The ‘ask a question’ web page was launched on 19 January 2015. It allows visitors to find answers to questions that exist in the ‘Student Information Desk (SID)’ system. Users can either try and search for an answer or they can submit a question if they are unable to find an answer. By monitoring the way users interact with the system we can improve information on the University website to help reduce the number of queries made.
Searching for an answer
If a user types a question, answers start to appear below the search box. Clicking on a question will reveal the answer.
Submit a question
If a user can’t find the answer they are looking for, they have the option to submit a question using an online form. The query will then be emailed to the relevant team associated with the category of the question. These questions are stored in SID so that all queries can be reviewed and centrally managed.
While the system allows more streamlined answering of questions, it still takes an operator time, and hence cost, to review and reply to a query. It is also not a good user experience if someone can’t find what they are looking for and have to resort to submitting a question and waiting for a reply. So we want to use this system to identify areas were we can improve information on the University website and via other digital channels.
The number of visits to the ask a question web page and the search terms used is tracked via Google Analytics. For external visitors (outside the University network) we have had about 2,150 page views per month (1,800 unique), of which 7% used the submit a question form. The most popular search term was ‘financial’ followed by ‘scholarship’. It is clear that trying to find answers to finance related questions was the most popular. The longest question posed was “how long after the graduation does it take for certificates to be posted to someone who graduate in abstentia?”
For internal users, there were about 500 page views per month (300 unique), of which 12% used the submit a question form. As with external visitors, the most popular questions related to finance. The longest question was ‘how do I know how many days holiday’.
From these preliminary findings it is clear that the ask a question page is being used more by external than internal visitors, and that internal visitors are not finding the information they need via the search box so are resorting to submitting the form.
We now need to do usability testing to understand how users are using the ask a question page and how it might be improved.