Jordan and Carrie from Colorado Christian University needed a thorough and expert UX audit. After learning from an information architecture review that their site navigation was less than optimal, they turned their attention to their analytics to see what could be done to address this issue. Not wanting to compromise other aspects of the website in their efforts to improve the site navigation, they came to Green Hat Web Solutions to get a comprehensive picture of how their website was performing.
The CCU public website has the unique challenge of having to serve the diverse audiences of three separate schools. Colorado Christian University contains a different school for high schoolers, traditional undergraduate students (who live on campus), and adult students pursuing higher education online. To maintain a website that effectively serves such a broad pool of students, Carrie and Jordan needed to significantly edit their site navigation without compromising the attractiveness of their website to any consumer demographic. They knew that, if their site became less functional, several rival universities could take a painful bite out of their crop of incoming students and transfers.
Ryan Masterson, Green Hat Web Solutions’s CEO, already had a relationship with CCU; it was at CCU that Ryan earned his undergraduate degree. Since he had also already been working closely with various members of the CCU web team on other projects, he quickly understood the unique situation that his new client was in. After talking with Jordan and Carrie about their goals,
he learned that CCU wanted a UX audit to be conducted from the perspective of prospective students. Carrie and Jordan worked with Ryan to develop some preliminary User Personas, or fictitious students that would serve as archetypal user experience examples.
Next, Ryan assembled his task force for the UX audit of the CCU public website. With UX experience now on the project, Green Hat met with Jordan and Carrie on a weekly basis, walking them through changes to UX site information, recommendations, and most of all, the results of their UX research activities. Since CCU wanted to use the user personas activity, the UX expert team fleshed out each persona with a name, a context, motivation, personality traits, and goals. With these well-crafted personas, Green Hat was able to organically analyze CCU’s website from the natural perspective of each user persona. Each time that Ryan met with Carrie and Jordan, he showed them new findings of the testing, and he worked with them on how to potentially improve the site accordingly.
The use of user personas helped greatly to solve the original challenge of the diverse demographics served by CCU. Since Jordan and Carrie worked with Ryan to create nine unique
personas, Green Hat got well-rounded test results representing the user scenarios of the different schools within CCU as a whole.
Using the user personas, Ryan’s UX team executed a user journey mapping activity, along with several other research activities, in order to glean necessary UX data from CCU’s current website. In collaboration with Carrie and Jordan (and with the help of CCU’s web analytics and heat mapping data), a competitor analysis was even carried out, complete with a summarizing table.
Using the organic and objective testing results, Ryan and the UX team concluded that the biggest problem with CCU’s site was the site navigation, as the previous information architecture review had already revealed. Although CCU already knew of this issue, Green Hat clearly spelled out which pages and what pieces of information needed to be relocated. As it turned out, the site was forcing users to visit multiple pages to visualize the complete picture of what CCU offered and at what cost. In short, due to the fragmented nature of the information necessary to make a decision to enroll at CCU, real-world users were getting discouraged.
Additionally, Green Hat discovered that, while the visual design of the site was actually the site’s strongest area, it was also weakening the user experience on some pages. CCU’s website looked clean, streamlined, and even stunningly welcoming (especially compared to the competition). Unfortunately, on the pages with multiple large CTAs, the use of many smiling faces and bright colors sometimes overwhelmed the user personas in their use cases. In short, some of the (neatly disguised) clutter on some pages was affecting user decision making. Additionally, there were simply too many different fonts being used in a single page (over 20 used in the entire home page, and nine on the first screen fold), leading to a visual burden. Green Hat saw through the website’s biggest strength to discover how to strengthen that aspect even more by streamlining the user journey experience.
When the final UX audit document was completed, Ryan presented the findings to the CCU web team. Since Jordan and Carrie had been working closely with Ryan throughout the whole audit process, the three of them were able to show the rest of CCU’s web team what could be done to improve conversions. When one team member asked if Ryan would like to be part of the next phase — implementing the fixes — Ryan responded that Green Hat was more than willing and able to work with CCU to implement the changes.
The Results and Deliverables
The UX audit for Colorado Christian University included many documents and meetings with Jordan and Carrie.
Final UX Audit Document
The main deliverable that Green Hat Web Solutions provided was the final UX audit document. The entire audit process was building to this. This document contained the comprehensive results from the testing done by the research activities, crafted together for a readable, informative experience. At the beginning of the document, after an explanation of the research activities, were two summaries: what CCU was doing well, and a summary of the research activities.
The detailed results of the research activities were compiled into itemized issues, further organized by UX category. The categories included the following: Overall First Impressions, Site Navigation and Structure, Content, Visual Design, Usability, and Emotions and Credibility. Here is an example of an issue. This one is the sixth issue in the document, but the first in the Site Navigation and Structure section (these two screenshots do not include the entire issue, as this particular issue was quite long).
Beyond the analysis of CCU’s website, a competitor analysis of competing universities was conducted as well. Here is an example of an issue in the Competitor Analysis section.
Next, the UX audit contained a table that summarized how the site performed with some common user goals.
Next, the audit document contained a helpful section of bugs/missing information/unanswered questions.
Since CCU provided Ryan and the Green Hat UX team with their web analytics, the team was able to analyze the data and produce several hypotheses about various statistics. Often, a hypothesis contained a link to CCU’s heat mapping data, which they had provided to Ryan.
After the data from the research activities, the UX audit document spelled out the recommendations for changes to the CCU site. The recommendations made it easy for the CCU web development team to digest the issues identified. The recommendations were divided into two types: high-priority, and quick fixes.
At the end of the audit document, the Green Hat UX team gave a conclusion and some next steps.
Finally, the audit document ended with an appendix of the data gathered from CCU. The appendix also included links to some of the supplemental documents provided by Green Hat.
User Personas Document
The next document provided to CCU was the User Personas Document. Each user persona that was used for testing in the Final UX Audit Document was fully fleshed out in this document.
User Persona Test Results
User Persona Test Results was a workbook (Google Sheets). It had nine worksheets: one for each user persona. Each persona’s sheet essentially showed the step-by-step process of the persona’s journey of completing their goals (or attempting to) on the CCU site. This highly-detailed document was basically how the research activity of using user personas was documented; this spreadsheet even included the emotions of the persona when he or she ran into a frustration with the site. This document shed valuable light on many essential goals of end users, and this data was subsequently consolidated into the Final UX Audit Document.
User Journey Map
The User Journey Map was similar to the User Persona Test Results document, but only one of the nine personas was tested. Since that previous document was essentially the “user journey,” if you will, this User Journey Map was simply a representative summary of how the site was performing in this research activity.
As part of the competitor analysis, CCU’s website, along with three competing universities, were tested for loading speed times. PDFs of the results were shared with the CCU web development team. The tests were conducted using GTmetrix.
CAGS Conversion Funnel
Near the beginning of the collaboration process with Carrie and Jordan, Ryan and the UX team gathered information about what the conversion process for CCU’s College of Adult and Graduate Studies (CAGS) looked like. A diagram was synthesized based on that data.
When the Final UX Audit Document was completed, the Green Hat UX team put together a slideshow that summarized their findings. Since the Final UX Audit Document was so long, the slideshow kept the presentation to CCU’s web team streamlined. Subsequently, the slideshow acted as a handy reference for CCU to use for their UX site improvements.
The UX audit for CCU turned out to be an insightful exercise into CCU’s public website. Ryan and the Green Hat Web Solutions UX team gave CCU a detailed analysis of both the good and the bad aspects of any given user’s experience. Jordan and Carrie greatly appreciated Ryan’s insights.
Currently, Carrie and Jordan are going through the documentation; they are systematically improving their website, based on Green Hat’s recommendations. The Green Hat UX team is still answering CCU’s questions as they come up, and plans are being made to begin work on some next steps in the near future.