Skanska involves the users in the web development process
By Sara Hernandez
Skanska recently launched a new website platform for their 11 national websites. One important thing to ensure during the project was the usability aspect – that the new websites were user friendly, easy to navigate and understandable. Together with Comprend, Skanska made sure the users’ opinions and feedback were heard and incorporated during the project.
During 2017 Skanska, one of the world’s leading project development and construction groups, launched 11 national websites on a new Episerver platform. The design was based on a new concept making Skanska’s websites more commercialised – putting services and projects in focus. Along with the new design and new functionalities there was also a need for new and updated content – in ten different languages.
Skanska worked with several suppliers and a large internal project group. Comprend was involved working with content strategy and content coordination between the central project team in Sweden and local project managers and editors in all countries. Comprend also performed usability testing, travelling to Skanska’s different locations around Europe and in the U.S. The purpose was to meet the actual end users of the websites and get their input and feedback.
Usability testing to get valuable input
Usability testing refers to the practise of evaluating a product or experience by testing it with representatives of end users. During the tests various scenarios are played out while observers watch and take notes. Usability testing is very valuable to get qualitative data and understand how the users perceive the product and how they navigate, search and consume content.
Together with project members from Skanska, representatives from Comprend conducted usability testing in several of Skanska’s markets. We conducted the tests on end users – customers, potential customers, job seekers and students. The tests were done on both desktop and mobile devices in order to perceive if there were any differences in experience.
During the tests the users were asked to perform different tasks like finding specific content, or asked what they expected to find in different sections of the website. At the same time one or two observers are watching and taking notes, asking follow up questions and analysing the behaviour.
Insights regarding design and content
The usability tests we did gave a lot of great insights. On one hand we got input regarding design choices like page layout, navigation, choice of icons and the overall design of the website. The input helped the design team to develop a better user experience. It also allowed us to catch usability issues early on which would have been costly to fix at a later stage.
On the other hand, we got input regarding structure and naming of pages and sections. From a content point of view this was very valuable, so the local teams could adapt their copy and labelling. One of the aims of this project was to adopt an outside-in mindset – to decrease the use of internal lingo, technical abbreviations and labelling content after internal structures. Instead it was crucial to consider the users’ perspective – to write content in a way they can understand and to use headlines, labels and copy that they are familiar with.
In the end Skanska launched 11 websites on 11 different markets over the course of one year. The usability testing input helped both the central design team and the local content teams in each country create a better user experience.
Top tips for usability testing
Usability testing does not have to be a costly or extensive undertaking. It can be done on a smaller group of people, it is not the quantity but the quality that is important. However, it is most useful if you can involve actual end users – the customers and stakeholders who will use your service or website. The most effective tests are done with two external people – one test leader to guide and ask questions and one observer taking notes. Usually you will also want to document the tests with a recording device in order to go back to the tests later on.
Perform tests early on – they can be carried out on a prototype of the final solution. It is better to get input at an earlier stage before all design decisions have been made or the content has been written.
If you are a company like Skanska and communicate on different markets and languages – make sure to perform tests locally. There are cultural, educational and behavioural differences between populations in different countries. What can be crystal clear in one country might not work in another.
Finally – make the test subjects feel comfortable. Ensure them that they are not the ones being tested and that the purpose is to create a better user experience for them. Motivate them to think out loud and to explain the reasoning behind their actions and thoughts. Make the test an enjoyable experience where you practise active listening and show a genuine interest for the test subjects’ feedback.