On April 24th, 2020 I conducted a usability test for Paws4Survival.com. Paws4Survival is a rescue and adoption organization that focuses on rescuing cats and dogs from the streets of Puerto Rico. They provide vet care, socialization, and foster families for animals until they are adopted into permanent homes.
The study conducted involved three participants of varying age, locations, and internet experience. Because of a shelter in place act brought on by a widespread pandemic, COVID-19, these sessions were conducted remotely using Zoom.
Before each session, participants were asked to sign a consent form giving their permission to record audio from their sessions. Participants were also asked to share their screens using the “share screen” option available on Zoom, with the exception of Participant 1 who was using an iPad for the session and not able to locate a share screen option.
Paws4Survival Usability Sessions
I started the session by asking participants a few questions regarding their professions, weekly internet use, and if they had any pets. I thought there may be different reactions to the website depending on participants’ experience with owning pets.
Next, I asked participants to navigate to Paws4Survival.com using a link that I sent them in the chat. Once they reached the homepage, I asked participants to take two minutes to look over the homepage and describe their initial reactions. None of the participants had visited the site before, but accurately described the website as a pet adoption site.
The participants were then asked to provide a series of five tasks to judge the usability of the website.
Task #1: Pretend you wanted to adopt a dog and decided to use Paws4Survival. How would you go about doing that on this website?
Task #2: Let us say you adopted the dog you picked out earlier and brought him/her home. You have a question about the dog’s medical records. Who would you contact and how?
Task #3: It has been a few weeks and unfortunately your new dog is not adjusting well to your home. You are thinking that this dog may not have been a good fit. What is Paws4Survival’s policy to return a dog or cat?
Task #4: You want to support the organization, but do not want to donate money. How else can you donate?
Task #5: You decide you want to make a difference for Paws4Survival by volunteering. How would you do that on this website?
After each participant completed the task, they were asked to rate the difficulty of the task on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being very difficult to perform the task to 5 being very easy to perform the task.) I used a stopwatch application on my phone to track how long it took each participant to complete the task starting from when I finished reading the task question to when the participant finished the task.
Once all tasks were completed, participants were asked for final thoughts on the website and if they had any suggestions for improvements. While I initially described the session as taking about 45 minutes to complete, all participants finished their sessions within a half an hour.
Analysis and Conclusions
I concluded that overall participants found the site to be easy to navigate. All participants felt that providing pictures and video of the animals or rescue missions triggered an emotional response and would be effective for potential adopters, volunteers or donors. There were a few suggestions for improvement in terms of functions and layout. A list created included the following suggestions made by participants,
- Add a search engine capable of filtering adoptable animals by specific preferences (i.e. breed, age, size etc.)
- Change the banner on the homepage, the text overlay is distracting
- Add hyperlinks where links are included
- Add a clear volunteer section if they are looking for volunteers
- Add more photos and videos of adoptable animals
- Change the name of “happy endings” page because it is unclear (i.e. change to “stories” or “success stories”)
- Add a google form to the adoption page that could be saved and continued later
This was a great test in getting for fresh perspectives from other users. It was interesting to hear users thought processes as well as watching them perform the tasks on the website. One of the hardest parts of this study was finding tasks that could be measured. While I may have thought that there was one way to complete the task, my participants found other solutions that I had not thought of.