When a major midwest University launched site changes without talking to stakeholders, users couldn't find the documents and other resources they relied on.
Asking Questions First
The marketing department said they made the changes to make the site more user-friendly, but began the project with the acknowledgement that they may have failed.
We conducted hybrid usability tests with eighteen students in three categories. We aimed to complete at least four students in each of three demographic groups (prospect, enrolled, graduate) to validate if users could complete representative tasks on various college and unviersity websites. We asked users to complete the same tasks on competitor sites that we knew they needed to complete on the client site.
Test users completed surveys which provided quantitative measurements of assigned tasks and the ability to register their feedback on sites that we tested the client site against. We designed a survey instrument that the client could use to formalize their research process into the future.
We completed a heuristic evaluation using a custom-composition of NNG heuristics for Higher Education websites— functionally, a list of rules for that govern how their site should endeavor to interact with users. Since we knew all development (and prioritization) would happen on the client-side after we finished our part of the project, we wanted to help them build their future designs according to set of standards they could follow.
While we were trying to learn about tasks users needed to complete on the site, we helped them achieve movement toward more harmonious data governance principles along the way. When we began this project, staff were agitated— the faculty representative told us that he felt like drastic action needed to be taken. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we helped a higher education client be more long-term more strategic about their digital presence, solve problems with student communication, and make the best of the digital resources they had.