliate sites attracted 39 million unique monthly visitors.

Note that this is not a measurement of listening, but rather site visits. Via distribution partners like CBS Radio, Entercom, Live 365, and MySpace Music, TargetSpot reaches 83% of the “Entertainment – Radio” category and 18.5% of the entire U.S. Internet audience. Read TargetSpot’s press release here.

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