Friday, May 13, 2011

Digital Birding Field Guide App Study - Part Two: Timed Test Results

For this round of the digital birding field guide app study I thought we'd test how user-friendly the various apps are with some sort of objective and measurable results, devoid of personal opinion.  I came up with some simple and some more complicated bird facts to use in time trials.  We met at the Salt Lake City Library and had some fun!  Here is the list that we tested over five rounds, with participants using different apps each round.

1. Call of the Virginia Rail
2. Range map of the Nashville Warbler
3. Wingspan of Common Raven
4. Common habitat of Black & White Warbler
5. Color of Western Sandpiper legs
6. Call of Sandhill Crane
7. Image of Acorn Woodpecker
8. Bill color of a juvenile Northern Cardinal
9. Call of Lazuli Bunting
10. Range map of the Swainson’s Hawk
11. Bill color of Bonapart’s Gull
12. Eye color of juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk
13. Call of Black-throated Blue Warbler
14. Preferred food of Grasshopper Sparrow
15. Number of Neck rings on a Semipalmated Plover

Remember, these results do not reflect opinions, but simply how long it took to find random bird facts.  Looking up random facts like this is probably not the main purpose birders use birding apps, but I hope it shares something about the ease of navigating around the app.  As you will see, the times were so close, that the differences are almost non-existent for field use.  Whether or not the information could be found in the app may make a difference in what app a customer is looking to purchase.

National Geographic's Handheld Birds
Average time:  18 seconds
Fastest time recorded on 6 of 15 challenges (one tie)
1 of 15 bird facts was not found on the app by any participant (wingspan of Common Raven)

iBird Pro
Average time: 20 seconds
Fastest time recorded on 3 of 15 challenges
All 15 of 15 bird facts were found by all participants!

Sibley eGuide to Birds
Average time: 21 seconds
Fastest time recorded on 6 of 15 challenges (one tie)
1 of 15 bird facts was not found on the app by any participant (preferred food of Grasshopper Sparrow)

Audubon Birds
Average time: 25 seconds
Fastest time recorded on 0 of 15 challenges
3 of 15 bird facts were not found on the app by any participant (wingspan of Common Raven, bill color of juvenile Northern Cardinal, eye color of juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk)

Peterson Birds of North America
Average time: 26 seconds
Fastest time recorded on 1 of 15 challenges
2 of 15 bird facts could not be found on the app by any participant (range map of Swainson's Hawk - the map was all gray; the preferred food of the Grasshopper Sparrow)

Times for the individual participants varied greatly depending on their birding experience and their previous experience with each app.  In the first round, I required them to use the alphabetical list or common name list for the first five facts, the taxonomic or family list to find the next five, and the last five they could use the search feature of their choice, including typing in the name or part of the name in the search bar.  The first round showed frustration by being required to search in certain ways, especially by bird family.  In subsequent rounds, we abandoned the "required" search methods and allowed participants to use whichever search method they felt would be fastest.  I noted that about half of the participants typed-in names of the bird while the other half scrolled through an alphabetic list, or alternated between those two methods.

Yesterday's post shared the results of the survey focused on the importance of app features.
Tomorrow's post will discuss how these app performed when searching for species by bird characteristics.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I have Ibird Pro and Sibley. Both are great. I like Sibley's drawings much better but I like the little facts (a group of Pelicans is a "pouch") on IbirdPro. Both easy to use.