Helping Helpline help our students – usability testing showcase session
In our latest showcase of the Usability Testing Service (held 15 June), we worked with our frontline IT support colleagues to learn where their website self help pages could be better.
I worked with Gav Anderson (responsible for their web pages) and Neil Bruce (Service Manager) to identify a focus for testing that would provide them with actionable insight and set a pattern for an ongoing improvement process.
We looked at the thousands of support calls from current students that Helpline deal with, and focused in on areas where Gav felt the students should have been able to help themselves.
He provided sample questions that represented thousands of support calls that the team deal with every year, and the corresponding pages he manages that are there to empower students to solve the problems for themselves.
We tested with three students who all happened to be pretty technical. People who had the skills and inclination to solve their own IT problems. But still we saw numerous usability issues and got insight into why so many students submit emails requesting support.
Then we ran our usual showcase workshop attended by Helpline team members, and twenty-something interested colleagues from across the institution.
You can learn more about the specifics of the workshop process from my previous blog post.
Next showcase session 30 June
What Helpline got out of the session
The session gave our Helpline colleagues insight into their target audience’s behaviour online, and also got the input of a range of colleagues who could also share their opinions, observations and experiences.
We saw things that Gav could deal with right away; rewording and restructuring pages for better readability and performance in search engines. (And our weekly Support Clinics are stepping up to help here).
We also saw things that needed addressing in the longer term; fixing web pages outside of Helpline’s direct influence and underlying processes that just aren’t sufficiently user centred.
In total we collaboratively logged and prioritised 10 usability issues:
- 3 critical
- 4 serious
- 1 medium
- 2 low
The session gives Neil the ammunition to take to colleagues elsewhere, and with our support, agitate for change.
I think the most stark element of this session was seeing how content management and IA decisions made across the University by business units within and beyond Information Services are costing Helpline. We haven’t done the sums yet, but the figure arising from he cost of dealing with unnecessary user support calls will be in the tens of thousands of pounds, at least.
What Helpline colleagues said
Neil Bruce is working with us to explore ways in which ongoing usability testing can help improve the student experience around access to IT services.
I found it very enlightening to watch people using our website, this brings home the user experience very clearly. It certainly gets you thinking when you see both the things that work well with your website, and the things that cause problems. It’s highlighted a range of areas where we can make improvement, from some quick and easy fixes to areas that need more careful consideration. I can see this methodology becoming an important tool in the design and development of our web presence in the future.
Neil Bruce (Head of Operational Services)
Gav Anderson is responsible for delivery of front-line services to students. He maintains web pages on behalf of the team, and monitors support call analytics.
I found the usability sessions to be extremely helpful and instructive in identifying areas of the University website, and the Information Services website in particular, that were having issues in directing users successfully to their desired goals. It flagged up user behaviours that we had not taken into account, gave several excellent methodologies one can employ when looking to improve the flow of information on a website, and helped in pointing out very useful ways in which any changes made can be quantified and further developed to provide regular improvements to the sites in question.
Next session – Degree Finder experience – 30 June
Our next showcase workshop is on Thursday 30 June. We’re working with Communications and Marketing to explore student experiences with this business critical area of the University’s web estate.
It’s free and open to all University staff.
What attendees thought of the session
If you attended this session, please leave a comment and let readers know how you found it.