Exploring the user experience of the StartHere web service
"We were really pleased with the work - it was very well done and incredibly thorough. The consultants really listened to us and quickly adapted any changes we wanted to make or incorporated new ideas we wanted to test. The hospitality throughout was also fantastic!"
Sarah Hamilton-Fairley, Chief Executive
StartHere is an easy-to-use information service designed to quickly and easily connect people to the information and services they need at times of stress, whatever their level of IT skills. The service provides users with basic information on a broad range of social and welfare issues (e.g. life-changing events relating to illness, bereavement, divorce, homelessness and pregnancy), and also signposts them to organisations, nationally and locally, that are can help.
StartHere, which is a registered charity, asked Serco to carry out user testing on a prototype web version of the service. These tests were for users both from the general public and advice line agents who might consult StartHere as part of their job. The key aims of the research were to explore the user experience of the site, identify any usability issues, and inform future development of the web version of StartHere.
Serco carried out a round of one-to-one usability testing with users from StartHere's primary target group, including socially excluded individuals and those that had experienced life-changing events, such as drug abuse, illness or housing issues.
We also conducted two focus groups with advice line agents that could use StartHere as part of their daily job. StartHere can help advice line agents to deal with caller's concerns that are not related to the caller's primary concern and, as such, are outside those that the call centre is set up to address. Apart from one outsourced contact centre, all were charity organisations.
In both one-to-one sessions and focus groups, task scenarios were designed to help elicit user feedback on a range of the site's features. All sessions were conducted at Serco Usability Services' studios in Holborn, London.
During usability testing the users' understanding and reactions to StartHere as a signposting service were generally positive especially once a few usability issues had been ironed-out. During focus groups with the advice line agents the potential for StartHere to be used in call centres also proved to be positive, and users reacted well to the level of resource available.