We were recently approached by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to help them redevelop their website. Previously the website had been aimed at researchers seeking funding for their work. Conscious of the need to engage with a broader public base, BBSRC were keen to ensure the content was 100% user focussed and accessible to an audience beyond academia. At the same time, they wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the profiles and goals of their existing website users.The BBSRC website is crammed full of information on some of the most exciting areas of contemporary science. It also provides information on research grants for everything from sustainable agriculture to theoretical biology. Given the breadth and depth of this resource, the engagement of Web Usability presented an excellent opportunity for BBSRC to reappraise how their website could be made more readily accessible to the general public, students, the media and opinion leaders. BBSRC also planned to introduce additional content, and wanted to ensure that it was built around this broader user base. We carried out some initial usability testing at our Wiltshire studios with a group of appropriate users. This revealed a number of issues that limited the success of the user experience. They concerned the layout of the website, but we also identified some navigation issues that made task completion difficult.
'The results confirmed some of our own thoughts, and also highlighted other areas causing confusion for our users' - Kate Lin, Web Editor at www.bbsrc.ac.uk
The team from BBSRC took away the user feedback and returned with a prototype for further usability testing. They were able to discreetly observe the testing procedure 'live' via the one way mirror in our test studio. Afterwards we led a facilitated discussion regarding the issues that emerged, and gained agreement on the further action needed.
Web Usability usability consultants then worked closely with BBSRC to develop an improved prototype which was focused entirely on meeting the user goals that had been identified. We also produced an information architecture and templates to ensure optimum accessibility. The result is a relaunched website which is a testament to our expertise, and also reflects the determination of BBSRC to get their website fit for a wider audience; and as such, appears to have met their expectations.
'Since the launch we have received positive feedback from both BBSRC staff and external users, and have seen an increase in the number of visitors to the site,' Kate Lin, Web Editor at www.bbsrc.ac.uk.