Usability Report. Baylor University website.

For this assignment, we were asked to choose one of the Universities websites from the list and interview users about the web site usability. The interview is based on preset questions and tasks, which are presented below. While interviewing the user we had to identify websites main pain points and propose changes through the paper prototype.

I choose to work with Baylor University Website.

Baylor University (BU) is a private Christian university in Waco, Texas. Chartered in 1845 by the last Congress of the Republic of Texas, it is the oldest continuously operating university in Texas and one of the first educational institutions west of the Mississippi River in the United States. Located on the banks of the Brazos River next to I-35, between the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Austin, the university’s 1,000-acre campus is the largest Baptist university campus in the world.

USER TESTING

First thing I’ve done, was user testing. I asked one user to perform several tasks.

  1. To Take a look at the website and after several seconds to describe his first impression about the website. 
    The user first impression was positive. He said it was clean, the color scheme was pleasant to look at and, from the first sight, the navigation looked good.
  2. To give an impression about the navigation of the site.
    The user reported that navigation of the website was purely structured and messy, so it was hard for him to understand where he has to look for the information he needed. Also, when he was scrolling the website the navigation disappeared, so it wasn’t fixated on the top of the page.
  3. To find without using the web site’s internal search feature:
  • The school mascot

While performing the search of the mascot on the web site, together with the interviewee we figured out that it was actually hard to find any information about mascot without using Search. The user I’ve interviewed tried to look for it inside the different site sections, such as About → Facts and Figures, Student Life, but it didn’t result in finding information about the mascot. After not finding what was looked for at both sections, the user came back to the beginning and looked in a different submenu in About menu. He found out that there is submenu called About Baylor. When he scrolled down this submenu, he found a section Traditions, where he finally found information about the mascot. Although the user found it, it took too long.

  • Language instruction for Arabic

Language instruction for Arabic wasn’t easy to find as well. When user entered Admission menu, there was a list of submenus which were not structured at all. There was a submenu called List of Majors which seem to be the one where user could find if there is language instruction for Arabic. You can see on the screenshot below submenus order is quite random.

  • The nearest airport to the school

The user wasn’t able to find information about the nearest airport in the menu Visit Campus.

DETECTING ONE PAIN POINT

While watching user fulfilling tasks related to site navigation, I noticed, that every time user choose one of the menus, he appeared at the page with absolutely new navigation bar, which had nothing in common with the global navigation bar. As an example below you can see that when user enters About → Facts and Figures, the real location of the User is About →About Bailor → Facts and Figures →Overview. Also global navigation bar has changed completely.

It would be the same for each and every submenu. So after all, the user was left confused and overwhelmed with all the various navigation bars proposed at this website. He could never understand where he is now, how he appeared here and how to get back.

About →Facts and Figures
Where the user ends up after clicking Facts and Figures

FINDING SOLUTION

As the website is massive and it’s a whole separate project to fix its navigation system, I’ll propose changes only to global navigation bar itself, menu About and its submenu Facts and Figures.

The global navigation bar consists now of 8 menus (About, Academics, Athletics, Online tools, Student Life, Quick Links). I’ll shorten it to 4 menus and “Giving” button:

  • Athletics and Online Tools can be merged to Student Life.
  • Quick Links can be deleted as its submenus can be added to other menus relating to its topic.

I’ll also make navigation bar fixated to the top of the page, so when the user scrolls the page, the navigation bar stays at his view at any moment of his browsing experience.

After analyzing the About menu, I shortened its content to 4 submenus. Before the redesign there were such menus: BaylorLights, Baylor Magazine, Facts and Figures, Pro Futuris, Social Media, About Baylor, Campus Map, Office of the President, Senior Administration. I analyzed the content of each submenu and merged them into 4 sections.

  • Social Media and Campus Map can be represented in one submenu Visit Campus, or may be enough when Social Media are placed in the footer.
  • Senior Administration and Office of the President and Pro Futuris (strategic development plan of the university)can be merged into Leadership submenu.
  • About Baylor submenu Leads us to the same destination that About menu, so we can simply delete it.
  • Baylor Magazine can be placed in Student Life menu.

So after the restructure of navigation bar I propose the following page redesign.

Now if we click on Facts and Figures, as I wrote before, we appear at About Baylor submenu. I propose to redesign it the way user could see that he is in the Facts and Figures, and at the same time having global navigation bar fixated at the top.

CONCLUSION

This exercise demonstrated very well how hard it is to overestimate the importance of well structured and logical navigation of the website which contains a huge amount of information. It is easy for user to get lost and confused after several clicks if the navigation doesn’t provide a clear information about where the user is at the moment and how to get back to where he was before. Also it became clear to me that, excess of information is as harmful for site navigation as lack of it.