UMBC IES WEBSITE - USABILITY EVALUATION
ABOUT THE PROJECT
As part of our Course Study, we conducted Usability Analysis on the University of Maryland Baltimore County's (UMBC) International Education Services (IES) Website. The IES website is a gateway for the International Students to UMBC. The Current UMBC IES website is loaded with information. This might prevent the users from accomplishing their goal quickly and easily. Usability analysis will help us understand how real users interact with the site and would give us the opportunity to improve it based on the results.
GOAL OF THE STUDY
The goal is to better understand how real users interact with the IES website and to improve the website based on the results. The primary purpose of their usability report is to minimize design and enable users to accomplish their goals.
Competitive Analysis | Direct Observation | Interviews | Task, User & Environment Analysis | Heuristic Evaluation | Participatory Design | Think-Aloud Testing | Usability Testing
METHODOLOGY 1: COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
We identified six competitor IES Websites based on their Navigation, Layout, Usability and Aesthetics. We identified similarities and dissimilarities with the UMBC IES Website as a part of findings. We analyzed the websites' core strengths and weaknesses. We then derived some Key takeaways to use them as a benchmark for the UMBC IES website. We conducted the Competitor analysis on 12th February 2018.
UMBC IES website lacks balance between texts and images
METHODOLOGY 2: DIRECT OBSERVATION
Direct observation is a “non-Intrusive” technique. As researchers, we carefully observed two participants perform the assigned tasks without interrupting them. We took notes while observing the participants. We selected two International graduate students as our participants.
Assigned Task: “Apply for Curriculum Practical Training from the website".
METHODOLOGY 3: USER AND CLIENT INTERVIEW
In the Interview method, we gathered information as much as possible from the Users and Clients concerning the user experience. This method helped us understand their experiences and expectations from the system. We used open-ended and close-ended questionnaires. We recorded and documented Clients and participants responses to our questions, their opinions and feedback.
METHODOLOGY 4: TASK, USER & ENVIRONMENT ANALYSIS
Hierarchical task analysis was conducted to determine the number of steps it takes to complete a particular task. Some of the Tasks were to apply for I20, Search and find CPT application form, Search and find OPT application form. Environmental Analysis was conducted to gain insight into user’s environment in which he/she performs a particular task. User Analysis was done by developing personas to represent the target user group. Our target user groups are the international Students - Current and prospective, and International Staff.
METHODOLOGY 5: HUERISTIC EVALUATION
Heuristic evaluation is conducted to improve usability, utility and desirability of the designs. We based our Heuristic Evaluation on Nielsen and Molich’s 10 User Interface Design Heuristics. As part of the Heuristic Evaluation, we looked through several pages, design elements, interactions, navigations, visual design elements to analyse and identity the parts of the website that did not meet the usability guidelines. We have documented these issues in the Usability Action reports (UAR).
METHODOLOGY 6: PARTICIPATORY DESIGN
We conducted participatory design which actively involved our users in our design process. Participatory design process helps us ensure the result meets the user’s needs and is usable.
METHODOLOGY 7: THINK-ALOUD EVALUATION
In the Think aloud Evaluation, we involved the participants to think aloud while performing their assigned tasks. The participants were allowed to speak out anything that comes in their mind related to the task. It helped us to understand their cognitive process, gather data and analyze for further improvements in the design.
DESIGNING MEDIUM FIDELITY PROTOTYPE
METHODOLOGY 8: USABILITY EVALUATION
Usability Evaluation is a technique involved to test the product with the real users. We successfully evaluated our prototype with four real users (International Students) in the usability lab. Our main goal is to identify design usability issues to improve the efficiency, productivity, and user satisfaction by determining design inconsistencies, usability problem areas. The target audience of the website are the International Students. An eye tracking software "Tobii" collected the participants’ gaze information and stored data in the application. After the task, the participants completed the post-task and satisfaction questionnaire and elaborated on the task session with us.
ONE-PAGER EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The Usability Evaluation Project gave us an opportunity to evaluate the UMBC International Education Services (IES) website. We started our project with a very generic problem statement “Define the pain points faced by students while interacting with IES website”. After our first conversation with our Client, we redefined and narrowed down the scope to only F1 students’ specific pages. This helped us to focus on a limited area and thus do more justice to analysis and research. As we did our first observation and contextual enquiry, it became visible to us that navigation menu and page content plays a crucial role in user engagement. While the former aided ease of accessing a page, later helped in understanding important information which was only available in IES website.
Most of those information was very critical in nature as it dealt with visa and work related information. So we broke down the whole scope into navigation and page content. This helped us to tailor our user interview questions focusing on those aspects. The student interviews were very effective and clearly reflected the pain points faced by them in these areas. During the client interview we were able to identify the pain points faced by them and it aligned very well with our finding. This was a clear indication that our analysis is on the right direction. The participatory design is a good learning technique. We involved the users in our design process and it allowed us to understand their needs and goals. The process enabled us to think from their perspective and include their ideas in our redesigns. The findings from the usability testing, that was conducted using an eye-tracking software, confirmed the usability issues with the existing website. The users were finding it difficult to find the required information in content heavy pages. Our prototype which had visual representation of important content such as “Steps to apply”, helped the users to easily analyze and easily perform the tasks.
The possible next steps will be to redesign the navigation menu structure and work on labels based on the page contents. Each page content needs to carefully analyzed and represented in a more visually balanced manner.
Overall, it was a great learning experience interacting with our client, Users and peers and applying various methodologies to understand and analyze the usability issues.