My role
Tools used
- Background
While at the University of Glasgow Information Services, I worked on a project addressing an important but often overlooked detail in the student experience: how-to guides. When students are searching for information on how to complete a simple task like print an essay or find a book, and they struggle to find it, they often become stressed - especially in the first few weeks of first year! As a student of the University for 5 years, I too struggled with this, meaning I had a shared experience with our user base. 

Improving the student experience is a key focus for the University, not simply to benefit students; reducing the vast amount of IT help desk support requests saves time and resources, and contributes to the University's strategic goals of:

- Enhancing the student experience
- Empowering staff
- Transforming culture and operating efficiency
- Moving towards user-centric services
- My role
User research
Quantitative & qualitative methods
Data collection/analysis
User testing
- Tools used
Google Analysis
- Pre-analysis
For this particular example we targeted the student printing pages, an area that receives an exceedingly high amount of help desk requests on a daily basis - 1 in 5 students reported problems with this task. My role in this project involved planning and executing user research, followed by collating and analysing data, and presenting it in a report to my team.

Data driven redesign

To analyse the current state of the student printing pages, we set up HotJar behavioural analysis tracking. This provides a fascinating insight in to how users are navigating a page.

As you can see in the screenshot, clicks are concentrated on three main areas. There are also erroneous clicks on areas that are not links (e.g the pull print logo) which can lead to user frustration. 

We used this data to identify key areas to investigate in research. Top task analysis was used by my colleagues too, before I started. 


We had to consider the following constraints: 

Time: we could only dedicate a few days to research this particular case 

Researchers: small team so only me in the field

Money: not allowed to pay participants due to university regulations, makes it harder to gather large subject pool (but maybe you only need 5?)

Season: exam time, very busy for students so less free time to spare for us

Heatmap showing concentrated clicks
- Research

Our users were 24 students, across a variety of disciplines (we did not gather further background data in this case study). They were trying to achieve the task of printing from either a library PC, their own PC or Mac laptop (or possibly Linux), or a mobile device.

Their motivation was completing coursework or studying for exams - therefore a high level of stress can be placed on this task! Students completing this task successfully is also important to other business processes within the uni; eg IT Helpdesk, university rating of student experience


1. Stakeholder Interview

We interviewed the IT Helpdesk staff to identify key issues, for example this PDF providing instructions on how to use the printers (imagine this on a mobile!). 

2. HotJar and Google Analytics
Using heatmaps, we could see the areas of frustration on the page, areas where users had to scroll too much, or made empty clicks etc.

Google Analytics shows paths taken to reach the page; we found a lot of users were actually coming from searching ‘glasgow uni how to print’ rather than being directed internally - not ideal when an entire guide exists within the MyGlasgow site to be accessed for this purpose. 

3. Guerilla Testing with Prototype Pages 

Using the heatmap data, we were able to redesign a simplified layout of the printing pages for a prototype. With the prototype on an iPad, I went to find the students in their natural habitat during exam season: the library. 

At the printers, I *politely* ambushed students trying to print documents and asked them to complete four simple tasks with the prototype. Each task was given a score based on level of success. 

4. Online Survey 

A chalkmark study was used; this records the first place a user clicks when trying to achieve a task. Scores of success were reflective of how quickly a user found the place they were supposed to. 
- Results
Success scores for each task showed an improvement after pages were redesigned.

We went ahead and launched the new pages

Guerrilla testing data was rated on a 3-point scale based on the observer’s perception of user’s success. Chalkmark data was rated on the same scale, but based on time taken to reach ‘success’ point. All scores were averaged to find ‘success rate’ for each task.

After the redesign 

We saw less random clicks on non-links; more focused clicks on key areas, less scrolling and less time spent on page finding information.

We saw a significant reduction in IT Helpdesk support requests related to printing

Less time wasted; better experience for students and staff!
- Discussion
The main takeaway of this project was the importance of small details in the overall UX; printing pages aren't the first thing you would think of but the details add up! Good UX at every step is good for the user and the business; reducing stress and wasted time. 

This combination of methods worked well for this small project; but we would need to scale up considerably for something bigger.

Key takeaways:

- Heatmap tracking is invaluable - when there is enough user data.

- Guerrilla testing has high ecological validity, but doesn't provide most in depth data.

- Stakeholder interviews, however brief, are fundamental as a starting point.

- Constant iteration: technology changes, printing via iPads etc would not have been an issue 5-10 years ago.

During the course of my internship, I also learned the importance of translating user experience to business terms. As my colleague Kat Husbands explains well here, a system as complex as the university's has many daily active users (30,000+) across both students and staff, and every extra 5 minutes spent trying to complete a task adds up to a lot of wasted time. If we streamline these tasks with good UX, we can reduce wasted time and subsequently save money for the university.

Framing our results in these terms aids in persuading stakeholders the value of good UX and why they should be investing in it. 

"Holly impressed us in so many ways, and greatly accelerated our work to pilot UX methods in the university context."

Kat Husbands, UofG UX Specialist