Usability Testing for Admissions

For a User Research course in my master’s program, I completed a two-part usability test on the Antioch University of Los Angeles website.

Goal

Before completing the usability tests, I had conducted a heuristic evaluation and a cognitive walkthrough on the Antioch University website, which surfaced some navigation woes and a lack of clarity surrounding key moments in the application process. So, I designed usability tests to uncover applicants’ mental model for seeking application information on the website. The goal was to surface actionable insights that would inform changes to design, content, layout or information architecture.

Methods

I conducted two types of unmoderated, virtual user tests. Both tasks invited real users to perform a series of tasks on the website. In the quantitative user test, 122 participants completed the tasks; Loop11 software captured quantitative data including time on task, task completion rate, and heatmaps. In the qualitative test, 3 participants completed similar tasks while using UserTesting.com screen-recording software; these participants also shared their thought process out loud as they navigated the site. The two data collection methods offered complementary insights to answer the research question.

Findings

  • Mental model: Applicants look for vital application-related information in two places: the program page for the program that interests them, and the school’s top-level navigation. Both routes (program-level and school-level) are very common choices. The important pieces of information should be accessible via both the top navigation and the program page.
  • Apply page: Possibly the most important page on the website, the Apply page is the portal to the online application, and it is very confusing for users. This should be a top priority for design fixing; it is the shopping cart of the digital experience for a prospective student.

You can watch me talk about my findings here. The intended audience for this presentation is Antioch University staff.

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