– Usability Case Study

Dec 6, 2012

After conducting a usability test and listening to customer feedback, the team and the DigitalGov User Experience Program identified these three issues as both important and quickly solvable.

Problem 1: Terminology and Labels Confusing

The terminology and labels used were either too technical or too abstract for users to understand—a far cry from the plain language style required in government. On the homepage, users encountered map tabs for “Graphical Forecasts” and “National Maps”. While these terms have significance for power users, they mean little to casual users.

Solution 1: Simplify Language

The tabs on the top of the map were greatly simplified, using plain language to guide users while providing the same information as before.

Problem 2: Navigation and Branding Inconsistent

In the example, we can see that a link to NOAA’s main site is provided in the prominent upper left position, while the link for the site is relegated to the far right. A user looking to navigate back to the homepage would more likely click on the link on the left and end up stranded on the NOAA main homepage.

Solution 2: Relocate Logos

A “Home” button was added to each page to ease navigation, and the logos of NOAA and were moved side-by-side to reduce confusion.

Problem 3: Too Much Information

There was simply too much text on the page. The casual user was confronted with a mass of technical wording and links, leaving them with little guidance as to how to find information that might be most useful to them.

Solution 3: Move Less Important Information Down

The text on the original page was reorganized and moved to the bottom, and graphics were added for particularly timely and relevant information. The amount of information for both technical users and the general public remains the same, but the user experience is greatly improved.

As a result of First Fridays testing, the team created a much more streamlined site, while still providing sufficient information to both casual users and weather professionals. The screen capture below is from August 28, 2012. Addressing the usability of your agency’s website is about more than just identifying aesthetic changes. It’s about making sure that every visitor to your website gets the information they need in a quick and clear manner.