In developing our new website, we, the Welsh Local Government Digital Team, want to make sure that it is accessible, user friendly, and intuitive for those exploring the site. To achieve this, we decided to conduct some usability testing with potential users of the site. The usability testing gave us insight into a user’s experience of the site in its current form and helped us to understand how the site could be improved for them.
How did we do it?
We conducted three rounds of user testing, allowing for enough time in between rounds to make the relevant changes that were identified. We did three rounds because that is how long it took us to achieve our target. We were planning to keep doing rounds until changes no longer needed to be made. We will test the website again in future to make sure it remains accessible and intuitive.
What did each round involve?
Each round involved 4 or 5 participants. We did not include more participants because the law of diminishing returns applies to users in this research method; the more users tested per round, the fewer new insights obtained by each new user. This is in keeping with Nielsen Norman Groups research on usability testing.
Every participant was tested separately but was asked to complete the same 5 actions. We made sure that the actions were not leading, to gain a better understanding of the participants’ natural behaviour. For example, the first action was ‘can you please open our website’ because we wanted to see how easily the website was found and what users were searching for. If we asked, ‘can you find the Welsh Local Government Digital Teams website?’ or ‘can you google our website and open it please’, we would be leading the participant either in what they search for or how they search for it.
Before each session started, we gave each participant an introduction to the session. This included making them aware of the purpose of the research, how long we would hold their data, if they would consent to us recording the session, and their rights as a participant. We then moved on to explain how the testing was going to work. Within this, we asked them to share their screen and to speak aloud about what they were thinking while completing the actions. This is so we could get a better idea of what each participant was expecting to find.
What did we find?
Users were finding some actions easy to complete but others quite difficult. This made the changes that needed to be completed for each action diverse. To keep this blog post short, I will summarise the insight we gained and the changes we made for each action all at once. However, we gained different insights about different actions in each round. If you would like to see a more detailed write up of the findings, please contact Chris.Sutton@wlga.gov.uk or Tom.Brame@wlga.gov.uk.
Action 1 – Can you please open our website:
The ease of finding our website varied from participant to participant. This was primarily due to how familiar each participant was with our team. Some participants that were more familiar with us would google something similar to ‘Welsh Local Government Digital Team’, and the website would be close to the top of the search findings, or one participant even used the link they had in an email from one of our team members. Less familiar participants would either search for the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association) Website or search for, or something similar to, ‘Welsh Digital’. There was not a link to our website on the WLGA website, and when searching for ‘Welsh Digital’, our website would be hard to find amongst other digital teams like the CDPS (Centre for Digital Public Service) or Welsh Government Digital.
Change: The changes we made for this was first to add a digital page to the WLGA website, which provided a link to our website. One participant used this link in a later round. Another change was to use some of Google’s freely available features to place our website higher on the search engines results page.
Action 2 – Can you view this page in Welsh:
All participants found the toggle to complete this action quickly.
Change: There were no changes that needed to be made to the site because of this.
Action 3 – Can you find a blog post relating to training:
All participants found the correct blog post; however, it did take time. We found that participants were scrolling down the screen slowly with their eyes flicking between the right and left of the screen. Most users would not navigate a webpage with such concentration, so we concluded that the post probably would not have been found were it not a specific request.
Change: We de-cluttered the sidebar on the blog page and placed ‘Blogs by Category’ at the top. We found that participants found the training blog much more easily and quickly after this change.
Action 4 – Can you subscribe to our newsletter:
The tool to subscribe was found on the page initially labelled ‘Contact Us’. Half of the participants found it, while the other half searched on the ‘About Us’ page and then gave up. The feedback from participants was that they were searching for the word ‘Newsletter’.
Change: We put the ‘Contact Us’ label in the page’s footer and changed the label to ‘Newsletter’ in the navigation bar. After this, participants could easily find how to subscribe to our newsletter and contact us if needed.
Action 5 – Can you look at what events the team have coming up:
All participants found the page easily. However, most participants did not scroll far enough down the page to view what events were coming up.
Change: We rearranged the order of the content on the Events page to make sure that the most important information was at the top of the page.
We did make other changes to the website based on what we identified in the testing sessions. However, because we are conscious of the size of this blog post, we decided to only focus on including the above. If you want to see a more in-depth analysis of what we did, please contact Chris.Sutton@wlga.gov.uk or Tom.Brame@wlga.gov.uk.
We have now completed this usability testing phase for the site as we are happy that we have achieved our goal. The last round of participants navigated through our actions easily. One participant stated that they found the website “clean, uncluttered, intuitive, and a good-looking website that is easy to navigate”. We will test the site again in the future, either at set periodic intervals or if we make significant changes to the site.