B2B sites often don’t have the same clarity about their users and their goals as B2C sites, so need research that combines both gaining insights about users (what do they want?) and usability (can they find it?).
Watco is a leading manufacturer and supplier of industrial strength flooring products such as epoxy resin coatings, concrete repair materials, anti-slip products and waterproof coatings for floors and roofs. The company has 7 B2B sites serving the UK, other European and North American markets which provide product and support information and allow users to purchase products. Their customers range from very large companies, local authorities and schools to architects and contractors of all sizes. Watco was considering the redesign of elements of its sites and wanted to inform this process with user research to gain insights into:
The effectiveness of the site’s navigation in allowing users to achieve these goals
The usefulness and relevance of the site content and functionality
What we did
In order to deliver the insight Watco needed we needed to combine user research and usability testing in the same session:
User research to understand what information testers need in order to make decisions on which product to buy: this requires an engaged moderator style – a dialogue with the tester, probing to unravel the decision making criteria
Usability testing to surface the effectiveness of the site navigation, content and functionality: this requires a very different style of moderation where observation is the dominant mode because behaviours, rather than attitudes, are what really reveal the usability issues
We recruited 10 testers representing the range of Watco’s customers: specifiers, contractors and facilities managers. These included people such as the director of a company of builders specialising in period properties, a local authority facilities manager looking after buildings in 6 locations, architects working on residential and commercial buildings, and a self-employed kitchen/bathroom fitter.
At the beginning of each tester’s research session we discussed with the tester the information they need about flooring products, their priority criteria, and how they would go about choosing a supplier and product: this helped us to establish users’ goals. They were then asked to think about a recent project where they needed these types of products and to go and find suitable products on the Watco site. This is when we focused on observing and probing judiciously to explore what lay behind the behaviours: we get testers to ‘think aloud’ use ‘liveviewer’ eyetracking to help us probe at the appropriate times.
Key staff from Watco observed some of the testing, following which Web Usability facilitated a discussion about the key issues and how these could be addressed in the Watco environment.
Following the facilitated discussion, Web Usability undertook a detailed analysis of the research, combined this with the discussion outcomes, and prepared a detailed report of the usability issues and actions needed to address these. This also included a list of user goals and decision making criteria, and the supporting information customers would want to give them the confidence to buy. This provided the insights into both what users wanted and what stopped them finding it that will inform the site redevelopment.