One of the biggest issues that's come out of the Yoomoot beta has been
getting people to word their replies as questions and answers and see
the value of doing that. I've recently completed a few rounds of
usability tests aimed at addressing that issue. Two key usability
principles have emerged from the tests which I think are applicable to
any web app:
1. Never show an interface that's radically different from what a user expected to see. Even if you explain the unexpectedness within the interface they won't take in the explanation.
2. Never expect anyone to read (or watch) anything unless they feel they absolutely have to in order to do what they want to do.
In yoomoot's case the current reply interface tries to get people to understand the rewording-as-Q&A thing via a very brief mini-tutorial that precedes the reply interface. What happens in practice is that users click the 'reply' button and then ignore or skim over the mini-tutorial. They have a particular idea of what they want to say and they expect to see a standard commenting interface. To them, the mini-tutorial is just some blah getting in their way. When, instead of seeing a standard commenting interface, they see a "new question" interface, they react by doing one of the following:
Yesterday I tested a new reply interface designed with the two principles described above very much in mind, and so far it has been radically more successful in teaching people to reword their thoughts as Q&A. It still needs work and testing, so it'll be a while before it appears on the Yoomoot website, but it's exciting progress for us and shows how very enlightening simple usability tests can be.