Usability testing around the University

The digital communications team has been conducting usability testing since 2015. Usability testing allows us to evaluate the design of a webpage, or more specifically, a particular process such as signing up for a visiting day.

Digicomms is keen for other units and departments within the University to consider conducting usability testing on their webpages. This post looks at the process for conducting usability testing in another department.

Find out more: What is usability testing and why do we do it?


Meet with digicomms

The first step is to arrange a meeting with digicomms to discuss how usability testing can work for your department. First, if needed, the meeting will provide a brief overview of what usability testing is and the main three stages involved in running usability testing (planning, testing and reporting).

An overview of the usability testing process.

Following that, I will demonstrate Lookback, the usability testing software digicomms use and show you an example test. I will also highlight the hardware and resources needed to conduct the test.

The overall process:

  1. Arrange a meeting with digicomms.
  2. Decide on what needs to be tested, and how the test will take place.
  3. Create a script.
  4. Run a practise test.
  5. Conduct usability testing.
  6. Report back.

Who uses the website?

The first step is considering who uses the webpages in question. Determining the correct audience will ensure the right questions are being asked, and the right participants are brought in to do the testing.

What works for you?

Once we’ve figured out who uses the website, we need to decide how the actual test will take place. There are three options:

  • in-person testing
  • moderated remote testing
  • unmoderated remote testing

It’s helpful to do this step after concluding who actually uses your website. For example, the main audience for the Development website is alumni. If we consider that the majority of alumni typically don’t live in St Andrews, then it would be helpful to do some remote testing. On the other hand, if we were to test the current student section, the most appropriate thing would be to conduct in-person testing on campus.

What do you want to test?

This step determines what needs to be tested, and thus what needs to go into the testing script. It’s helpful before the meeting to come up with some potential questions, and together we see which are suitable.

The better questions are those which are based on an overall test objective. For example, if we were to test the digital prospectus, a testing objective such as “We want to understand if a student can navigate the digital prospectus in order to find information relevant to them,” is clearer than: “We want to see how our website performs”. A more general objective can still be useful, but it’s not as helpful for deciding questions.

I will also provide some tips for not asking leading questions, and asking the right amount of questions.

The University website didn’t always look like it does now.

How are you going to report?

Each department will have their own preferred way of reporting findings back to their team. In the meeting, I will outline a few options:

  • written report
  • presentation
  • show-reel

However, it’s not really the method of presenting information that’s the most important, it’s how the outcomes are actioned. We can discuss some suitable options, and I can provide some examples.

Find out more about presenting usability findings in an agile way.

Who should be there?

Anyone who is interested in the functionality or design of certain pages should come along to the introductory meeting, as well as those who would like to facilitate the testing and report any results.

After the meeting

The next step after the meeting is for the department to produce a draft testing script, which digicomms will sign off. Once this has been signed-off, the unit, School or department will be granted access to Lookback so they can get used to the software and carry out any practice tests. Once they have a date chosen, and participants signed up, the usability test can take place!

If you are a member of staff interested in conducting usability testing, and would like to set up a meeting to discuss potential testing, please contact digitalcommunications@st-andrews.ac.uk

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