Background - The Who & Why:
The new age of social distancing restrictions has produced new challenges for our consumer researchers studying human behaviour and providing clients with our expert market research services. We were faced with the uncertain question - What can you do when it's no longer feasible to bring participants into our lab setting? Like with anything, in times of chaos, new innovations and solutions are born, which couldn’t be more true for our new solution to the current climate - introducing our Neurolytics remote market research capabilities.
We have formulated a consumer research solution for our clients allowing for a holistic service offering which is still based on our fundamental ‘Neurolytics Triangulation Technique’. We are able to collect consumer research data through three key elements:
Qualitative Research - video conference interview and group focus group testing,
Quantitative Research - self-reported measures, questionnaires and surveys, and
Biometric Consumer Research - behavioural annotation, eye tracking and facial expression analysis.
Our new remote testing solution allows our Neurolytics researchers to continue to conduct our iconic consumer research techniques and giving the respondents the ability to participate in our studies all from the comfort and safety of their own homes (guided by a trained interviewer in real-time).
To showcase the capabilities and reliability of our new solution we conducted a website usability pilot on the Curtin University website versus the University of Western Australia (UWA) website focusing on navigation difficulty, consumer attention, task completion efficiency and overall comparison of user experience. The study was conducted completely remotely and our researchers recruited 10 students to participate in the research on our new online platform.
The What & How:
The Key Research Objectives for this remote website usability study were to:
Conduct three user tasks for the two universities (six tasks in total) in a random sequence to prevent sequence bias and carryover effects:
Find a ‘Master of Applied Finance’ program (Domestic and International Student)
Find a ‘Bachelor of Commerce and Science’ program (Domestic and International Student)
Find and choose campus accommodation (Domestic and International Student)
Measure consumers’ emotional biometric reactions of joy and enjoyment towards the usability of the Curtin vs UWA websites
Map consumers’ visual attention and path on each of the university website
Identify and compare Biometric frustration, cognitive processing load and task completion efficiency
Conduct a self-report survey to examine the perception of usability and attitude
Interview respondents at the end of the study through a thematic analysis to complete the ‘Neurolytics Triangulation Technique’ of consumer research.
Below are some of the findings of the remote website usability study which are defined by the overall experience using the three key elements of our Neurolytics Triangulation Technique:
Overall Usability Experience:
Self Reported measures: For the self-reported measures of attitude, there were no significant differences between the universities nor the tasks. However, users had descriptively higher attitudes toward Curtin’s website than UWA’s website in general.
There were no significant differences in the perception of usability. However, users reported descriptively higher usability for UWA’s website specifically on ‘Domestic Postgraduate’ task. On the contrary, Curtin’s website was perceived to be descriptive more usable on the other two tasks.
Biometric Processing: According to pupillometry, there was no significant difference in processing difficulty during navigation between UWA and Curtin, nor between the completion of tasks.
Biometric Frustration: Users experienced significantly higher frustration when searching for on-campus accommodation for both Curtin and UWA. Comparatively, the accommodation task on the UWA website evoked significantly higher frustration than the Curtin website.
Accommodation Task Biometric Eye Tracking:
For Curtin, the eye-tracking heat map suggests that users had difficulty in locating the correct navigation pathway on the navigation bar to complete the Accommodation Task. Users tend to search the full page for signposts.
For UWA, the eye-tracking heat map suggests that users had difficulty in locating the correct navigation pathway on the side navigation bar to complete the Accommodation Task. Users tend to repeatedly search for signposts on the side navigation bar.
Searching for Domestic Postgraduate Program:
Users experienced significantly higher joy when they were searching for a postgraduate program as a domestic student on UWA’s website in comparison to Curtin’s website. This suggests that UWA’s website was easier to navigate and use for that specific task.
Users were more engaged towards the UWA website than the Curtin website in the ‘Domestic Postgraduate’ task. However, Curtin’s website evoked significantly higher engagement than UWA for the ‘Find Accommodation’ task.
We then examined the trigger points by using our second-by-second analysis for the Curtin website, the ‘course search bar’ is prominent and it captured consumer attention. On average, it only took users 0.9s to detect and look at the ‘course search bar’. This function has facilitated the ease of usability of the website when searching for courses.
We then examined the trigger points by using our second-by-second analysis for the UWA website, the ‘course search bar’ took an average of 2.5s for users to detect. This may have induced lower usability and less positive user experience for users to search for courses and units on the website.
Biometric Joy and Engagement - Pop-Up Boxes UWA:
For the UWA website, the cookie pop-up box and chatbot pop-up box were significant trigger points of frustration that coincided with a significant reduction of joy, especially when users were having difficulty in finding the correct navigation pathway.
Biometric Path Analysis - Curtin vs UWA:
Thematic Interview Analysis - Likes vs Dislikes:
The following are a few comments that were collected from the Curtin University Thematic Interview:
Straight-forward design with easy navigation
The prominent search bar was clear
Fresh colours on the website
Top 1% university banner was good to see
Easy switch between domestic and international students
Titles (labels) on the navigation bar
Navigation has too many options (labels)
The accommodation was hard to find
Information on accommodation was hard to understand
The following are a few comments that were collected from the UWA Thematic Interview:
Easy to navigate with the sidebar
Picture of the campus was nice
Navigation was easy once you get used to it
Hard to get information as international students
Information for international students is hidden within the page
The menu on the top right is not the first thing I would look at or use
Pop-ups when I don’t need them
Our new remote testing solution allowed us to capture respondent moment-by-moment biometric responses of attention, emotions, engagement and processing difficulty when completing pre-defined tasks on the Curtin and UWA website. We were then able to provide concrete second-by-second and element-by-element recommendations about how best to optimize that particular website usability experience. Here are some brief examples of our recommendations to enhance the user experience, engagement and attention for the university websites:
Ensure that the layout of the homepage is simple and a clear search bar is prioritised at the start to allow users to easily navigate and locate their required information.
Use iconic imagery to showcase the university facilities and attractiveness for international students wanting to enrol.
Remove the pop-up chatbot as it evokes greater frustration.
Enure titles in the menu bar are clear and use submenus to ensure there isn't too much information
Use banners on the homepage with reference to what will be the most used or searched for term periodically - ie: new student enrollments and accommodation facilities at the start of the year.