Moore’s law predicts that digital technology capabilities double every year. A consequence of Moore’s Law is the slow adoption of new technology, which has ramifications for users. Hence, when municipalities are slow to release new versions of their websites, their residents’ experience suffers.
Our fifth CUTGroup Miami test with Miami-Dade County (MDC) beta website illustrated how the new website remedies a current casualty of Moore’s Law: the poor performance of legacy websites on mobile devices. We conducted this second iteration of Miami-Dade County’s beta website at the North Dade Regional Library located in Miami Gardens on Thursday, February 7, 2017.
A key component of Miami-Dade County new website is responsive design: the ability of a site to automatically adapt to the user’s device. Jaime Shycko and R. Adam Mullins, both of Miami-Dade County, assisted with the preparation for and execution of the test.
We e-mailed initial screening questions to anyone who was a part of CUTGroup Miami, that is, testers who reside in Miami-Dade County. However, our call for testers mentioned that our test was at the North Dade Regional Library between 4:30 PM and 7:30 PM, so people who responded would know where and when they would need to be to participate in the test.
As we held previous tests in or near downtown, we wanted to find out the result of moving the test to a library branch in the suburbs would be. The net was about half of the previous response, that is eight, plus significant attrition, with only three of the eight showing up for the test.
In a post-mortem held a week later, CUTGroup Miami made the following decisions for future tests:
- Our next test at a venue significantly outside the core downtown areas will be held on Saturdays when commuter traffic and work aren’t factors.
- We will continue to conduct tests in the urban core area, which is less affected by afternoon traffic patterns.
[Director’s note: other factors also led the small turnout, including lack of planning resources due to having a user research group the week before. The low turnout was a learning moment for us; knowing we are most effective when we testing sessions out appropriately. -Ernie Hsiung]
Testers like the appearance of the responsive web pages on their mobile devices. However, the smaller screen on mobile devices still made it difficult to navigate to the desired item. In the case of looking for a particular service, the user might need to maneuver through up to fifteen screens of alphabetically ordered items to find the service they are looking for (as shown on the right). The conclusion is responsive design alone is insufficient, and the actual layout of the web page still needs to change for an optimal user experience.
Note: testers were instructed not to use the Search feature so we could evaluate their efforts of navigation.
The Hamburger Icon
One tester suggested using drop-down menus rather than requiring users to scroll through some screens to get what they are interested in, mostly describing the function of the hamburger icon (shown to the left of the beta.miamidade.gov link in the screenshot on the left).
However, our testers needed to be told of the hamburger icon’s existence and function, so the likelihood of users availing themselves of the hamburger icon in real life is not good. This ignorance of the hamburger icon is perplexing since the function of the icon was desired by the testers, even before they were aware of it. The icon is also the only way to get to the Search Box; without search functionality, users would need to navigate through the various screens to find anything.
The good news is testers on the Beta Web Site found it easy to locate agencies, services, and news stories, so making them aware of the hamburger will improve their experience, though not critical. By contrast, on the legacy website, users needed to scroll around the screen while resizing just to read the text since the text is automatically scaled down to fit the screen on responsive websites.
Testers on mobile devices found Online Services as shown on mobile devices above and computers immediately below.
The challenges included locating Euthanasia and Disposal Services, Inmate Mail Services and Fingerprinting Services.
We wanted to gather initial impressions of the app/web page before testers begin to click on different pieces of the site; hence the testers were instructed as follows:
Without clicking on anything, please review this app/webpage.
The testers said the site appeared colorful, seemed to provide a lot of resources, and was easy to use.
What do you think this app/webpage does?
The testers understood the function the website was to offer information and services to Miami-Dade County residents.
Who do you think this app/webpage is targeted to?
The testers said the app/website is targeted to residents of Miami-Dade County.
What is the first thing you do? Why? Describe this experience.
Testers noticed the top bar for online services and were most interested in clicking on property search, for no particular reason other than being interested in the subject matter.
The testers were given some tasks to perform without using the Search Box to validate the navigation. Since many of the actual services are still using the legacy implementation, the testers were instructed to find the screen where the task could be performed, but not complete the challenge which would have required launching one of the legacy applications that are beyond the scope of the test.
Task 1: Replace your green trash cart
The testers were asked to locate the web page that would allow them to replace their green trash cart but was unable to complete this task without resorting to the Search Box. One tester suggested having the services in a drop down menu which would have made finding services quicker and easier.
Task 2: Pay your water bill
The testers quickly navigated to where to make payments for water service, even without the Search Box, but would have preferred to have the options in a drop-down menu.
Task 3: Schedule a Bulky Trash Pickup
The testers easily found where to request a bulky trash pickup without using the Search Box. Again, adding the option to use drop down menu was suggested.
Task 4: Locating Services
The testers were unable to locate Euthanasia and Disposal Services but quickly found Inmate Mail Services and Fingerprinting Services.
Task 5: Locating Agencies
Testers were able to find the agencies efficiently using the hamburger. The testers were able to locate where to adopt a pet by clicking on Animal Services. Testers also easily found District 10, the Transportation Trust, and Libraries.
Task 6: News Feed
The testers were easily able to find a story about adopting a pet and getting free tax help in the News Section. The testers also easily found news for children on the first page in headstart.
The testers felt the Search Bar was the easiest way to find services on a mobile device. Maybe a card sorting exercise to determine a better menu structure during the next Civic User Test might be merited.
The website on mobile devices were well received, with one tester referring to it as “pretty.” When asked, All testers said they would use the website in the future.