To prepare for a new version of their Library & Learning Commons (LLC) subsite, the George Brown College redesign team asked me and another colleague to run a usability test for their new design.
Problems & Challenges:
The client wanted us to test the usability and user flow of the core features of their subsite, but only a few static images of the prototype pages were given to us and these did not viably reflect the client’s target features.
I created a test plan to integrate the existing LLC subsite into the usability test. This ended up generating a lot of design insights from participants who discussed how their experience between the new and old subsite differed, what each did well, and how each could improve.
In order to understand the scope of the usability test, my partner and I had a chat with the stakeholders about the existing and proposed site. We were surprised to find that there was an overwhelming bias toward the outdated existing site. When we probed further, we discovered that a lot of the key UX considerations that had been implemented over the years were not accounted for in the prototype.
After aggregating Google Analytics and internal statistics, my partner and I identified key user groups and tasks that were most common or vital to each. We then interviewed the LLC lead, who also informed us of some of the most common questions and issues users had about the site.
This yielded us our three main groups of participants.
Since the issues our client wanted to tackle were not reflected well in the prototype mockups, I decided to include the existing subsite in our walkthrough interviews with participants. This allowed us to compare user journeys and pain points, and also inform design recommendations for future pages of the redesign.
Test Plan & Task List
The test plan outlined the goal of the usability test, roles, methodology, tasks, and expected metrics.
This usability test will take place over the course of 30-40 minutes for each participant. A computer with macOS X will be used. Testing of the current subsite will be done through the Google Chrome browser, while testing of the proposed template will be done with an InVision mockup. Researchers will record video footage of participants’ actions on the screen, and will note-take comments and suggestions for improvement.
It is expected for participants to have at least beginner-level proficiency with computers, and possess an ability to navigate the interface with mouse movements, clicks, and keystrokes. It is also expected that participants have basic proficiency in the English language, such that they are able to enter search queries.
We ran the test in two parts:
1. Current live site, where participants performed tasks in the Google Chrome browser.
2. Functional Prototype, which we created using InVision to test and assess the usability of the mockups we received. This included the ‘Home’ page, ‘Services’ page, ‘Hours, Locations, and Maps’ page, and ‘Hours of Operation’ page. All other links were directed to the existing site.
Participants ran through the same 9 tasks twice, once on each interface. Tasks were written to avoid leading questions and researcher/participant bias.
- Book a study room.
- When is the Library Learning Commons at 341 King St E Building open on Tuesdays?
- Navigate to the page that guides you on how to cite a book in APA style.
- Imagine you are trying to find The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Indicate what you would do to find it.
- Navigate to the page where you can view a peer-reviewed academic journal article on the topic of augmented reality and social media.
- Imagine you are printing to a GBC library printer from this computer. Navigate to the page where you can print a file.
- Imagine you are doing research on architecture. Where would you go to view the list of sources related to the subject?
- Imagine you are at home, trying to log in to GBC website but your password doesn’t work. Where would you go on the library website to reset it?
- Imagine you are registered with Accessible Learning Services and need help doing research for your course. Where would you look on the library website to get assistance for those services?
One moderator sat by the participant and the other took notes behind a one-way mirror. This method allowed one of us to record user journeys through both versions of the website and the other to interject with open-ended questions when the user became frustrated or confused.
We recorded video footage of participants’ actions on the screen, and the note-taker commented and made suggestions for improvement of the new website.
Prior to testing the InVision mockup, we informed participants that it is not a currently functional webpage, and invited participants to elaborate more on their thoughts, actions, and expectations during this segment.
Fourteen participants were invited and thirteen attended. We had a good mix of all demographics we wanted to target - equal gender ratio, international and domestic, and young and mature students from a variety of programs of study.
Results & Design Recommendations
After concluding all participant interviews, we aggregated and visualized the information we gathered. Pre- and post-test questionnaires gave us an overall insight into participants' experience with and understanding of the LLC subsite, while by-task analysis helped us generate specific design recommendations for the subsite's new design.
Here is a small example of some results, user journeys, and design recommendations we made to the client.