It was important for this project to carry out usability testing’s that accurately explored the problems and barriers users face when using our website. So the usability testings were conducted in the users home where they would use the machine and be in their normal surroundings. This helped to understand the constraints and challenges users face in their own environment.
The image above shows how the usability testing was conducted and the typical desktop environment that is found in a users home.
Why usability testing is important
In most situations or other types of websites, it’s quite easy to understand why usability testing is important. For instance, an e-commerce website will see users leaving a website before they finish a transaction as a loss of income but for a government website, the impact of bad website usability goes much further. Users use government website such as Camden Council’s website need to find essential information or carry out transactions that effects their lives. Failure to do these tasks can lead to users failure to benefit from council services that could help make their lives easier and more manageable.
Therefore, usability testing in this project is vitally important to ensure residents get the services they need in a timely and efficient manner to avoid frustrations and delays.
According to Jakob Nielsen usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.
Usability is defined by five quality components:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
Our finding shows what’s currently happening
This chart shows what should be happening
These charts clearly shows that there is a disconnect between what should be happening and what is currently happening. We are hoping with the new website redesign, we will be able to address the disconnection and reduce users contact with the council through more costly channels such as the phone, letter and in person.
We did discover a couple of things while conducting our usability testing on the current website.
Search box overlooked
The main sections are not as explicit as the popular links
Our Research of Eyetracking Vs. Observational testing
We also conducted our own research on eyetracking testing Vs. mouse tracking/observational testing’s. You can find the research here or read it below.
Conclusion & Research Findings
From the user research and usability testings, these insights were discovered: –
- Digital channels can improve on the ability to resolve tasks
Email is neglected as a preferred form of communication because delays are frequent and responses are untrustworthy or sometimes unforthcoming entirely. Response times must be more consistent, with all responses focused on resolution within that channel wherever appropriate.The website is used frequently as a conduit for the phone channel, rather than a source of the desired information itself. Information must be made easier to locate, read and action.For a small but significant minority, primary contact with the council is seen as a barrier to resolution, and prefer instead to pursue direct contact with councillors. This perception needs to be dispelled to ensure customer services are not consistently circumvented or undermined.
- Email is the natural successor to the letter to maintain trust & improve immediacy
Residents preference for written correspondence stems primarily from a lack of trust in actions being recorded and pursued accordingly via other channels. Email could easily provide this security in a dramatically more immediate manner than a letter, assuming tracking of queries is simple, feedback is ongoing and any correspondence is maintained via a single appropriate voice of authority on the issue.
- Overpopulation of ‘activists’ in the local government landscape could distract from sincere efforts to listen and respond to broader citizen concerns.
- Website personalisation would be best utilised to expose relevant local services and frequently used information
- Displaying frequently used and hyperlocal content are two approaches to ensure that unique journeys through the site, and the key functions to that individual, are suitably emphasised. Users can be easily overwhelmed with content, much of it irrelevant to their needs. Delivery of hyperlocal content would likely be most effective when handled passively, rather than via user-driven customisation, ideally through use of postcode information stored against an online resident account.
- Engagement needs to be passive, proactive and ongoing to be most effective
- Current methods of engagement can seem disorganised or insincere. The belief is that excessive surveys and other quantitative techniques feel robotic or forceful, whilst tracking of progress regarding raised issues of concern is difficult if not impossible. Likewise, ongoing or repeat involvement is perceived as not valuable or desirable to the council. Evidence suggests that qualitative engagement methods are more likely to make residents feel listened to, valued and understood. Residents feel most influential when they are passively informed of consultations they would otherwise be unaware of, then engaged meaningfully throughout the entire consultation process and explicitly informed of ongoing developments and outcomes.
- Passive sentiment tracking is possible through the use of social media monitoring tools, though for the foreseeable future it is likely to overemphasise the thoughts and feelings of a minority elite of residents. However, the ability for Camden to seemingly ‘mind read’ the concerns of it’s residents is a powerful tool and likely to generate an immensely positive reaction.
- Key improvements in website usability & visual design will significantly assist user engagement & productivity
- Evidence suggests a preference for short, spacious pages instead of lengthy, condensed, text-heavy pages
- Explicit association between content hierarchy and quick links should assist navigation and orientation
- Improved visibility and functionality of search will enhance findability of content
- Form processes can be made easier to increase conversion of self-servicing transactions
- Phone numbers should be highly visible wherever they are essential to reduce suspicion and frustration
- Increased use of data visualisation, video and other multimedia is likely to enrich engagement with content and is preferred over numerical or tabular displays of information
- Improved error messaging will help reduce confusion and site abandonment
- Significant demand for neutrality suggests a strictly informative, and moderately formal, tone would be the most effective form of communication on the website
The use of prominent space on the home page to temporarily promote key events (such as adoption and fostering open evenings) can be divisive as it is open to interpretation of bias, favouritism or ‘preaching’. Any home page space used to promote key messages from the council needs to be carefully toned to be informative rather than pushy, and accommodate multiple messages across the broader spectrum of council activities. Residents use the website for a wide variety of purposes and neutrality of information is vital to ensure trust and prevent content from being obscured. Remember, ‘at your service’.
- Transparency of decision-making and conflict resolution improves understanding and positive sentiment
Unaddressed or poorly maintained queries can cause a significant negative impact on confidence and trust in the council. Residents feel empowered, considered and more understood when they are regularly and passively informed of ongoing concerns, even if these concerns are not resolved to their satisfaction. Email queries should be addressed within a reasonable timeframe, with an indication of progress whenever resolution is not instantly possible. All outcomes, however negative, should be explicit, and dealt with in an open and honest manner.
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.