Global B2B food & beverage supplier

Our client had redeveloped their site but concerns about its usability meant they needed evidence to counter the view of some stakeholders that the site was fine.

  • Background

    Our client is a global player in the B2B food and beverage sectors. 2015 saw a shift from their longstanding reputation as an ingredients and flavours company to a more holistic provider of components to the global food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets. They developed a new site to communicate this offer but after it was launched there were concerns about its usability and effectiveness. They needed evidence of issues to counter the view of some stakeholders, including the design agency, that the site was fine. Also, their management team was spread around the world, so our research approach had to fit with their virtual working practices.

  • What we did

    Initially we reviewed the client’s web personas and agreed the types of testers to involve in the research. We then recruited 12 users to reflect these personas – a range of functional roles and jobseekers.

    For the functional roles we needed primarily decision makers and influencers in marketing, procurement and R&D in both CPG (consumer packaged goods) food & beverage manufacturing and food service (chain restaurants) operations; most of these were quite senior and included the International Marketing Manager for a CPG manufacturer, the Head of Innovation for another CPG manufacturer, and the Head of Marketing for a fast growing mid-market sit down restaurant chain. For the jobseekers, we recruited people at the beginning, early and experienced stages of their careers.

    We used smartphone and laptop devices during the testing – our client’s own stats indicated that smartphones are becoming increasingly important for their customers. We undertook the testing in usability labs and also remotely (by sharing a desktop) as some testers were either too distant or too busy to get into the research studios.

    At the beginning of each session the tester identified the information they wanted from the site and we then asked them to find this. We also had a list of tasks, derived from the personas, to act as prompts but testers covered most of these by exploring the site naturally. This meant that the testers used the site as they would have done on their own rather than being set arbitrary tasks.

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  • The Research

    Not surprisingly, for a site that had been developed with no user input upfront or testing during the development process, it did not perform well: after about 40 minutes one of the senior marketing managers had still not worked out what they did. Most testers liked the design aesthetic but had significant difficulty gaining an overview of our client’s capabilities or finding specific information.

    There were difficulties with:

    • Content: there was too much content and testers found it confusing and intimidating – the sheer volume of text made it difficult for people to find the information they wanted, and often what they wanted wasn’t there. Testers wanted to see evidence of the benefits of the products and services – instead the site contained hyperbole with the client just saying how good they were
    • Navigation: The navigation was ineffective as there was a poor ‘scent of information’, navigation pages were inconsistent and navigational elements were used inconsistently reducing the ‘learnability’ of the site
    • Search: search functionality didn’t work properly

    We know, having done UX insight work for more than 14 years, that the quality of the outcomes is significantly better if our client observes at least some of the research in its entirety – this increases buy-in to the research outcomes and informs the discussion about appropriate actions. As we were working ‘virtually’ with the client over a number of time zones we uploaded the tester videos to our client portal so the client and their design agency were able to watch the testers’ experiences before we discussed the outcomes.

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  • Outcomes

    Web Usability undertook a detailed analysis of the research and presented the outcomes during two virtual conference discussions, both involving people in Europe and North America. We identified a large number of issues and agreed actions to address these. Because everyone had seen several of the testing videos there was no debate as to whether there were issues with the site: the evidence was clear and provided a sound basis for the actions to take.

    The research identified the issues and the research process gained buy-in to these and identified appropriate actions. As importantly, the client agreed that a detailed understanding of users and their goals is vital in building an effective website and that UX insights are required at the start of the project – not at the end. As one of the client team observed:

    We should have involved you guys before we launched the site! It would have saved us a packet