University Communications coordinates studies to identify marketing opportunities and pitfalls. The insights we gain help us fine-tune campaigns to achieve great results. In addition to marketing research, we conduct web usability studies.
Usability tests reveal how real users interact with a website or email. Among the most common methods are the following:
- Standard usability testing. Users perform a list of tasks on a website under the watchful eye of trained testers. Observers see what aspects of the site are easy to use and can identify areas that create difficulty.
- Tree testing. We show users a hierarchy of navigation terms and ask them what paths they would follow to find designated information. Tree tests illuminate pitfalls in site structure.
- A/B testing. We change one variable—such as a subject line or call to action—in an otherwise identical web page or email and see how it alters users’ response. One group of users sees version A, the other version B. Which version gets more clicks or conversions?
- First click testing. If users get the first click wrong, the odds that they’ll complete a task plummet. This type of testing gives users tasks and watches where they go first. It lets us identify points where navigation needs to be clarified.
- Card sorting. How would users organize the content on your website? We write content categories on index cards and ask users to group them. The result is a user-centered taxonomy that makes your site easier to navigate.
This type of study explores the perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes of target audiences. It seeks answers to questions like, “Why?” or “How?” For instance, you might do qualitative research to explore how prospective students perceive different approaches to a marketing campaign. We use methods such as focus groups and interviews to collect qualitative data. Opinions are gathered from small numbers of people, so the data gleaned usually isn’t statistically valid. But qualitative methods are great for revealing people’s motivations and for uncovering issues that you can explore later in a quantitative study.
Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” David Ogilvy, advertising pioneer and founder of Ogilvy Group
This type of study answers questions like “What?,” How many?” and “How often?” For instance, a quantitative study would be used to find out what percentage of college-educated citizens of Washington would recommend WSU to someone they know. Results are generally in numerical form.
Surveys are used to obtain quantitative data.