David Lacy
Developer + Designer in Atlanta

Georgia Tech: Housing UX Case Study

Georgia Tech's Department of Housing was slated to migrate their website to a new platform in the Spring of 2017. I saw this as an opportunity to find where we could make improvements, so in the Fall of 2016, I conducted a UX case study on their current site and proposed a new information architecture, which will be implemented when the new site is deployed.


The Process

The Process

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.

Self Analysis

Self Analysis

The first step was a review of the current information architecture, site usability, general content, and the site analytics. 

Top Findings:

- 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

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.

Top Findings:

- User experience is targeted specifically towards students

- Shortcuts to housing applications

- Clear delineation in content between current & prospective residents

Student & Parent Surveys

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.

Participants: 30

- 45% Undergrads, 35% Graduates,  20% Parents/Family

Overall Findings:

- Average satisfaction 3/5 (5 being excellent)

- Buildings & Rates are the most sought after pages

Open Feedback:

- 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


Cognitive Walkthroughs

Cognitive Walkthroughs

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.

Top Findings:

- 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

Proposed Solution

Proposed Solution

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. 

In Development

In Development

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.