Got $10 and 10 minutes?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology, Usability, Web | Posted on 05-07-2008

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No, i’m not trying to sell you a product. I’m trying to sell you on usability testing. That’s right, with only $10 and 10 minutes YOU can IMPROVE your SITE! (insert big logo and web 2.0 graphic here)

Last November I did a usability test with Marcie, a senior at a local high school. There was one question I wanted to ask her because I was pretty sure I knew the answer already, I just needed it recorded for proof to others. :)

So we had just finished a walk through of the Bloggers and the BUForums, and I had Marcie go back to the home page (http://go.butler.edu). Then I asked my question…

Marcie, I want you to ask for more information about Butler through our website.

She clicked around a bit, said ‘ummmmm’ a lot, and finally gave up. PERFECT. I now had my ammo for the powers that be. And video evidence too!

I knew a navigational redesign was out of the question for our problem. With the deadline on the www.butler.edu redesign only a few months away, and my inability to do anything other than edit text in a CMS, we needed a quick solution to this problem that would give us results until we are able to redo major parts of the site.

So, I turned to my buddies on the sidelines. The Callouts. At the time, the only way you could get more information would be to go to the 2nd-level page called ‘Contact Butler‘ and click the image. I created callouts on each page stating very briefly “Want more info? Fill out this short form for more info!”.

The results speak for themselves.

Leading up to the invention of the go.butler.edu microsite, web information requests as a first activity for a student were as follows:

2003 grads – 1,837
2004 grads – 2,618
2005 grads – 2,720
2006 grads – 2,134
2007 grads – 802
2008 grads – 884

Take a guess at when the redesign happened? :)

We implemented the callout on January 22nd of this year, and I know have 3 solid months of data to see how things are going. (Note – these numbers include all students, not just ’09 Grads.)

A 40% increase by the end of the month. 90% in February. Over 200% last month. At 1,056 web inquiries in 4 months, I’d say we are well on pace to get back to the #’s of previous years.

Along with this we learned that the recently designed Counselor Search app had no contact information on it once you found your counselor.  Marcie also told me that she would expect a question she asked in the BUForums to be answered…. within an hour or two.  That definitely changed my thoughts on getting questions answered on the weekends, 10pm at night, etc.

And what did it take?

A Starbucks $10 Gift Card and 10 minutes.

At that price, how could you not afford usability testing?

Comments posted (7)

Cheap skate! Krug recommends in “Don’t Make me Think” at least $50 if I remember correctly.

But maybe that’s for an hour and if that’s the case then your deal is better… so sorry for the name calling.

Also when the heck are you going to install the subscribe to comments plugin on this blog so I don’t have to come back to the page to find out what sort of smart response you have?

It’s right below, in the blue bar ;)

http://squaredpeg.com/index.php/comments/feed/

For the love of God finally you do a good thing! God bless you! ;)

I just might leave more comments on this abomination of a blog.

Just kidding great blog and I probably waste it’s importance by leaving my 2cent junk in the comments.

Thanks for pointing out the simplicity of usability testing. I think far too often its seen as an overwhelming task that requires the contracting of a firm or hours of efforts.

I may try something like this as we embark down our redesign path. I also purchased the ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ book Kyle :)

Do you think usability should be down prior to a redesign or after or both?

Anybody used http://www.usertesting.com/

Looks cool/easy, but I wouldn’t mind a first hand report.

Great post, we have to find ways to make user testing cheap and easy enough to do on a regular basis.

I would also recommend doing a/b testing on a regular basis.

Definitely give it a try. ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ is the holy grail of usability at this point. Real easy to read and comprehend. Great book!

re: when to do usability testing…. ALL OF THE ABOVE! IMO, you can never have enough usability testing and it’s something all universities and colleges need to do more. Do it before a redesign to see what you’re missing, during a redesign to make sure you’re on the right track, and after to see what you missed. Then, come back in 6 months – 1 year and do it again to see what else has surfaced.

Neil – haven’t checked that out before, but i’ve had the popup before on sites. As far as a/b testing, here is a post on one example I have:
http://squaredpeg.com/index.php/2008/08/11/split-test-your-emails-a-or-b/

Those who are just starting their careers want to know that their contributions matter and their skills are improving. ,

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