PMC recently completed a web usability study on a selection of brand websites for the Luminar Group, the UK's largest operator of licensed late-night venues. Using eye-tracking technology, PMC used eight 'user-journeys' defined with Luminar, to identify how people use and react to the sites. The study tests covered twenty users from the 18-24 age range with an interest in night-clubbing and included Luminar's Watford 'Oceana', Stevenage 'Liquid' and Batchwood venues.
Kishan Vaja, Web Manager at Luminar states: "We want to ensure that every user journey is positive and that our customers can find what they want without delay. More importantly, we want them to find their experience on our websites positive and enjoyable. PMC offer usability testing combined with their knowledge of e-commerce technology to deliver a comprehensive web testing service. Their experience and sector expertise has helped us to develop a user-focused solution that delivers the online experience our customers expect."
The Luminar Group runs entertaining, popular venues where people can meet, eat, drink and dance - creating memorable experiences for it's customers. With a branded estate of 83 venues in February 2009, Luminar has the largest square footage of nightclub capacity in the UK.
The study produced heat maps and gaze opacity maps that show which areas of a web page dominate users' attention. Gaze plots that trace users' viewing habits, Cluster diagrams that show key areas of user viewing and the percentage of users that focused in that area, plus statistical information to create graphs to showcase raw information. Videoing users in action also enabled PMC to show exactly how users reacted to the sites.
Andy Hicketts, Client Services Director, PMC, explains: "Once all users completed their journeys we reviewed any issues with them and showed them a video of how they completed the tasks. The video shows how users' eyes move across the screen and shows a small image of the user as they view the site. This shows the user what they were doing, enabling them to give a detailed explanation of what was going through their mind during each task.
This process, called a Retrospective Think Aloud (RTA) is incredibly useful. It increases our understanding of any user issues, enables the user to relive the event and reproduce their thought patterns."
This approach using the images produced from the videos enabled PMC to provide detailed analysis and understanding of the success rate of each task. If a task was not successful it also enabled PMC to apply both qualitative and quantitative reasoning to develop a solution.
Vaja continues: "PMC's study showed that most tasks were reasonably successful and users liked the sites. Although some user journeys caused specific problems, the study helped us identify both functional and usability issues. Creating a 'Who's Up For It?' event was completed by most users, however our functional design meant that some users struggled with a navigation and usability. Implementing PMC's recommendations enabled us to remove those issues and make the websites even easier to use."
On arrival at PMC the test group were told their task was to complete typical user journeys and before each task users received on-screen instructions. For tasks that involved transactions, PMC gave each user a test credit card. They were also told to use specific login details when trying to reprint a ticket.
Hicketts states: "Before testing begins we tell the users the usability analyst will not offer any help in completing the user journey. If they cannot complete a task they should end it. We explain the eye-tracking process, other than that we allow the users to complete the task unaided. To do otherwise would not give accurate results."
Overall most users thought the Luminar websites good and easy to use. Users also liked the images, with many taking time to view them and comment positively. The few issues that existed on the websites meant that sometimes users could not complete their given tasks however using the information from the study it only required minor amends to correct them.
Vaja closes: "The usability study enabled us to adjust our site based on user experience. The best way to avoid potential problems is to have real-world feedback from people that have experienced the sites. Live testing on customers is unacceptable but testing in PMC's controlled environment means we know how good our sites are before they reach our customers."