Using Analytics to Create Change: USA.gov Usability Case Study
While many people tout the death of the home page, it’s still an important piece of the user experience on USA.gov. In 2013, 30% of all sessions on USA.gov included the home page—that’s 8.67 million sessions. The numbers for GobiernoUSA.gov are even higher—79% of all sessions included the home page. According to Jakob Nielsen, “A homepage has two main goals: to give users information, and to provide top-level navigation to additional information inside the site.” Over the years, our home pages had evolved to focus more on promoting content we thought was exciting instead of the top tasks of our users. In response, we launched new home pages on June 11. How did we make the case for this major change? The answer is analytics.
Tell a Compelling Story
We closely analyzed Web metrics, internal search data, heat maps of clicks, customer satisfaction survey data, and the results of usability testing to tell a compelling story of what visitors do before, during, and after a visit to our home page. This story was then presented to management to make the case for change. Here’s a brief snapshot of our story: We know that most visitors to USA.gov—about 80%—are new and come to USA.gov with a purpose. The two words that appeared most often in our customer satisfaction survey comments were “find information.” We see the same thing for GobiernoUSA.gov. Once visitors got to our old home page, many searched. We think a large reason for this is because most of the content on the site wasn’t visible on the home page.
Use the Data to Make Changes
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
We prepared a detailed report on home page visitor behavior in April 2013. In September 2013, we formed a bilingual project team to tackle the content on the home pages. After looking at all of the data, we created and tested wireframes, and then designed, developed, and launched the new homepages in June 2014. But we know we’re not done yet—it’s a continuous process. It can take time to make major changes, but the effort is worth it if it improves the experience for your visitors. Hopefully our work will do just that for millions of people.
Michelle Chronister is the User Experience Team Lead, USA.gov, at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)