Let’s talk about return on investment of user experience. We are almost always asked to prove our “essentialness” in a way, explicitly or implicitly, to external or internal stakeholders as UX practitioners. So, below is a UX audit for Leicester University’s website from the usability perspective.
One way or another, every one of us faced with the ugly truth of getting buy-in from someone superior for something we believe. It’s painful to explain something so obvious to someone, for the millionth time, and hard to muster all the patience needed to give them time while they’re trying to figure out what you propose.
Moreover, once you receive a follow-up question aimed at the value of your approach, it’s not even something like:
Hey, what you propose is pure logic, its sheer rationality impressed us deeply. But, how do you plan to measure the effort you put it in design?
No, it’s not like this. However, it almost sounds like:
Why do we do that instead of spending more on paid marketing to attract more users?
So, to facilitate the process and keep our sanity, the first step while talking about the ROI of our efforts could be focused on the usability issues present in a digital product.
Analyzing a university’s website
To exemplify the approach, we analyzed a university website from a usability perspective, abiding the well-known heuristics of Nielsen Norman Group. Additionally, we tried to extend the scope of the UX audit by not going through the pixel-perfectness of the product but also keeping the business needs and user expectations in mind.
We chose a university website to analyze due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, there are several user types involved.
Even though it would not be regarded as a digital product with a transaction-based core, it well can be considered as one given that there are goals (application, sign-ups, chat etc.), products (courses), listings (course lists) and a funnel (application process). It can be conceptualized as a fully fledgeling business operation with a vision and a mission.
In this mini-report, you’ll get a sense of what Leicester University could do in order to boost conversion rates and get a better ROI by simply straightening out a couple of things.
A heuristic analysis conducted on the website to elicit where and why users might experience usability issues. In this mini UX audit, there are eleven findings indicating that the main user journey in the product could be improved and optimized to yield better conversion rates.
So, main findings are as follows:
- Navigation & filter architecture can be optimized to offer a leaner and more result-oriented structure.
- The information architecture of the domain should be reconstructed in line with the needs of target user groups.
Based on the heuristic analysis, it is safe to assert that le.ac.uk domain targets at prospective students primarily while sts.le.ac.uk and www2.le.ac.uk take care of the current students, staff and alumni members.
Therefore, the UX strategy on le.ac.uk should be paramountly focusing on user acquisition and activation whilst providing the rest of users with an easy-to-use and functional navigation to reach their destinations. By providing a seamless digital experience, Leicester can and should aim to acquire more leads, aka. student applications.
“Apply now” button click, getting a direct application, appears to be the ultimate goal from an acquisition standpoint. Yet, considering the market, which is almost saturated with a plethora of universities utilizing the same mediums to attract talent, leaving users with a great first impression will increase the chance of getting a higher position in their mind, regardless of the university rankings.
So, if being a top of mind option is the key when options are abundant, the experience should have two objectives:
- Getting a direct application or an enquiry from a prospective student by allowing users to easily navigate through a logical flow of finding a programme.
- Leaving a memorable first impression through presenting what Leicester University offers in a compact and contextually-linked fashion by interconnecting dots (events & news & facilities) seamlessly.
First Impressions of the UX audit
A subset of the renowned Nielsen Norman heuristics criteria below was taken into account to evaluate the product.
- Ease of use
- Consistency and standards
- Match between system and the real world
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Help and documentation
- Recognition rather than recall
Target users can be simply grouped as current students, prospective students, staff, and alumni members. Main navigational medium, header bar, does not clearly offer a customized solution for most of the user base.
Showcase area should bring more exposure to the offerings with a compact and modular design instead of focusing on one proposition per slide.
The homepage is rich in content, which holds great value in terms of converting users. Yet, the menu or above the fold area do not specifically promote the content types, reducing the likelihood of getting user attention.
Most of the content is generated to allure prospective students, but apparently, the information architecture is not engineered with that goal in mind.
For a goal-oriented user, a prospective student in search of a specific program, the search box stands out as a primary navigational solution. Yet, the module seems to have limited flexibility and functionality.
Menu structure misleads user due to the lack of hierarchy in place. Main categories are presented as a primary CTA button with disproportionate font size, even though the option is also clickable in the first place.
As an easy shortcut to most desirable actions, the module seemingly loses its appeal due to its current placement on the page and identical button styles.
Filter structure does not allow applying multiple refinement criteria simultaneously, frustrating users by costing more time than anticipated for a refined search.
Arrow buttons mislead users and do not explicitly signalize whether or not there is a suboption. Supposed to be a simple navigational element creates visual complexity.
Tapping the home option reloads the homepage, although the arrow icon hints a selection of choices. Besides, for a homepage visitor, reloading the homepage breaks the continuity of the experience.
2019 looks like the active option due to the visual style, but it’s in a passive state.
As a vital action of the acquisition funnel, the primary CTA routes the user to another domain, ucas.com, without any further explanation.
Menu behaviour is a bit odd, considering the general usability practices. It’s not possible to see whether or not there are third-level categories without engaging with second-level options.
Test-driven UX design that allows parties collaborating and iterating products in sprints by conducting A/B tests built over hypotheses, which are derived from the findings in UX audit reports.
As a next step, after having completed the UX audit part, it could be advised to architecture a hypothesis backlog to prioritize findings and initiate the test phase.
Also, a detailed UXAAR (UX Audit Report) can shed light on usability issues from a broader perspective by taking a holistic snapshot of the product qualitatively and quantitatively.
The aim should be to reap the low hanging fruits and optimize the conversion rates that matter most. Through a data-driven and ROI-oriented approach, one could attain to do so.