Learn My Way 4 user testing: What we’ve found out

22 Apr 2016 |Written by Emily Redmond

Good Things Foundation's team is currently working hard on the next version of our popular online learning website - Learn My Way 4. Emily Redmond, User Researcher, outlines what we’ve learned from testing the site with users.

Earlier this week I wrote about how I’ve been doing user testing for the Learn My Way 4 project, and how that info is used. But what have we actually found out on our travels?

First stop for the user testing was Zest For Work, a UK online centre in Sheffield, where we learned perhaps the most important lesson of them all...to keep it simple!

We were interested to discover that a lot of learners are used to using the internet through their smartphones so are fairly familiar with the look and functionality of apps, but not necessarily websites. Through user testing with people whose first language is not English we realised just how much of a barrier lower literacy levels can be to digital inclusion, and therefore how important it is to keep the language clear and distinguishable.

Next to Longley 4G, where we met a number of learners who were already using Learn My Way. Here we learned that Learn My Way needs to cater for new and existing learners, and that calls to action must relate to both audiences. Again, the importance of getting the language right came up. For example ‘Register’ was received more positively than ‘Create an account’ which reminded some users of bank accounts. Marg, the tutor at Longley 4G was positive about the simplicity of the prototypes and had some great ideas for how the learning journey could be made even better for her learners, such as a glossary of commonly used terms.

Having only tested Learn My Way on computers until this point, it was great that the next user testing we did was at a beginners group tablet session led by Julie from Starting Point delivering outreach at Offerton Community Centre. We learnt a lot about website usability and functionality requirements for tablets and were pleased to note that the registering and ‘Sign in’ functionality tested well. However, some aspects of the site weren’t obvious enough to learners so we made a note to highlight these more in the next iteration.

As well as jobseeker user testing, Ben and I traveled to Bristol where we visited one of our Disability Specialist Champion Centres, Action on Disability and Work UK. We had a busy day testing prototypes with people with learning disabilities, as well as talking to a deaf tutor and staff who support disabled people with digital skills development and employability. We want to ensure Learn My Way is accessible to all; we want to find out early how it needs to be built, before we start coding the prototypes.

The feedback from our visit was generally very positive. We’ve been following accessibility best practices to put the prototypes together, so we were pleased to see that learners responded well to font size, usability and colour. However we also received a useful reminder from Geoff and Claire on the temptation to use grey text to make things look prettier - “If it’s there and relevant, it needs to be accessible!”. Tutor Geoff was impressed by Learn My Way 4’s simplicity, the learner dashboard and that all learning resources are in one place, under the same tab, and easy to find.

Although accessibility feedback was generally positive, we were reminded that Learn My Way is not currently accessible to deaf people, as English isn’t their first language. Deaf learners at Action on Disability and Work UK currently use Learn My Way with the support and guidance from deaf tutor David. But without his help, learners find it hard to continue their learning at home as lower literacy levels amongst deaf people make reading the website text really hard. This has provided the Learn My Way 4 team with real food for thought, and we’ll be looking into the feasibility of introducing British Sign Language windows in places to make Learn My Way more accessible to deaf people. Once again, using basic English is a must.

Our next user testing trip took us to Southey Development Forum back in Sheffield, where we tested Learn My Way with 6 volunteers on Jobcentre Plus’ Work Programme, each doing a fantastic job helping others to get online and gain basic digital skills. It was really useful to get the perspective of those supporting others to get online, as well as learners themselves, and it was reassuring that the prototype (having now been iteratively developed many times) tested well.

Most recently, we visited Sheffield Central Library to do some user research and testing with passers by. Here we wanted to find out more about the 'unsupported learner' - those that don't attend a UK online centre to learn, and may be learning at home. What does Learn My Way 4 need to do to work for them? These learners also reacted positively to the prototypes, approving of the fact that the graphics used aren’t childish and so would appeal to a wide range of users including older users. We also learned that unsupported learners would use Learn My Way by themselves but actually most would prefer someone to help them get started, whether at a centre or through friends and family.

Thanks to all the centres and individuals who have been involved in the Learn My Way 4 development so far.