User Centred Portal research into updating contact details
We helped the User Centred Portal project team optimise a new MyEd feature through observation of student interactions and a facilitated review workshop.
The User Centred Portal Project
- Richard Scott (Project Manager)
- Paul Horrocks (Developer)
- Lisa Dawson (Project Sponsor)
The University encounters administrative issues arising from student contact details becoming out-of-date over the course of their studies. It had been identified that the route for students to keep their details updated was not obvious or intuitive and it was felt that a new feature embedded in MyEd – the portal students use on a daily basis for a range of tasks – might help address this.
In addition, the development of this new feature was to serve as a technical proof-of-concept for the use of a new API service.
Following on from foundational user research, the UX Service proposed that regular access to students interacting with the in-progress development would improve the service’s usefulness and usability, and mitigate the risk of encountering potentially costly user-related issues at later stages.
What we did
At a relatively early stage of development, when the core functionality had been produced in a development environment, two student interns working in Information Services took part in usability tests involving very open exploration of the service, and facilitated by a UX consultant while observed by the developer.
When development was approaching completion, more formally scripted and facilitated usability testing was conducted with 5 students across pilot schools, with each session recorded (screen capture, video and audio).
These recordings were played back to the team as part of a usability review workshop. Through facilitated group activities, the team identified and prioritised the usability issues observed in the recorded research sessions. This led to a list of actions for the developer to address prior to releasing the functionality to a sample group of 500 students in January 2018.
In parallel with this usability testing work, members of the project team were developing plans for analytics on the performance of the live system, and a satisfaction survey for users of the live service. In the course of consulting and planning for the execution of the second round of usability testing, advice and feedback were supplied to inform the planning of these activities.
Outcomes and benefits
The first round of informal usability testing highlighted that fundamental functional features expected by students were missing. This insight enabled the developer to change plans to accommodate these user needs.
The second round of usability testing validated that the changes made after the first tests were appropriate, and highlighted further elements of the interface that required additional attention prior to a live release.
The usability research conducted has:
- ensured that core student needs and expectations are being met
- helped direct the priorities of the team to maximise the impact of their efforts
- mitigated risks around usability issues that if unaddressed could have resulted in:
- students not engaging with the service once released to the full community
- support calls being raised incurring additional costs for IS Helpline
UX techniques used
The UX Service were able to help us at fairly short notice, carrying out the sessions very professionally. In particular, the review session with the team was really useful; it has completely informed the development of the next iteration, as well as feeding into the API project.
After completing the interface testing with students, I was surprised at how much useful feedback we got from a relatively short review session. Watching a series of students undertaking the same tasks, we could clearly see what wasn’t working and agree, as a team, priorities for further development.