Consisting of four separate parts, my process incorporated both quantitative and qualitative data collection. Given the time to complete (3 weeks), I recruited three graduate students to help expedite this process.
The first step was a review of the current information architecture, site usability, general content, and the site analytics.
- The targeted audience is unclear; much of the content is irrelevant to the target demographic (students).
- Hierarchies are too deep, reducing the efficiency of clicks.
- Content is too verbose and/or obsolete.
- Sessions are swift w/ lots of drop-offs
- 75% of sessions originate from organic search
- 3 pages account for 90% of all visitation: Buildings, Maintenance & Contracts
Read the Competition
Next, I looked at top-rated higher education institutes to see how their housing departments structured their content.
The institutes I reviewed included Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Dartmouth, Univ. Chicago, Georgia State, Emory, UGA and others.
- User experience is targeted specifically towards students
- Shortcuts to housing applications
- Clear delineation in content between current & prospective residents
Student & Parent Surveys
A survey was conducted at Georgia Tech to measure user satisfaction, impression, awareness and gather opinions on the department's current site. The majority of questions were answered on a 5-point scale followed by several open-ended questions at the end.
- 45% Undergrads, 35% Graduates, 20% Parents/Family
- Average satisfaction 3/5 (5 being excellent)
- Buildings & Rates are the most sought after pages
- Too convoluted, copy is too long, too much redundancy
- Everything feels dated
- Pictures are poor quality
- Too many options
- Rates and rooms cannot be viewed on the same page
- Notifications on homepage of police activity & closures
- filtering options
- Roommate pairing process explained in more detail
Best described as a task based usability inspection method, cognitive walkthroughs were the final part of the case study. After seeing preliminary findings from steps 1 through 3, the Housing department provided incentives for those willing to participate in the final step.
Five participants performed a specific set of tasks on the current site and were asked to "think aloud" as they executed each one. Of the five: three were students, one a parent, and the last a rising freshman. Each session lasted about an hour.
- Maintenance requests difficult to find
- Users gloss over detailed information
- No users read the carousel (slideshow)
- All students initiated their task by searching via Google
After compiling the findings from the research, I presented my recommendations to the department's executive board. Knowing there would likely be some opposition, I made sure the necessary data was readily available to support each suggestion.
The most precipitous recommendations:
- Separating the interdepartmental content entirely from the student/resident information; resulting in a different website & URL altogether
- Consolidation & removal of obsolete content, resulting in a 45% reduction in total pages.
- Content structure based on student life-cycle: Prospective, Moving-In, Current Resident, Moving-Out.
- Drastic reduction in the amount of copy, requiring the department to solicit the help of a professional copywriter.
Starting November 2016, the Department of Housing will be developing its new websites based on my findings and exact recommendations. My team and I will be spearheading all development. By supplying the client with substantiating evidence, their decision to execute my plan came was quite easily.