About two years after Clarity completed a logo and website redesign for the Cook County Assessor’s Office, the team came back to us ready for phase 2 enhancements.  They had a plan for how to improve the user experience – namely, the visibility of their core services – but needed guidance on an approach.

Our first thought?  Let’s do a usability test.  It provides data that determines a clear direction and guidance, both from a content and a design perspective.

Some people think a usability study is costly and complex.  Or that user testing requires project budgets and plenty of time scheduled.  Not true.  For example, the Nielsen Norman Group found that you only need 5 users to test your design in order to identify 75-99% of all usability problems.  As you add more and more users, you learn less and less because you will keep seeing the same things again and again.  You only need 3 to 5 users to identify the majority of usability issues.

With 5 participants, it would only take about a week to user test and about a week to compile the results.  The development process would be an additional two to three weeks.  Fully executed, the project timeline was quite short compared to the lengthy process of redesigning the whole site.  The CCAO team agreed – this was the way to go.

The Testing

Parameters for the usability testing:

  • Usability tests were conducted remotely via Zoom.
  • Testing sample included:
    • 1 new homeowner
    • 2 seasoned homeowners
    • 2 partner agency participants (1 from the Cook County Commissioner’s Office and 1 who was an assessor for Northfield Township)
  • All of these participants were familiar with the current CCAO site in order to draw comparisons to the test pages being presented in the usability test.
  • 3 redesigned pages from the CCAO site were used to test these participants:
    • Home Page
    • Exemptions Landing Page
    • Property Details Page
  • Every participant was read the same written script during the testing session to ensure all instructions were presented in the same format each time.
  • Participants were provided links to high fidelity mockups of the proposed redesigned CCAO web pages and asked to share their screen so the moderator could record their movements and take notes. They were asked to talk through their thought process in real-time, while navigating around and clicking through the pages.

The Findings

All five users thought that each page had an intuitive layout that was easy to navigate.  The below table provides a snapshot of how each participant rated each page based on “ease of use” with 1 being very difficult/unhelpful and 5 being very easy/intuitive.

The Results

For each page, there were collective opinions from the participants, some leading to changes in the initial designs.

Page 1: Homepage

Page 2: Homeowner Tax Exemptions

Page 3: Property Details

The Impact

After this process, the CCAO team was fully convinced about the effectiveness of user testing in order to finalize decisions about how to update the site’s design and functionality.  A fresh, external perspective provided a learning exercise that CCAO not only adopted in the initial stages, but also in how they plan to update all site content going forward.