Our main aim in life is to make our clients more successful online, but it’s not often that we get the chance to test usability after a website redevelopment we were involved in.

So when we undertook testing of the new Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) website, we were thrilled to find a 20% improvement in usability across the tested tasks. This is a fantastic result for VLA and reassurance that their new site will deliver on audience and organisation goals.

The website rebuild

The law can be very complex and difficult to understand for the average Victorian – so the goal of the site is to provide a user friendly first point of call to answer queries and inform the audience of their rights to seek legal assistance.

With budget cuts at VLA it was imperative they have a comprehensive website that reduces time spent with clients answering queries that can be covered online. With this goal in mind, we completed customer research and then provided information architecture (IA),  and wireframes which were used to rebuild the site.

Has the new website worked?

After the new website was completed and live, we were asked back to test improvements.

Briarbird was asked to facilitate usability testing to;
• understand if the new website has improved audiences’ ability to meet tasks
• discover any usability issues with the new IA and design and,
• identify any problems with content and labeling that may impact use of the website.

How we tested, and what we tested for

To ensure the key website goals were measured accurately we developed a comprehensive test guide with a number of tasks. As each participant attempted the task we observed their behaviour. An example question was – You have experienced family violence. You want to stop your ex-partner from coming to your house. What can you do?

Each test was recorded using Silverback, a fantastic recording program that allows you to capture screen activity and video of the participant.

We then created a full report of the findings, including a score and analysis of each task, overall success and issues and recommendations to improve usability. Highlight clips from Silverback were used to support findings and help bring the report to life for the client.

The key to successful testing is:
• devising a guide that tests the tasks directly related to the goals and overall success of the website
• consistency in facilitation – each test must be run in the same manner,
• and helping the participant feel at ease – the term ‘test’ can be misleading for the user as we’re not testing the participant but the ability of the website to deliver on the goals.

Results and things to think about

The new site returned a 20% improvement in usability across the tested tasks, so that was a great result. We also found some common issues that caused frustration for users. The good news was these issues are generally easy to fix.

1. Content linking and content gaps

Users can have varying levels of understanding when it comes to their expectation of navigation titles and what information they intend to find there. When little to no cross-linking is applied users can get lost and fed up with trying to complete a task

By increasing cross-linking of information to related content pages, in a visually clear way, this helps the user navigate to the correct page, even if they choose the wrong path.

2. Google maps

Google maps is a common application used to show locations of stores, offices, services etc., however an issue can arise when large numbers of locations are shown in close proximity – for example, 20 offices in metro Melbourne. In this situation the icons will generally overlap and the map is difficult to view and therefore inefficient.

Maps need to be simple to use and solve issues, quickly. Ensure your map is tested and provides efficient location information. Postcode search options are another option and highly popular amongst users – consider this application if development time and costs permit.