Snapshot from usability testing

Usability testing a new search tool

A few weeks ago, we at the ODS Lab went out to get feedback on a prototype — a search tool that helps users find out if the province covers the cost of a prescription medication through the Ontario Drug Benefit.

We built the tool to support a new program called OHIP+. Under OHIP+, starting January 1, 2018, if you are 24 years old or younger, and have a valid Ontario health card, you will be able to get most of your prescription medications for free.

Testing the prototype

Our goal was simple — make sure the tool was easy to access, use and understand. In order to do this, we went to the University of Waterloo campus for our first round of guerrilla testing to gather feedback and insight from students — a target audience.

Despite having very little time to unwind between classes, many students showed interest in taking part in our study and gave us 15 minutes of their time. After receiving consent from participants, we went through a series of questions, together, as they navigated our prototype. We took note of their thoughts, observed how they used the tool and completed a search, and identified areas on the website that they found confusing or interesting.

First-round insights

Here are a few big things we learned from that first session of guerrilla testing:

  • Ask questions that are clear, direct and related to your goal
  • Allow participants to navigate the prototype at their own speed
  • Don’t be so quick to answer questions — try to understand why participants may be asking the question in the first place

After making changes to our prototype, based on participant feedback, we decided to take our next round to a different setting: a shopping mall.

A participant navigating through the prototype

Next round of testing, new locations

Unfortunately — as happens sometimes when you’re guerrilla testing — our experience here hit a few snags: we were politely asked by mall security to stop conducting interviews because we needed to have permission from mall administration ahead of time. Oops! Filing that lesson away for next time.

We chose to continue our testing somewhere else: the Waterloo Public Library. There, we were more successful. We gained these valuable insights on the prototype:

  • Having an easily-identifiable search bar is very important
  • Content and language used in the prototype must be easy to understand across all populations
  • Some text and additional details can be irrelevant, and overwhelm the user

Findings and analysis

After eight rounds of guerrilla testing, we came back to the Lab to organize our notes, summarize our findings, and conduct a thematic analysis. Through this analysis, we uncovered the following common themes::

  • Definition: Making sure we define terms simply helps people understand the information better.
  • Signals: Clearly labelling important elements — for example, marking each prescription medication as “covered” even when all results on the page at the time are covered — helps instill user confidence.
  • Guidance: Providing users with the appropriate next steps once they have found their information online helps them take action on that information.

This was my first time going out to do guerrilla testing — it’s amazing how much feedback you can get from users in a short amount of time. Not to mention, this was a lot of fun to do!

Check out the tool and share feedback with us. We plan to continue to test and iterate as we go.


Elizabeth Barber is a co-op student at the Ontario Digital Service Lab and a Master of Public Service student at the University of Waterloo.