Redesigning NYU's Web Site for usability
Current Site: http://www.nyu.edu/
Problem Statement: Analyze and redesign NYU's web site based on user needs
Business Goal: Enhance digital experience of NYU by streamlining path to information
Length: 2 weeks
Tools: Omnigraffle // inVision // Sketch // Google Sheets
Given: The following personas
User Flows to uncover the current user path for each persona
Site Map to understand all choices available to user
User Testing to gain insight into real world usability
Card Sorting to identify issues with information architecture
Contextual Inquiry to observe real world usage
I found something intriguing while conducting John’s user flow. He would greatly benefit from online education given his circumstances as a working father in pursuit of additional professional development. Using this information, I conducted a user flow for John to find online course information. If he clicks through the “Continuing Education” option on the home page, it takes him 13 steps before he can find all the online education options afforded to him. Alternatively, if he knows from the onset he wants an online education, he only needs to take four steps. This indicates that there is ambiguity in the options provided to someone in John’s scenario.
- Information is not properly segmented to cater to user audiences
After understanding that ambiguity lived in the category choices on the home page, I wanted to test to the extent of it, so I created a Site Map of the current site. I was astounded to find that before the user clicked anywhere on the page, they were exposed to 137 separate links! That sounded absolutely ridiculous to me and gave me the impression that most of the information was either not being used or redundant. But, I didn’t want to base my ideas of consolidation on my reaction to the number of links on the site — I had to test whether users could quickly navigate the home page. So, I conducted user tests with the current site.
- 137 separate choices from home page
To better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the site organization, I tested three users — Will, Krista, and Gee.
- Find Scholarship Information (in home navigation)
- Find the Academic Calendar (in top navigation under Quicklinks)
- Find the Campus Map (in footer navigation)
- Scholarship page is overwhelming due to amount of text & content
- Quicklinks and top navigation are not intuitive
- Users find the search for information frustrating
Closed card sort
I used a method called card sorting to better understand users' intuitive response to the information on the web site. First I conducted a closed card sort with all of the sub-information in the navigation in a stack of cards and let four users place them under the current navigation categories.
- Users place ambiguous content into "University Life" or "About NYU"
- All were confused by wording of information
Open Card sort
Based on the findings from the open card sort, I narrowed the sub-navigation cards and let two users group them however they wanted and name the groupings through an open card sort.
- When faced with deciding between People and University - ambiguous information is put into University category
I went down to the NYU Welcome Center to view how the desk assistants there would answer people's questions since it's really the personification of the NYU web site.
- The assistants send people to Google
- They admit difficulty with website
- As students, they didn't care about things to do in NYC while applying, only cared about individual college they were applying to.
The Amount Of Content On The Web Site Combined With The Ambiguous Category Names, Overwhelms Users And They Are Led Into The Most General Categories For Answers.
Using Information Architecture best practices, I thought of of ways to consolidate the path for users. By uncovering John's issues through the use of a user flow, I realized users need a way to self-identify themselves before continuing to their tasks. This is an insight I found through the user testing as well. When tasked with finding scholarship information, users first considered who they were within the university community, thinking information for prospective and current students would be different. Using this insight, I pushed on to create a prototype
Prototype & Test
- Find specific qualifications about scholarships
- Find bus routes
Testing: If my organization of information met user needs and expectations
- Move Academic Calendar above News (users care most about this)
- Move transit information to Current Students
- Make scholarship information bullet points
- Launch redesign
- Use Google Analytics to measure effect on sideways entry
- Analyze data and iterate as needed