Prospective student information: usability testing and results

Maria Drummond
Friday 16 June 2017

As part of the external website project we are retiring the Study at St Andrews section of the website and moving its content into either Subjects or Prospective students. Certain information will now live under Subjects, including:

  • Study options
  • Entry requirements
  • Non-degree courses

Last week we conducted a control usability test which asked users to find information in the pages listed above. The purpose behind this test was to see how users currently found this information within Study.

Why we tested

I have outlined the general benefits of conducting usability testing in an introductory post on the topic, but for this specific test we were looking for any major usability issues so we can ensure that the new design will combat these.

Documenting these problems also allows us to compare them with the outcome of the upcoming usability test, in which we plan on testing the new Subjects section.  

What we tested

In total four participants were tested, all were undergraduates. The main purpose of the test was to see if and how they found certain information located in Study options, Entry requirements and Non-degree courses. By answering the questions below, we can see the likely routes users will take.

  1. What subject might you be interested in studying at St Andrews? Can you find the entry requirements you would have to meet for this course?
  2. Can you also find out whether it’s possible to do the degree that you’re interested in on a part-time basis?
  3. Please show me how would you find out which courses offer an Integrated Masters degree?
  4. You are contemplating studying a language outside of normal teaching hours, but aren’t sure which languages are available to study. Can you show me how you would find this out?
  5. For the degree you are interested in studying, can you tell me how many other subjects you will take alongside it in first year?
  6. Can you find a list of all subjects St Andrews offers?


Here are some of the key takeaways we found from the test:

  • Users relied on specific course pages to find information, rather than the generic Entry requirements page, or the Part-time study page.
  • Participants often couldn’t provide specific answers to tasks when using a general information page.
  • Two users indicated that they didn’t know what an Integrated Masters degree was.
  • Three participants relied on Googling specific search terms (for example, “University of St Andrews Integrated Masters degree”).
  • Users utilised the University search to find information to complete tasks.
  • Users can navigate to /subjects with ease.
  • Users can navigate around Study with ease.

We identified several possible fixes for the problems listed above, and will be actioning these over the next couple of weeks.

What’s next?

We are planning on conducting more usability testing in the next two weeks. This time, we’ll be testing the new design of the pages. Doing both a control test (see above) and a new test allows us to:

  1. Identify and fix any major and minor usability issues
  2. Compare the two tests and evaluate the effectiveness of the new design. At this stage we ask the questions: “Has the user experience been changed for the better?” and “Does the user experience need to be improved or modified?”

If more usability issues arise following the launch of the pages, it is likely that we will conduct further testing once the issues have been addressed.

Ideally we would like prospective students (15 to 17 year olds) to test the new Subjects section pages, as they are the predominant target audience. Digicomms offers each student a £10 Amazon voucher for taking part. If you or someone you know would be interested in testing the pages, please contact [email protected].

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