User testing evidence provided a way of focussing the discussions among disparate departments in order to gain agreement about a new site strategy
The University of Westminster offers undergraduate, postgraduate, research and professional programmes and short courses to a wide variety of users. The University was aware that the site did not enable users to achieve their goals easily, and wished to redevelop the site in a user-centred fashion to make it more effective.
As with most universities, there were a number of faculty ‘silos’ making the process of redeveloping the site difficult because of the difficulty of making decisions. In order to try and address these issues, the University wished to develop a shared understanding among key internal stakeholders about the issues that affected the usability of the site and the best process for redeveloping the site.
We recommended a strategic workshop, informed by usability. The objectives were to:
Gain a shared understanding of the usability and information architecture issues on the website
Identify target users and user goals
Clarify the University of Westminster’s aims for the site
Agree a process for the future development of the website (one that ensures it will be user focused, but which can be achieved quickly and economically)
What we did
Prior to the workshop we conducted usability testing with 5 different users representing a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate students in different subject areas. We then produced an edited highlight video of the usability testing, which was shown at the workshop to inform the discussion. Whilst watching the user evidence video at the start of the workshop, the participants were ‘active’ observers, noting issues on post-its as they occurred during the video, which were then mapped, to form the basis of the subsequent discussion.
This discussion was facilitated by a Web Usability consultant to agree key issues with the site. The participants then considered the University’s site aims, the target users and the user goals the site was to support, as well as a process for the redevelopment of the site – helped by break-out group exercises and the use of reference websites.
A wide variety of usability issues were identified, along with possible solutions. The participants concluded that the different ‘silos’ needed to work together in order to produce a useful and usable website. A site re-development process was agreed, along with recognition that a new approach to the site content and site management was required.
Web Usability’s assistance has been invaluable. Their services were delivered flexibly and to a consistently high standard. Web Usability helped to focus the thinking of a large and complex organisation to unite around a common framework. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their services to others
Rob Fenwick – Director of Communications and Public Affairs