A university website for all
Middlesex University wanted our User Experience (UX) consultants to give their site an overall ‘health check’ - analysing first impressions, efficiency, ease-of-use and end-user satisfaction to provide a measure of current performance and identify opportunities for further improvement and refinement. And to give them the overarching assessment they were after, we knew we needed to cover as many different testing variations as possible in the time available.
We therefore agreed a test plan in collaboration with Middlesex University that included representatives from a range of core Higher Education Institution (HEI) audiences, including:
- Prospective undergraduates
- Prospective postgraduates
- Student influencers (such as parents and teachers)
- Academics and researchers
Within each of these groups, it was crucial that we recruited exactly the right kind of participants - to ensure that the insight captured accurately reflected the thoughts and feelings of real-world users, and increased the impact of any subsequent recommendations. When choosing prospective undergraduates, for example, we made sure that they hadn’t already formally chosen or even mentally ‘selected’ a university, and when it came to postgraduates, influencers and academics we looked for a good mix of backgrounds and specialisms.
To guarantee that we’d covered all the bases with regards platforms too, we made the decision to conduct the testing across desktop, tablet and mobile devices - aligning the proportion of participants completing tasks on each device with the real-world behaviour we observed through Middlesex University’s analytics. And by ensuring all the tasks we defined were ‘device agnostic’ we were able to test consistently across the various platforms, and so more easily compare performance across critical activities and journeys.
The insight that matters
With an agreed test plan in place, we embarked on a packed two days of usability testing, where participants from each of the different test groups - using the various devices identified - were asked to complete a set of predefined tasks. To enable us to maximise the time we had available, these had been split into core tasks, which were completed by all participants and focused on common high-level journeys, and group-specific tasks tailored to the unique goals of certain participant types (for example, finding specific undergraduate courses, comparing student accommodation options, or searching for relevant university research material).
All the while, a Box UK consultant was busy analysing participants’ facial expressions, verbal feedback, and mouse and finger movements in order to build a complete picture of their interactions with the site. As the very presence of an onlooker can affect the way a participant behaves though, this analysis was conducted from our usability lab’s dedicated observation room to avoid biasing the results - and participant activity was also recorded so that further in-depth analysis could be undertaken following the conclusion of the sessions.
Planning for success
By taking a “big picture” approach when testing the Middlesex University website - while remaining focused on the target groups, devices and tasks that mattered most - we were able to provide the university with a wealth of relevant insight and recommendations for improvement.
This was delivered as part of a custom report that featured efficiency scores and success rates for each of the different tasks covered in the test plan as well as key findings from when participants were encouraged to explore the site more freely. To help the client plan a programme of work that would deliver significant and long-lasting results, recommendations were prioritised according to their urgency and likely impact, while results from the System Usability Survey completed by all participants provided a clear benchmark of the site’s overall usability, against which the success of any future activity could be measured.
With the help of our usability testing services, Middlesex University is on course for user experience success. If want to give you website a clean bill of health too, get in touch with a member of our team today.