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English Heritage

Quick and dirty testing before launching site updates ensures English Heritage keep their site truly user focused

  • Who: English Heritage manages over 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites
  • What: Ongoing prototype usability testing (20 rounds over 6 years)
  • How: One day observed usability testing – a flexible and collaborative approach
  • Result: An environment of continuous improvement and a truly user-focused website

Background

English Heritage look after an amazing selection of castles, monuments and other historic gems, including Stonehenge and Dover Castle. On their website, users will find visitor information and, where relevant, more on how to book, including buying tickets online.

English Heritage manages a rolling programme of improvements on their website. Over the last six years, we have worked with them on 20 of these projects to test prototype pages before they go live.

These projects have included various property pages, pages for members, blue plaques and ‘what’s on’ sections. Additionally, we undertook iterative prototype testing when the Stonehenge ticket booking and purchasing process was introduced.

What we did

Over the years, most of us at Web Usability have had the pleasure of working with the team at English Heritage.

The focus of the research tends to be tactical i.e. how users interact with specific pages or elements on the page rather than their overall website goals.

Research turnaround time is quick, sometimes just one day, allowing the English Heritage team to make rapid updates to their site based on user evidence.

Typically, we undertake a full day of testing with users who represent the range of English Heritage website visitors. These include:

  • people with families looking for day out ideas
  • people who are interested in the historical and cultural aspects of properties
  • people who enjoy the broader range of experiences and activities on offer at English Heritage properties

In advance of the testing, we agree the facilitation guide with the English Heritage project manager, ensuring it covers all aspects of the prototype to be tested. We do the tester recruitment and get their approval to the final tester list.

On the day, the English Heritage project manager plus relevant staff visit our research studios to observe the testing first hand.

Throughout the day, we work with the observers to discuss the outcomes from each tester – the good, the bad and the ugly. When necessary, we adapt the facilitation approach to ensure we can squeeze maximum value from the research.

Outcomes

Following each round of research, we produce a detailed catalogue of the usability issues. The vast majority of these issues will have been discussed on the day so should not come as a surprise to English Heritage. Instead, the report provides a detailed action plan that English Heritage can follow to make improvements to their prototype pages.

This ongoing relationship and test-first, launch-second approach to web design ensures English Heritage have a website based on a foundation of user evidence.

“The work we have done with Web Usability has been invaluable to improving and planning future development of the website. The usability work has enabled us to provide evidence to senior stakeholders within the organisation that changes need to be made to improve our offering on the website and optimize user journeys to increase goal conversions on the site.”

Julie Smith, Content Marketing Manager

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