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Usability Evaluation for the Stroke Association website

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Project Overview

Challenge

How easy is the Stroke Association website to use? Tasked with performing a competitor review and a usability test with users, I explored the usability of the Stroke Association's website and what the experience was like for different users.

Project Scope

User Research

Usability Testing

User Testing

Tools

Objectives

  • Conduct a competitor review to compare the stroke association website and competitor sites utilising a series of 10 design heuristics

  • Conduct user testing understand what people think of the homepage: what message is the homepage delivering to users, is the purpose of the site clear and what is the UX? and;

  • Explore the Stroke Associations concerns about the usability of the fundraising events and shopping sections and report the findings.

Competitor review, Heuristic evaluation, User Testing, Interviews, Questionnaires

Role

UX Designer (Research, User testing)

Team

Independent project

Duration

1 term (10 Weeks) 

The Brief

The Stroke Association is a major UK charity, their website provides information about strokes, stroke prevention, stroke support services, research, fundraising activities and to raise donations. You work for a usability agency and the Stroke Association has briefed your agency to undertake two activities:

 

Competitor review: compare the stroke association web-site and competitor sites and report your findings.

 

User testing: you must plan and conduct some form of user testing to address the two key concerns raised by the Stroke Association:

1. What do people think of the homepage: what message is the homepage delivering to users, is the purpose of the site clear and what is the UX?

 

2. There are concerns about the usability of the fundraising events and shopping sections. 

Process

The Stroke association had defined the problem area that they were looking to be investigated within the brief, therefore the approach to the project was to utilise the Discover and Define stages to understand the What & Why of the usability and UX issues for the Stroke Association website.

 

Discover: Involved deploying suitable techniques to explore the different issues raised by the Stroke Association. A competitor review was conducted, using 10 key heuristics to evaluate the competitors and the stroke association against. Next user test was conducted using Think aloud technique and Retrospective probing to elicit valuable insights from users.

 

Define: Involved drawing key themes from the competitor review and reporting the findings and extracting the data from user test sessions and feedback surveys to understand potential usability issues and UX problems.

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Competitor Review

The competitor review focussed on evaluating the user experience (UX) and the usability of the stroke associations website against 4 three other UK leading charities that were associated with Strokes, these were:

 

1. Headway

2. The British Heart Foundation

3. Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland 

 

Each domain was reviewed against the 10 review criteria and assigned a score between 0 – 5 for each. A score of 0 was the minimum (meaning that the domain does not meet the criteria) and a score of 5 (meant that the domains meets the review criteria). The heuristic were:

1. Site trust: Reassuring and credible  

2. Site transparency: What the domain does   

3. Social proof: Reputation and legitimacy  

4. Donation Visibility: Keeping user informed   

5. Clear information: Meeting users expectations 

6. First impressions: Aesthetic usability

7. Visual hierarchy: Information displayed clearly

8. Accessibility: Designing for all

9. Consistency: Making sense to the use

10. Help: Assisting or giving a clue

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User testing

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To understand the UX and usability of the Stroke Association and to address the key concerns raised by the Stroke Association, attention was paid to what users do, not what they say.

 

By testing with users and observing them we can learn what works well what may need to be improved with the design.

 

It was important to prepare the test materials beforehand, by developing materials such as tasks, data to collected, the role of the moderator and planning the pilot studies early on helped to explicitly structure and organise the testing sessions. By planning the process, this helped to guide the session and keep a consistent approach to the user testing, so it could easily be repeated. 

 

The first step in user testing was recruitment and in order to do this a pre-screening questionnaire to ensure firstly that the users invited to testing represented the target audience of "user who donate to charities or users who would donate", this was to ensure they were real or potential users. The screening process helped to understand the demographics, experience of the candidates, if they had donated or raised money for charity before or would be a potential future user.

A total of 7 participants recruited, each participants was explained the purpose of the study, given a study information sheet and asked to agree to participating in the study with a signed consent form. Each participant were given their own copies of the information sheet and consent form and explained clearly that they could withdraw from the study as any point.

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Testing method

By planning the process, this helped to guide the session and keep a consistent approach to the user testing, so it could easily be repeated. The below steps demonstrate the process that was undertaken to conduct the user testing sessions;

 

1. Introduced the study

2. Administered the pre-test interview

3. Ensured the equipment could collect the correct data

4. Participants, information forms and gained consent

5. Initiating tasks

6. Post task survey

7. Debriefing

During the testing, two key methods would be used with participants:

Retrospective probing: To address the key concerns raised by the Stroke Association a retrospective probing (RP) method was used. The RP involved allowing participants to become familiar with the Stroke Associations homepage, allowing participants to scroll around and explore the homepage, without clicking on anything, until they felt comfortable.

Retrospective probing aimed to allow the participants to become comfortable with the website, as many had not used the Stroke Associations website specifically and allowed it to feel less daunting in the testing scenario. Secondly;

 

Concurrent think-aloud: A hybrid approach was utilised, using a concurrent think-aloud (CTA) method which would involve participants using the website while thinking aloud and combining it with concurrent probing (CP) approach. This helped to understand participants thoughts as they attempted to work through a task. The moderator would prompt and encourage the participant to expand or explain their reasoning or current mode of thought. 

As the Think-aloud protocols involve participants thinking out loud as they are interacting with a product and performing the task, this helped to better understand the user’s state of mind at every important step of the testing process and gives researchers an opportunity to ask contextual questions.

All participants agreed to being recorded via a screen recording software, so that the interviews could be looked back over, notes confirmed and key points from the testing, such as usability issues could be captured if missed.

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During testing

The user testing aimed to answer the follower two questions:

 

1. What do people think of the homepage: what message is the homepage delivering to users, is the purpose of the site clear and what is the UX?

 

2. There are concerns about the usability of the fundraising events and shopping sections. 

To simply do this via user testing two tasks were created for participants to perform which aimed at eliciting feedback to the two questions and any user experience and usability issues experienced using the website. The study was first introduced and to keep consistency with each participant a introduction script was created.

Task 1 - Homepage UX 

The first task consisted of allowing the participant to spend a few minutes looking at the websites home page, scrolling around, but not clicking on anything. The participant would just look around and explore the home page and I will ask you a few questions afterwards to what you think of the website.

 

1. Whose website do you think this is?

 

2. What message do you think the homepage is delivering?

 

3. What do you think you can on this homepage?

4. Is there anything that strikes you about the homepage? 

 

5. What do you think the purpose of this page is for?

The goal with the open ended questions was to elicit qualitative data and address the key concerns in the brief on the homepage and its UX. Open-ended question help to gather more detailed feedback from participants and where the most desirable method to get more detail on the users experience on the home page.

After each task participants were given a post task survey to complete, this was a quick survey aimed to gather preference information from the participants in order to clarify and deepen the understanding of the task. An example of the post task survey can be viewed below.

Task 2 - Fundraising & Shopping

​Task 2 consisted of three parts:

  1. Before you begin to support the Stroke Association you what to find more details about a few challenges that you can take part in. Find out if you can take part in a challenge that involves a distance of 15km or greater in London around August or September ? and find out how much how much money you have to raise and sign up for the event?

  2. You are planning organise your own bake sale and you want to find out if there is any information, help and tips on organising your own bake sale? and order your first Stroke Association fundraising pack to get you started?

  3. You are concerned that your cake sale stand will not look good enough to promote the charity, coming up in a few weeks. You have set yourself a budget of £10 (you can spend more or less Can you order some decorations for the cake stand and some presents to hand out to people who donate over £20?

Task 2 - Fundraising & Shopping

To begin a scenario was given to each participant to help set the scene and give them an aim to complete the task. The scenario was:

You are looking for a mid-year challenge in the months of August or September and you want to help a good cause to give something back to in the process of the lead up to the event and really to help you get committed to the challenge. You regularly run in 5km races and like to take part in a range of exercise activities from assault course runs to cycle challenges and you like the idea to do something that will push you outside your normal comfort zone.

 

You currently don’t support any good causes, but a friend has recommended supporting the Stroke Association. Your friend will be hosting a bake sale and you like the sound of that to help raise some money and awareness in work and plan to do your own similar event, so you decide to explore the Stroke Associations website for more detail.

Results

Results of the data from the user testing showed that the Strokes Association delivers a strong and clear homepage experience. The site is particularly good at communicating to users what the purpose of the site is and distils a clear message around the fundraising, donating, support offered and further information about strokes. 

 

Furthermore, the performance of the fundraising events and shopping sections was analysed and highlighted key usability issues in areas such as discoverability, ease of use and helping users find what they need.

 

The Stroke Association has some notable areas of improvement which include:

 

1. Increasing the discoverability and refinement of being able to find different types of fundraising events offered

2. Improving the location and positioning of the Shop on the site

3. Improving the location of the Fundraising pack PDF, which is current hidden in the levels of the site

Data coding

The data collected from the user testing sessions was compiled and involved placing all the data collected into a form that allows you to see the different patterns. In order to make this process as clear as possible an excel spreadsheet was set up for each of the sections of the site that the task would address. 

 

Key observations recorded during the user testing were noted down and would be given a severity rating on a scale of 1 to 4, based on a modified Dumas and Redish severity rating scale, where 1 defines that the observation prevents task completion and 4 is defined as a subtle problem for enhancement in the future.

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Post task survey results

To probe participants for more detail on their UX of the Stroke Association website, a post task survey was designed and consisted of three questions. Each question used a 5-point Likert scale to obtain interval data, the Likert scale was used as it helps participants indicate their attitude toward a particular statement and allowed the benefit of calculating the mean, when analysing the data

 

What message is the homepage delivering? (4.5 out of 5)

Overall each participant felt like the Stroke Associations homepage was delivering a clear and strong message, in particular delivering a message of raising awareness around strokes and delivering a of support, information and raising money for people who have suffered from a stroke. 

 

Is the purpose of the website clear? (4.2 out of 5)

Conclusively the purpose of the Stroke Associations web-site proved to deliver a clear result to the participants. From the post task survey participants would strongly agree that the purpose of the website was clear, with an average rating of 4.2/5.

 

What is the UX? (4 out of 5)

Overall the Stroke Associations homepage delivered a pleasing experience to all participants, achieving a rating of 4 out of 5. 

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Recommendations

After successful user testing sessions of the Stroke Association website, three key recommendations where formed which are aimed at addressing the most severe issues. The recommendations are as follows:

1. Fundraising discoverability

Improving discoverability of fundraising events the types of events offered in the fundraising events page. By removing the local navigation, which details the different events and providing a drop-down menu that users can see and select the events they are interested in event would be more easily discovered

 

2. Fundraising usability

To improve the usability of the fundraising events page a filtering options should be provided to allow users to filter by location, date, event distance etc which will save users considerable time, as currently users have to scroll through multiple pages to find different events occurring later in the year.

 

3. Shop Call-to-action

The position of the shop CTA is recommended to be positioned on the site in a more direct location allowing it to be easily discovered. Consider positioning it at the top of the global navigation, adjacent to the ‘donate’ button to provide users with a clear and obvious path to the shopping section. 

 

4. Fundraising pack

Make the fundraising pack more discoverable, currently the PDF fundraising pack proved a useful source for participants when trying to look for an event to take part in or find out more information on organising their own event. Currently this is hidden at the bottom of ‘organise you own event’ page. 

Reflections

What worked well

  • User testing helped to understand the users needs, what frustrates them and ultimately highlighting the key needs that need to be addressed to build a more user targeted website.

  • User testing takes time, so having a plan and conducting a pilot study really helped to refine the process and give an indication of the amount of data that would be expected and the amount of time needed. Time planning is crucial in user studies, particularly if you want to hit a deadline.

  • Recording the sessions provided a useful resource as it was impossible to observe and write down everything when this type of study was conducted by a solo UX researcher. If recording is not possible then it is likely 2 or 3 researchers would be needed to lead the study, record the data and observe the users.

What did not work well

  • Recruiting participants can be difficult and despite trying to aim for 10 participants only 7 people in the end were willing to participate.Participants were known to the author, which helped in recruitment, but could introduce some bias in the study

  • Despite reassuring participants they where not being tested, user testing is a different experience too many many people and participants still felt the need to impress the study author or look for confirmation. Possibly leading to the Hawthorne effect in the study.

  • Asking participants to drawn their feelings was too subjective and should be avoided. Many participants didn't like drawing, lack the confidence to draw and found conveying a feeling in drawing difficult.

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