Find the Problem with Search

Discovering Solutions Through User Testing

Posted on January 18th, 2017

The problem with search was brought up by our membership, saying it was "too wonky" and "difficult." This very vague comment persuaded me to set up some hotjar video recordings on our search page, I noticed a few big issues regarding problems with our multiple filters and functionality on page. From this base observation, I set up 20 usability tests at our annual meeting. All of the initial tests were based on about 3 different user personas based off our membership base. Each of the tests allowed the users to choose their own way of navigating to content they may use in a real-world use case. Most of the users arrived at the same conclusive results after each test. Here are the findings:

I went back to our development team with the above issues and we designed a solution for each item.

  • The search icon was hard to find
  • The multiple filters were causing frustration and confusion
  • The video search results were uninformative
  • The mobile filter layout was hard to navigate
  • Inaccessible content did not clearly state why it was inaccessible
  • Menu item language was confusing

I went back to our development team with the above issues and we designed a solution for each item.

  • Set up free and open flow testing for users, the less directions the better. Just ask them to find a simple and real goal
  • Make sure to test on multiple devices and browsers. This will help you understand your user's preferred method of accessing your web content
  • Build out real and in-depth user personas EARLY! The more information you have about your user's the better. It makes testing easier on them and yourself
  • Classify users as novice, intermediate, and expert. I cannot stress how important it is to see how experience levels change user perception, especially with a mature product

The most important thing I learned from this project is how valuable real user testing can be and how important it is to test a wide variety of different users.