Lightweight Usability Testing with Infomaki open-source software

Session Title

Lightweight Usability Testing with Infomaki open-source software


Michael Lascarides, New York Public Library

Session Type: Demo

Infomaki is an open-source, Ruby on Rails-based “lightweight” usability testing tool developed by the New York Public Library to evaluate new designs for the web site and uncover insights about our patrons. Designed to act as a “one question” survey, it presents respondents with a single question randomly selected from a pool of active questions. Questions range from traditional multiple-choice questions to “where would you click to…” to “five-second” tests, with support for segmentation and response time measurement.

Infomaki was designed from the ground up to be as respectful of the respondent’s time as possible. To this end, all of the language used in the project is geared towards lowering the cognitive load on the respondent. The link from our main web site to the tool reads, “Answer a single question and help us improve our web site!” That’s the Infomaki sales pitch: even if you only answer one question, that will be welcomed.

But more than 90% of respondents answer multiple questions. Surprisingly, given that it’s essentially just a survey tool, users have called Infomaki “fun”, “like a video game”, and “addictive”. More than one person has reported wanting to “find the end” by answering all of the active questions, and first improvement implemented as a result of user feedback was a way to skip the thank you page and keep answering questions without interruption.

This level of engagement has led to stellar response rates, and the tool has captured well over 100,000 responses from over 10,000 respondents to date. Infomaki is not intended to be a formal research tool; rather, its strength lies in lowering the turnaround time between formulating a question and getting a response to that question form the general public.

In this session, lead Infomaki developer Michael Lascarides will demonstrate the tool, discuss the NYPL’s successes and failures in incorporating the results into our workflow, and lead a discussion about the relative strengths and weaknesses of this tool (and other similar quick-feedback tools) in the usability professional’s toolkit.

Infomaki links:

Project home page and download:



Michael Lascarides is the User Analyst for the Digital Experience Group of the New York Public Library. He has been a web designer, programmer and information architect since 1996 for clients ranging from finance to fashion and education to e-commerce. He teaches web design at School of Visual Arts and New York University.