Usability Tests and Low-Hanging Fruit

illustration of an apple treeThe first round of usability testing with the new homepage design is complete, and I first want to thank all the current students who participated. I was hoping for 10 volunteers and got 16, so thank you again for taking the time to help out during what I know is a really busy time of year.

There are already some very simple fixes in the works as a result of these observations. Call them the low-hanging fruit, or the “forehead slappers:” there are always a few obvious-in-hindsight changes to be made to any design as soon as you actually watch someone in the act of using it.

For example, in the very first session, I asked the student how they would go about finding the email address of one of their professors. He promptly entered the professor’s last name in the search box at the top of the screen and hit “Phone/Email Directory.” However, that box is the site search, not the directory search, and the link just takes you to the directory. The student figured this out immediately, but since the search box just said “Search,” a simple change to “Search” might help users understand what it is they are searching before they begin their search.

Some other fairly simple observations/fixes:

  • About half the students when asked what they would do if they needed to find out information on how to do a semester overseas, knew the name of the Study Abroad office and just did a search, which brought them successfully to the information they needed. They other half browsed for the information, and most of them started under Academics. But there is no link to Study Abroad on the Academics subhome. A handful also started at Academics when looking for the Blackboard login. Potential solution: Add a section for “Academic Services” to the Academics page.
  • When asked to find out about internships they might qualify for, again many students knew the Career Center by name and just did a search. Others browsed and started with Working Here. But there is no link to the Career Center from the Working Here subhome. Potential solution: Add a link to Career Center from Working Here (duh.)
Tomorrow, we’ll tackle not so much a forehead slapper as a head scratcher–the return of the dropdown menus: yes or no?

1 thought on “Usability Tests and Low-Hanging Fruit

  1. Love the fact that addresses for the University are now on the main page! I could not tell you how many times a week Admissions gets phone calls asking where to go and what GPS address to put in. Thanks!

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