Valuable Usability Testing: A Case Study of the Qatari Government Portal
Hukoomi has come a long way! As Qatar's primary government portal, it is the single place businesses can visit to complete transactions like applying for work visas, exit permits, residence permits, and much more. Now Qatari citizens and residents can pay traffic violations, renew passports, and renew health cards. Since Hukoomi continues to add more transactions and services every year, it is increasingly important that their audiences can effectively use their site. Enter usability testing.
Usability Testing - Round 1
Forum One conducted the first round of usability testing in 2009 in Doha. The Hukoomi site looked very different then. The center of the page was filled with a decorative navigation for different audiences that might visit the site and the left column contained additional, commonly used links. But while the site was backed with some powerful services, users struggled to find and use those services.
- Access and Site Performance
Example: It was difficult to access the site in some browsers and outside of Qatar.
- Content and Naming
Example: Instructions were often too technical for users to understand.
Example: To access content, users had to know about and navigate via a single path to get to content. It was difficult for users to understand where they were in the site and how to get to another section.
- Visual Design
Example: Links did not use a consistent style throughout the site.
Example: The translations in English and Arabic were sometimes different.
Usability Testing - Round 2
Two years later, in 2011, we conducted a second round of usability testing. The results were once again powerful, but for a very different reason! This time, the issues users faced were minor and largely related to fine-tuning the existing interactions. For example, in the 2011 testing, we found that when a participant completed an exit visa form, he/she could not easily start another exit visa transaction. Without a link to start a new transaction, a user had to either click the back button six times or restart the whole process by going back to the homepage and navigating to the exit visa page again. To think one link could make such a huge difference! In this case, business people (a primary audience) may complete 400 transactions on Hukoomi every day. That link could save a significant amount of time, and it's possible that we would not have discovered this without talking to these audiences and completing usability testing. This highlights the very real opportunity Hukoomi has to make transactions even more current.
Since 2009, Hukoomi has made huge strides in the right direction, improving usability and the average user perception of the Hukoomi experience. In the 2011 testing, users were able to complete more tasks in less time. Nearly all participants who have contacted the call center commended Hukoomi for providing excellent customer service and follow-up. The team behind Hukoomi should be commended for engaging in this usability testing – it underscores the importance placed on user needs in evaluating the effectiveness and reach of government services.
Usability Testing and ROI
By regularly doing usability testing and reaching out to users, Hukoomi can maintain a user-centric approach and prioritize its organizational objectives for the site, give thought to which content and services are of the highest value to users in support of those objectives, and refine the quality of the information and the online experience provided. In the end, the difference is striking. Understanding your audience's needs, opinions, and interactions on your website is powerful, not only when trying to improve experiences and change perceptions, but also in saving time and money.