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The Saide Project

Problem Statement
The Saide website lacks an in-depth understanding of user experiences and struggles to provide a seamless and user-friendly platform for effective communication and access to information, hindering its ability to engage audiences effectively.

Image by James Wiseman
Define
research
Interviews

Define
 

Role & Team

As a member of Team ReThink, a collaborative group working on the Saide website project, I played a crucial role as a UX Researcher. Within our team of five, we conducted a range of activities to evaluate and improve the website's usability. I conducted a stakeholder interview, engaging with key individuals to gather insights and understand their perspectives.  Furthermore, I contributed to the creation of a comprehensive user survey, aiming to collect valuable feedback from users.  I also played a vital role in analyzing the findings and collaborating with the team to develop a comprehensive report, providing recommendations for website improvements.

Duration

Jan 2023 to April 2023 (4 months)

Why this project?

I undertook the Saide website usability assessment project as a part of SI 622: Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluations at the University of Michigan, where we worked with a real-world client, the Saide organization. This project provided a unique opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills gained in the course to a practical setting. As a UX Researcher, my personal motivation for undertaking this project extended beyond the academic requirements. It allowed me to gain hands-on experience in conducting interviews, user surveys, and usability tests. This experience not only contributed to my professional development but also reinforced my passion for creating user-centric designs and optimizing the digital experiences of individuals. 

Software used

Figma, Google Suite, Zoom.

Overview

The Saide website usability assessment project aimed to address the challenges faced by Saide, a non-governmental organization focused on transforming the education sector in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Saide's website served as a platform for communication with its audiences regarding their vision, mission, activities, results, and impact. However, the organization struggled to fully understand the experiences of their website users and provide a seamless and user-friendly platform for effective communication and access to information.

By adopting a user-centered design approach and maintaining a proactive and collaborative attitude, we aimed to deliver a comprehensive assessment of the Saide website, providing valuable recommendations to inform and guide improvements, ultimately creating a more user-friendly and impactful platform for Saide and its diverse audiences.

Problems

The landing page fails to convey the necessary impression, lacking a clear message about the website or organization's purpose.

The Saide website lacks consistency in terms of text alignment, navigation, and color usage, and is text-heavy with no visuals.

The users experience difficulty with the current navigation structure of the website.

Lack of clear Call to Action (CTA) buttons for projects and donations on the Saide website

Accessibility issues including loading issue, responsiveness, and language translations.

The mailing list location is not discoverable and there lacks an explanation of the purpose and its benefit

Limited search function

Poor hierarchy of information

Research

 

Getting to know the Client

 

The initial phase of the Saide website usability assessment project involved a crucial step of  gaining a comprehensive overview of the project. To accomplish this, our team scheduled an initial meeting with our two primary contacts, Ashton Maherry, a Programme Specialist, and Tony Lelliott, also a Programme Specialist at Saide.

During this meeting, our primary objective was to establish a strong foundation of understanding by delving into Saide's goals, objectives, and specific requirements for the website usability assessment. We engaged in open and collaborative discussions to gain insights into Saide's mission of advocating and facilitating transformation in the education sector throughout South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

Our primary contacts shared valuable information about Saide's initiatives, including their partnerships with policymakers, education providers, and the diverse range of learners they aimed to support. This helped us grasp the context and significance of the website in achieving Saide's mission.

Moreover, our team actively listened to our primary contacts' perspectives, challenges, and expectations regarding the website's usability. We asked targeted questions to clarify project goals, desired outcomes, and any specific areas of concern that Saide wished to address through the usability assessment.

This initial meeting played a pivotal role in establishing a strong rapport with our primary contacts, fostering a collaborative partnership, and aligning our objectives with Saide's needs. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of Saide's work, target audiences, and aspirations, we were able to lay a solid foundation for our subsequent research and evaluation activities.

Moving forward, this knowledge formed the basis for our user-centered approach, ensuring that our assessment and recommendations were tailored to Saide's unique context and the needs of their website users. Our commitment to effectively understanding Saide's vision and requirements from the outset set the stage for a successful and fruitful collaboration throughout the project.

What is the Saide Organization?

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Saide is a non-governmental organization dedicated to advocating and facilitating transformation in the education sector across South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. With a commitment to addressing the needs of diverse learners in evolving technological contexts, Saide plays a crucial role in promoting equitable and sustainable education provision. The organization works in partnership with policymakers, education providers, and various stakeholders, supporting them in planning, evaluating, and improving their programs, courses, and systems. Saide's expertise and services extend to facilitating professional development for education professionals, ensuring the continuous growth and enhancement of educational practices.  Through their initiatives and projects, Saide aims to empower learners, bridge educational gaps, and foster inclusive and impactful education systems that can shape brighter futures for individuals and communities in the region.

The current website
 

interaction map

Click image to view the Interaction Map!

Recognizing the importance of comprehensively understanding the system's scope and variations, we sought a systematic approach to capture the full range of interactions and potential states within the website.

 

Interaction maps serve as valuable tools for visualizing the various actions that users can take and the corresponding screens or pages they encounter during their interaction with the product. Interaction maps are effective in helping teams anticipate potential issues and make informed decisions during the evaluation and improvement process, ensuring a more user-centered and intuitive design.

 

By gathering screenshots and carefully arranging them in a layout, we were able to depict the navigational paths, subsets of activities, and converging points within the website. This visual representation enabled us to grasp the overall structure and flow of the website, facilitating a deeper understanding of its functionalities and potential usage problems. By creating an interaction map for the Saide website, we aimed to gain insights into its complexities and identify areas for further exploration and enhancement.

Interviews

We focused our next step on answering the following questions:

  • Who are the current Saide users and what motivates them to use Saide?

  • What do the current users think of Saide’s website content? 

  • What problems and suggestions do they have for the website interaction?  

First, we created a interview protocol and conducted our interviews, which helped us to understand the target scope, expectations for our project, and get insights from our target users. Following this, we shared transcriptions among our research team, then analyzed and sorted different categories of findings. We prioritized our key findings and then created personas and scenarios.

 

The interview protocol can be viewed here.
 

The landing page fails to make the necessary impression

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It becomes clear from the interviews that, with a program banner that is considered not the best representation of Saide and yet takes up almost two-thirds of the screen, the Saide landing page needs a redesign to present a stronger and more accurate branding to visitors (and interested funders).

Highlighting Saide’s mission and vision at the top of the landing page to create a strong first impression.

Showcasing some of its flagship programs/initiatives in a way that links to the wide range of services it offers and also shows how bold, alive, and impactful the Saide organization is.

In our comprehensive report on interviews, we uncovered six significant findings and provided corresponding recommendations for the Saide organization's website.

Our research revealed that the website suffered from excessive text and a lack of visual elements, resulting in a monotonous and unexciting user experience. To address this, we recommended incorporating more visuals throughout the site, such as staff pictures with captions, relevant background images for projects and services, and attention-grabbing icons. These visual enhancements would enhance user engagement and make the website more captivating.

Furthermore, the interviews shed light on issues related to information hierarchy and navigation. Participants expressed the need for reordering sections based on priority and suggested that the website's current vertical anchor-based navigation be replaced with a more standard horizontal navigation bar. This tab-based navigation would simplify access to information, reduce scrolling, improve loading speed, and boost search engine optimization.

Other findings and recommendations from our report focused on improving the search bar functionality, enhancing website accessibility, and ensuring better readability through consistent formatting and informative content summaries.

View full reportlink.

 

Personas and Scenarios

After analyzing the findings from our stakeholder interviews, a crucial step in our UX research process was the creation of user personas and scenarios.

These artifacts are essential as they provide a human-centered perspective and help us empathize with users' motivations and expectations. By developing personas and scenarios, we gain a deeper understanding of users' diverse needs and tailor the design and functionality of the website to align with their requirements. This user-centric approach ensures that our solutions are relevant, intuitive, and ultimately enhance the overall user experience.

persona 1

Scenario:

 

Devon and his colleagues are responsible for curating content for Saide’s newsletters and the Current Awareness section once every several months to share updates on what’s new in the educational field. As the Program Specialist, he is also responsible for the communication, organization, and development of featured projects such as the African Storybook initiative. Sometimes, he has the need to go to Saide’s website and look for program-specific information, including documents and other previous resources published. Moreover, as part of his job, he helps maintain relationships with other parties who are looking for help from Saide and actively tries to build partnerships with other organizations.

Screenshot 2023-05-23 164701.png

Scenario:

 

Ellen is a Psychology Professor who visits the Saide website on a week to week basis. She mostly spends her time reading the latest newsletters to stay updated on Saide's current projects especially those relating to children’s education. Due to Ellen being familiar with all the information on the site,  she normally doesn't usually navigate beyond the newsletters section of the Saide website. When she has the opportunity to, she shares the website with her students, but recently they’ve frequently been reporting that the website has loading issues during internet disruptions. Currently, Ellen no longer uses the Saide search engine as the results often do not match her search criteria and she finds it more helpful to navigate by scrolling. 

Screenshot 2023-05-23 164642.png

Scenario:

 

John visits the Saide’s website regularly to check out its newsletters. He normally  reads the latest ones to keep up with the current news and activities within the Saide organization. Learning what other projects are doing is also helpful for him to locate resources, discover collaboration opportunities, or simply get inspired from what others are doing. However, due to his busy schedule, he does not have time to read the newsletters in detail. He usually scan through the newsletter first. If there is anything particular catches his eyes, he will then read specific sections in detail. Furthermore, he usually reads the newsletters on his phone while he is taking a little break from his work. If he sees any interesting content related to other stakeholders, he likes to share with them and spread the words as well.

Surveys

Our team conducted surveys as part of our user experience research for the Saide website. The purpose of these surveys was to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and experiences of Saide website users and to evaluate and improve the overall user experience. The survey instrument we developed included various elements to gather valuable insights, such as an introduction explaining the purpose of the survey, questions about user characteristics, questions about the relationship between users and Saide, and multiple-choice questions about the current website, and open-ended questions to capture user attitudes.

Surveys are valuable in collecting quantitative data and providing insights into user preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction levels. They allow us to gather a large amount of empirical data efficiently and can complement the insights gained from interviews. However, it's essential to consider limitations such as the possibility of incomplete or assisted questionnaire completion.

To refine our survey instrument, we conducted a pilot test with individuals who had previous survey design experience and were part of our target audience. Based on their feedback, we made necessary modifications to improve clarity and interpretability. The final questionnaire was designed to address key questions related to the nature of the user-organization relationship, the information users seek, and the reasons for visiting the Saide website.

View report - link

Comparative Analysis

The comparative analysis aimed to identify similarities and differences between Saide and five selected organizations in order to gain a deeper understanding of potential improvements that could be made to Saide's website. The analysis also sought to examine the user relationship with similar websites and determine if there are any areas that require more focus or new elements that should be incorporated into Saide's website. The analysis focused on addressing key questions and exploring specific areas of interest:

Effective Method for Displaying Information

The existing website's information hierarchy and presentation were identified as unsatisfactory during the interview process. Therefore, the comparative analysis aimed to identify successful approaches used by other organizations to inform potential improvements in this area.

User Relationship with Similar Websites

The study also aimed to understand the relationship users have with similar websites and whether it differs from the user experience on Saide's website. By examining comparable websites, the analysis sought to determine if Saide needed to make any changes to enhance its digital experience or attract a larger audience. 

Areas of Concentration and Incorporation of New Elements

The comparative analysis aimed to identify areas that require more focus within Saide's website or the incorporation of new elements. By studying competitor websites, Saide intended to gain fresh perspectives and develop innovative approaches based on the main findings of previous research. Additionally, if competitors were addressing pain points previously identified, Saide could learn how to tackle those challenges effectively.

 

Why was this important?

 

Throughout the analysis, we engaged in discussions and brainstorming sessions as a team to interpret our findings. We explored how these findings could inform and improve Saide's own website and digital presence. By examining the information hierarchy, user relationships, and successful practices observed on comparable websites, we were able to generate meaningful recommendations.

This process not only enhanced my research skills but also provided me with a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the education sector. It allowed me to explore innovative approaches to website design, content delivery, and user engagement.

 

To  get an in-dpeth understanding of this process and see our findings and recommendations,  

View full report - here.

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Heuristic Evaluation

In our quest to refine and validate our ideas, we relied on the power of heuristics. Each team member embarked on an individual evaluation, armed with their specialized knowledge and expertise. Throughout this process, we meticulously documented our evaluations, examining every aspect of our ideas. Regular collaborative sessions allowed us to share our findings, dissect our evaluations, and identify common points that surfaced among the team. It was through these collective discussions that we refined our vision and found common pain points

To begin, we identified a set of heuristics that served as guiding principles for our evaluation. These heuristics ranged from usability and learnability to efficiency and error prevention. By applying these heuristics, we were able to systematically examine each component and identify potential issues or areas of improvement.

During the evaluation process, we assigned severity ratings to the identified issues based on their potential impact on the overall user experience and project objectives. The severity ratings provided a clear framework for decision-making and resource allocation, ensuring that we addressed high-impact issues first.

2-Usability-Heuristics.png

The iterative nature of our process allowed us to continuously refine and enhance our project, making it more intuitive, efficient, and user-friendly. Moreover, this process served as a valuable learning experience, reinforcing the importance of experience-focused design, collaboration, and continuous improvement.

To delve deeper into our findings and recommendations, view the full report here.

Usability Tests

We designed and implemented a comprehensive usability evaluation, focusing on key tasks such as browsing the home page, contacting staff members via email, signing up for the mailing list, assessing the search function, and understanding Saide's mission for making a donation.

The representative users who participated in the tests provided valuable feedback and insights, which were recorded and analyzed to identify usability issues and areas for improvement. Key findings included difficulties in finding project information, navigation confusion, and a lack of familiarity with Saide's mission. To address these issues, recommendations were made to improve visibility and accessibility, clarify labeling and presentation of links, provide more information about Saide's mission, and incorporate user-friendly features.

Through this experience, we deepened our understanding of user-centric evaluation, technical processes involved in usability testing, and the importance of continuous improvement. Conducting usability tests marked the final step in our project, providing us with a comprehensive understanding of the website's strengths and weaknesses, and offering valuable lessons for future endeavors

Each team member took on the roles of both moderator and note-taker, with each conducting a test and providing notes for another team member's test. In preparation for the tests, consent forms were created to ensure ethical considerations were met. The main moderator script was carefully crafted, outlining the tasks to be performed by the representative users. To evaluate the users' actions, success and error criteria were established for each task. To gather comprehensive data, data logging forms were devised to record the users' interactions and our observations. Pre and post questionnaires were designed to facilitate follow-up assessments. Throughout the testing process, each finding and subsequent recommendation were aligned with the corresponding task, ensuring a thorough analysis of the website's usability issues.

 

View the full report here.

Conclusion

Through a meticulous and systematic approach, encompassing interviews, surveys, comparative analyses, heuristic evaluation, and usability tests, we thoroughly evaluated the website's functionality, navigation, and overall user perception. Throughout this multifaceted research process, common themes and patterns began to emerge, highlighting eight major findings that permeated across the various methodologies employed. These findings encapsulate significant pain points and challenges faced by users, while also shedding light on areas of improvement.

Building upon these findings, we have formulated corresponding recommendations to address these issues which were eventually presented to the client in the form of a report. Those findings and recommendations and have been briefly summarized and can be viewed - here.

Takeaways

  • Impactful Recommendations: Crafting actionable and impactful recommendations based on user research findings was a crucial aspect of the project. It taught me the art of distilling complex insights into concise and compelling recommendations that can drive meaningful change and improvements in the user experience.

  • Continuous Learning and Adaptability: The project emphasized the necessity of continuous learning and adaptability in the dynamic field of UX design. I embraced new research methodologies and approaches, and I am now better equipped to tackle future projects with flexibility and an open mindset.

Personas
Surveys
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Comparative
Heuristic
Usability
Conclusion

THANK YOU for taking the time to view my work. Please feel free to get in touch or leave some feedback!

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