User Testing – Approach, Tools, and Takeaways

User testing is vital to the overall success of a website’s ability to deliver the intended experience to all visitors. User testing can consist of strict requirements to test a particular function of a website or informal processes that show general trends in how participants explore and react to web content, design, or functionality.

The web development team used a number of tools with different audiences to analyze the effectiveness website’s main goals stated in the creative brief. These tools consisted of in-person feedback Q&A sessions, web-hosted user surveys, and tree tests.

First, participants explored the test version of the website as prospective students. They then completed a survey on their experience. Students from area high schools served as the “intended audience” testers. Other participants included current ACC students and other groups.

Additionally, current students completed a tree test, an exercise that evaluates a hierarchical category structure, or tree of the website. Users find content within the proposed information architecture (IA) in order to complete specific tasks or obtain particular information. These included finding the location of tutor schedules or course information.

The team established a threshold of acceptability for each of the tests in order to determine what areas need additional improvement. The team learned that
prospective students were very interested in college life and what it was like to be a college student. Tuition and the costs of attending college where also important to this user group.

Current students placed high value on quick access to the location where their top tasks are completed. These areas include Blackboard, registration information, and their school email. Current students also spent time reviewing specific degree plans and class schedules, while prospective students spent more time on promotional aspects of the test site.

The test website met its goals overall, with areas of opportunity to improve structure, functionality, and design. The team will continue to conduct user testing and will deploy new tools including in-depth web analytics. These new tools and processes will help us continue to improve and enhance the user experience throughout the new website.