When users interact with a website to find information, it is important that we help them find their way by using plain language, clear terminology and visible help text.
On December 7, 2012, the DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test the U.S. General Services Administration’s Contract Vehicle Navigator website. This Navigator site helps contracting officers find contracts that best meet their needs. Through usability testing, three key problems were identified.
Problem 1: Too Much Jargon
The information presented was frequently unclear and contained too much jargon. For example, the meaning of the terms “Entity Type”, “Products and Services”, and “Offerings” were confusing. The meaning of the “Green IT Solutions” icon, in the contract categories of Step 2 of the form, was unclear, and no definition was provided.
Solution 1: Clarify Terms
The term names have been changed to be more clear: “Entity Type” was changed to “Organization.” “Products and Services” and “Offerings” have been changed to “Solutions Categories.” The icon for “Green IT Solutions” has been changed to a more traditional green leaf.
Problem 2: ‘Help’ Text Too Small and Hidden
The user was unable to see the help text within the form (such as the limit of selecting five offerings in the list of categories).
Solution 2: Change ‘Help’ Text Size and Location
The help text “You may select up to 5 solution categories” has been moved to a much more visible location and its font size had been increased.
Problem 3: Important Information Not Seen in Right Rail
Most users also did not notice the box of selected contract categories on the right side of the screen. This box helps users remember what they had selected later in the form filling process.
Solution 3: Move Information to Left-Side of Screen
The “Solution Categories Selected” box was moved to the left side of the screen to increase visibility. As users progress through completing the form, they can refer back to this box to remember what categories they had selected.
The GSA Contract Vehicle Navigator team improved the usability of the website by tackling these three key identified problems. These screenshots were taken in January 2013, about one month after the initial usability test.
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