I’m working with a small non-profit in California on a large web redesign that includes performing user research and developing a content strategy before moving into design. Because of a limited budget, our user research phase only included an online survey and a Google Analytics review of their current site. However, once the user research was underway, we ran into a few issues.
I designed the online survey with mostly closed-ended questions to uncover patterns among responses that differentiated the user groups (e.g. their relationship with the organization, interests, prime motivators, etc). Two hundred individuals completed our online survey, but my analysis revealed that roughly 80% of participants fell into the same user group—leaving relatively little data to identify patterns among the other user groups.
Google Analytics data from the current site was limited as well because of minimal traffic and visitor engagement. I pulled some basic audience data but struggled to recognize many useful trends or themes from users’ online behaviors.
Our user group definitions wouldn’t be backed by solid data which felt too risky to base our content strategy and design decisions on—especially since this was the first user research of any kind the organization had performed. So, to feel more confident in our user groups models, we expanded the user research activities to include:
1. User Group Workshop
We invited staff who regularly engaged with the organization's constituents to a workshop to round-out the user models the project manager and I had created. They spent a morning sharing assumptions about the user groups’ attitudes + beliefs, interest + motivation, experiences, concerns, digital behavior and demographics. Their ideas generated more well-rounded definitions than just the project manager and I could produce as a team of two.
User group workshop I facilitated from Seattle with staff in California
2. Second Online Survey
We needed to attract more diverse participants for our second survey to gather information on more user groups. We asked ally organizations to promote the survey and created targeted Facebook ads to users that fell into our segments. Combining the two surveys, we had 300+ participants and had much more—and better—data to analyze.
The second survey provided more data to identify patterns for user groups
3. User Interviews
Staff conducted interviews with two to three people from the three groups we identified as our primary user groups. The interviews helped us understand participant preferences and attitudes. They provided extremely useful information that helped validate or negate assumptions we’d formed.
After adding these three research activities, we have a solid grasp of our users' needs. We just finished up creating personas and I feel much more confident that they accurately define our users. I'm grateful to have a client that recognized the importance of user research!
The user interviews proved extremely useful for rounding out our personas
A limited budget or timeline for user research can be challenging. As more information is uncovered, unpredictable issues can arise. Having the ability to adjust a timeline and scope of work is important to ensure a web redesign project accurately addresses users’ needs.
Peace Coffee is an amazing fair trade, organic coffee roaster based in Minneapolis. Since 2016 I've enjoyed working with them on various content strategy and user experience (ux) design activities to make improvements to their existing site and prepare for a new website in 2019.
By spring of 2018, we’d worked our way through the following ux and content strategy activities:
We learned last summer our web redesign timeline was dramatically shortened when the company decided to move from Salesforce to Netsuite in time for the 2018 holiday season. Our web team needed to design and build a new website on a new platform—Wordpress + Woo Commerce—in just a few months.
The homepage and a sample product page from Peace Coffee's old website
"Carrie kept our team productive and focused during our expedited timeline for the new site. She added huge expertise every step of the way. She is flexible and capable of playing many roles from project manager, content strategist, UX developer and designer, team cheerleader, basically whatever we needed from her she found a way to help us add value to our new website. The results speak for themselves and are a testament to her incredible work ethic and skills!"
—Melanee Meegan, Director of Marketing
Peace's website was built in 2011 on a now-obsolete platform that didn’t offer many of the eCommerce features that are considered standard these days. The design was dated and not as responsive as we would’ve liked.
Because we had to move quickly, I pared down the content strategy and ux design activities to the bare minimum. We swiftly worked our way through the following:
Sketches and wireframe samples - click to enlarge
The new website launched December 1st and is a drastic improvement over the previous site. While not enough time has passed to draw strong conclusions from Analytics, the new site is already outperforming the old site. Here are a few results from the first two months compared to the same period the previous year:
The homepage and a sample product page on Peace's new website - click to enlarge
Not only do I encourage you to peruse their website to check out the new and improved design but you should also order some of their coffee. It's the best!
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Forterra is a Seattle-based non-profit organization working in urban and rural land conservation. They had a limited budget to use an external design agency to revamp their two-year-old website. They wanted to ensure they got the most bang for their buck so I helped them determine the scope and direction of the update by learning about their users and assessing the state of their existing digital content.
"Carrie helped us evaluate our website’s issues holistically and make data-driven changes after testing with actual users—something we'd never done before."
—Lucy Shirley, Digital Media Manager, Forterra
While just two years old, Forterra's website had its share of issues. They'd heard complaints from visitors and key stakeholders alike: users struggled to find what they were looking for and the website wasn't meeting internal needs either. Forterra knew the site's bounce rate was higher than average but they didn't know why. They had ideas on possible problem areas but were making a lot of assumptions grounded in personal opinion—not on actual user research.
I collaborated with Forterra's Digital Media Manager to develop a plan that fit their short timeline and limited budget. I worked to cut down the project costs by creating templates and coaching her through some of the activities to do on her own. Through user research across multiple social channels and the website, we identified key audience insights. Through qualitative and quantitative content audits, we identified the "low-hanging fruit"—changes to improve the user experience that could be done in-house to save Forterra money. We conducted a stakeholder workshop that provided useful user insights from different departments and increased buy-in for the redesign. We performed usability testing and card sorting with users to find critical pain points. Once we conducted the following activities, I delivered Forterra with a report with recommendations to guide their web updates with the designers.
Activities + Deliverables