Four representative user groups. Three different devices. Two days’ lab-based usability testing. One great result.

University websites often have to pull off a difficult balancing act – serving not just current undergraduate and postgraduate requirements but the needs of prospective students, academics, parents and more. So when Middlesex University wanted to assess the effectiveness of their recently redesigned site, they knew they had to cover all the bases.

And that’s why they approached Box UK.

To gain the rich qualitative insight required, we embarked on a programme of laboratory usability testing. User interactions, facial expressions and verbal feedback were all recorded and analysed – and thanks to our state-of-the-art usability lab, Middlesex University could observe activity in real-time too.

The education institution now has the confidence needed to move its digital strategy forward, along with expert recommendations for further improvement and refinement. If you too want a website that’s at the top of the class, you know what to do: get in touch with a member of our team today.

"Both the service and project execution were fantastic - we were consulted at every stage in a timely fashion, and couldn’t have felt more welcome. It’s been a fantastic experience."

Maria Luisa Ross
Head of Programmes and Insight, Middlesex University

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.

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