Category Archives: Usability Testing

Usability Test: Emerald Downs Racetrack and Casino (Mobile Version)

Previously, I conducted usability testing on the Emerald Downs website as accessed using a desktop browser. This week, I performed the same usability test but using smaller form factor devices, tablets and smartphones.


For my mobile test I enlisted the help of three user testers. Two tests were conducted in person and one remotely.

Age, gender, educational attainment, and parent status of user testers:

  • 60-65 yo female, High School, with kids, low vision, uses a wheelchair for mobility
  • 25-30 yo female, Masters degree, with kids
  • 35-40 yo male, Bachelors degree, no kids

Devices and Applications

I used Mobizen for audio and screencapturing on my own mobile device, a Motorola Droid Turbo 2, to administer the in person tests. For the remote test, I spoke with the user on the phone while they accessed the site on an Amazon Fire device. As there was no screencapture and I was unable to observe their interactions with the site, what data could be collected was limited. I enlisted this person anyway because they fall into a demographic not represented by anyone else I had recruited so far.

Usability Test – Preliminary Portion

After starting the session by introducing the usability test and asking some preliminary questions, I gave user testers a couple of minutes to orient themselves on the homepage of the site (asking they not click on anything). I then requested they put the device down and describe their general impressions of the site, what it’s for, and what types of events are held at Emerald Downs.

Usability Test – Task Portion

For this portion of the test, I asked users to complete three tasks:

  1. Locate where events are displayed on the site and describe what information is available
  2. Determine whether Emerald Downs is a good place to bring kids. Are kid-specific events held?
  3. Imagine you have a free weekend coming up and would like to see some live horse racing. Locate this weekend on the calendar, find out what events were being held that day, and figure out at what time the gates open.

Usability Testing Script (Mobile Version): mobile-testing-script

Observations – Overall impressions of the site

All users commented on the site being visually appealing, with one user calling it “fancy” and another “colorful and interesting — the people in the photos look like they are having a good time”. Two users mentioned that the design looked “modern”. All were able to identify the site as belonging to the Emerald Downs Racetrack but only one volunteered “Casino” in their description of who they thought the site belonged to. When asked to list what kinds of events are held at Emerald Downs, all users included horseracing and live music.

One user complained about insufficient contrast between background and text color on the site and hard to read fonts. They cited the poor contrast as being why they misread “Responsible Wagering” in the menu as “Responsible Watching” and joked they thought this meant you weren’t allowed to heckle the horses or blow raspberries at them.

White text on grey background

White text on grey background

Observations – Task One

There are two primary links from the home page where users can access the event calendar, one in the main menu bar and another in a sectional block midway down the page. A user who spent more time exploring this main menu bar when initially surveying the site accessed the calendar through a link there under “Visit” while the other two users selected the turquoise block (see image below — what do you think about the contrast?).

White text on turquoise background

White text on turquoise background

Two users, including the one who accessed the calendar through the menu were surprised or thrown off by arriving on a view listing events rather than one displaying a calendar grid layout. All users selected the “Previous Events” and “Next Events” although only one user verbalized having understood that these links actually display the previous and next weeks worth of events.

page turners

Next events? Next week’s events?

I observed two users show signs of frustration at having to use these links to view more events instead of being able to scroll to see more. One user looked for but was unable to find a link to access the desktop version of the site.

All users noted the legend at the top of the calendar view and two users voluntarily “sorted” by these options. One user who did so said that it “doesn’t do anything”. (These links do actually work, but the feature isn’t accurately named — they filter results, not sort them.)

sort vs filter

Sort vs. Filter

Observations – Task Two

Two of my user testers have children but only one has kids of an age where they currently face having to take them out for fun now and again. All users scrolled through the events and were able to call out ones they thought would be kid friendly. One user mentioned they thought daytime would be best for kids, since the site hosts gambling and has a nightlife scene with live music and dancing.

yeehaw family fun

Family fun at Emerald Downs

One user located the clubhouse menu under “Dining Options” in order to find out what food was available. They located the menu but noticed pricing wasn’t provided, which they thought should be.

Quick Pix Cafe - no prices?

Quick Pix Cafe – no prices?

Observations – Task Three

All users were able to find an upcoming weekend to set their imaginary trip but two seemed or mentioned being bothered to have to click through each successive week to reach the weekend they wanted.

When attempting to locate an upcoming Saturday or Sunday, only one user complained the weekday wasn’t provided alongside the date. This user (who I ran through the test with remotely) actually had someone near them pull up a calendar on another device in order to collate weekday information. I suspect the other users may have offered this complaint as well had I asked them specifically to pick a Saturday or Sunday.

Only a weeks worth of events are displayed at a time and users have to click through each week successively in order to arrive on the one that they want. One user who seemed to enjoy clicking and scrolling through each week to see what was happening didn’t mention being frustrated by this but the others said that they thought there should be a way to go directly to a date or that it should be faster to get to a given date.


Based on data collected from conducting this usability test with three users, I’ve identified the following pain points and list them along with recommendations on how to overcome them (these correspond to observations in bold from users):

* Adjust text and background color where needed to make text easier to make out by those with low vision
* Adjust fonts where needed to those easier to make out by those with low vision
Event display options
* Provide the option of viewing events on a grid displaying monthly calendar
“Previous/next page” labels in event listing
* Change labels from “Previous Events”/”Next Events” to “Previous Week”/”Next Week”
Link to desktop version
* Add one
Sort vs. filter using event legend
* Change label from sort to filter
Menu Prices
* Include them
Calendar navigation
* Provide an alternate way for users to access a given date, by either clicking on a calendar grid or using a dropdown
Information on date cards
* Provide the weekday next to month and numeric day

Additional comments about accessibility information on the site

One of my users requires the use of a wheelchair for mobility and has low vision. They estimated spending 30 hours using the internet each week, exclusively through a touchscreen tablet. I spent extra time asking questions of this user outside of the given tasks in order to find out what they thought about the site.

In addition to the standardized tasks, I had them explore the site for information about wheelchair access. The first thing they did was go to a page set up for “Parking” and found a section there specifically for “Patrons with Disabilities”. From there they went to the “Admission” page where ticket information can be found, finding there another more expansive section with information for those with disabilities.

Main menu

Main menu

Aside: Prior to running to asking the user to complete these extra tasks, I made myself do them. While I was able to (eventually), it took me considerably longer and included more “dead ends”. I believe it’s very possible web users with disabilities develop highly-tuned information seeking patterns and skills which allow them to navigate more readily to this pertinent type of information (know exactly where websites “hide” this information). The more I think about how this particular user responded to the task, the more logical the choice to start at “Parking” and then head to “Admission” seems. Perhaps they were imagining the visit and stepping through it chronologically — first you arrive in the parking lot, then you show/buy your ticket…

When asked whether they thought Emerald Downs would be an easy or stressful place for someone with limited mobility to visit, they said ” it seems like they’ve done all they can to make it as easy possible”.

Usability Test: Emerald Downs Racetrack and Casino

Site URL:


Horse racing facilities rely on the attendance of racing enthusiasts as well as interested members of the general public to keep going.

One way Emerald Downs can connect with potential visitors to their physical site is through publishing a calendar of races and other events on their website.

I conducted user testing to find out how well Emerald Downs is doing this.


I enlisted the help of three user testers. Two tests were conducted in person and one was conducted remotely. All sessions were recorded using Kazam, screen capturing software which also records audio.

Due to time constraints, usability testing focused only on how well the website implemented calendars and event listings to support the goals of website visitors in planning a visit to the Emerald Downs.

The first portion of the test asked the user to visually explore the site’s homepage using their mouse without clicking on any links. The remainder of the test had users complete three tasks:

  1. Locate the events calendar and take a look at what’s happening on a few different days. Describe the types of events you see.
  2. Determine whether Emerald Downs is a good place to bring kids. Are there any kid-specific events coming up?
  3. Pick a weekend day in the events calendar when you would like to view some horse racing. Find out what races are being run that day and when the gates open.

Following the completion of tasks, users were given an opportunity to share impressions and remarks about the site.

Demographic Summary

Users are not horse racing enthusiasts but based on response to opening questions are interested in attending live horse racing events. One person has attended a couple of horse races in the past, although not at this location. One user has an infant and the other two have no children. All users reported making heavy use of the internet when planning activities and events to enjoy with family and friends.

Usability Testing Results

The first portion of testing asked users to explore the homepage without clicking any links. All users were able to quickly determine the purpose of the website, although only two verbally recognized the dual-role of this facility as a racetrack and casino. One user focused almost exclusively on the top menu bar when asked to figure out what kind of information was hosted on the site. Unlike the other two testers, this user verbalized having noticed sections of the site set aside for specific rather than general audiences like “Horsemen” and the press.

The main navigation bar includes options for specific audiences (horsemen, the press, etc.)

The other two users set about the task of determining the contents of the site more by scrolling the length of the website from top to bottom. One of these users, along with the user who relied more on the main menu bar, mentioned the presence of social media icons and aggregated social media data.

Task One

The purpose of the first task was to determine how users would access the calendar, given multiple links to choose from. Two users selected the calendar option from the main menu bar, while the third user opened a link featured in a calendar graphic. The link in the main menu bar directs users to a calendar view of events while the link selected by the third user directs them to a listing of events. This user complained about arriving on a page with a calendar view. Despite there not being an clear option to “toggle” between a list and calendar view, this user selected “Calendar” in a page menu which directed them to a page displaying the calendar view.

Task Two

The second task builds on the first, asking users to find out whether the racetrack is kid-friendly. Users were asked to determine the answer to this using the calendar and any other portions of the site. Here is where I noticed the most variability in how users attempted the tasks, and where I personally feel my expectations were the most challenged by what actually unfolded.

The two users without children carried out this task fairly quickly and didn’t seem as invested in the task as my one user with an infant, which I wasn’t too surprised by. This user, who when asked what kind of information they look for online before attending an event or visiting a location provided a much longer list than the other two users, was very quick to go directly to the “Admissions” page, where there is a statement about the racetrack being “kid-friendly”. This is not where I would have gone first. The other two users scrolled and clicked the calendar. One was contented by the presence of ostrich and zebra racing events to know that the track is kid-friendly, while for the last user speculated that maybe the track wasn’t very kid-friendly, since it’s also a casino and the site hosts a lot of evening entertainment targeting adults.

Task Three

The final task was very open-ended, and asked users to pretend to plan a weekend day sometime in the next few months to visit the track for some live horse racing. They were asked to locate this date on the calendar, determine which races were being run, and find out when the gates open. Users were then asked to look for any other information they would normally look for before visiting a place for the first time.

All users were able to quickly locate a “live race” day using the calendar’s legend. At this stage of testing, two users commented on not being sure what was meant by “simulcasting”. One user speculate it meant “virtual” or “simulated” racing.

“What do you mean by, ‘simulcast’?

When one user opened the page for a particular date, they were confused to not be able to find any information about particular races being run that day but were able to find the time when gates would open. The other users happened to open pages on days when “stake races” were ran which include the race name as well as the gate time. Figuring out the gate time requires taking a given time and calculating a time thirty minutes prior. None of the users expressed any frustration about this.

Users did not seem to mind calculating the gate time

Two users, including the one with an infant, went immediately to the “Parking” page when asked to look for additional information to support planning for their trip. The user without a child who sought out the parking page also located the “Dining Options” page under “Visit” in the main menu. They did not spend much time on this page, which doesn’t display menu information in a traditional way.

User Testing Script (PDF)