Usability Evaluation – University Course Website Search (2nd year uni coursework)

A successful search function is essential for universities to attract potential students. In this analysis I will discuss the course search websites of Napier University and Oxford Brookes University.

Firstly looking at Napier University website the overall course search functionality is clear and easy to use. The website is well branded with the logo on the standard positioning at the top left of the page, and the red coloring from the logo is used throughout. The course search is easily accessible by clicking on ‘courses’ from the website menu and it is very quick for the user to search and find information on courses.  The course box is of a good size and displayed well on mobiles and tablets as well as on laptops and desktops. At points the fonts and areas on the Napier website look oversized for computer use and elements could be down scaled slightly to give a better user experience. The fonts used are easy to read on all devices with a good level of contrast also.  When looking at the search results given information is displayed clearly from the search results with the award, level, title and a summary being shown. The main criticism of the results page is that there is a lot of wasted space with the viewer having to scroll down to begin to see the courses.  Another criticism is that the website lists the results by relevance instead of alphabetically so it can be a little difficult to find a specific course title. Often post grad courses or part time courses are listed before undergrad full time courses so the results are not always relevant to the user. A filter option is given on the website, which helps to user with narrowing down results. A negative aspect of this feature is the size of the area as on a computer screen takes up a lot of space and no results can be seen. The size works well for mobiles. The filter feature also has option to choose the number of results per page is also a great piece of usability.

 

 

In comparison, the overall course search function on the Oxford Brookes University website isn’t as user-friendly.  From clicking around on the website there did not appear to be a course search box function. It is more difficult than Napier University to access the course listings from the menus. The user needs to click study here, course type, year of entry, the course A-Z is then shown.  The user also has the option to click to view by subject area or by department alphabetically. The a-z function makes it easy and clear to find subjects and the results are given to the user are very relevant to what the user is looking for. An advantage over the Napier site is this level of clarity and the display of the page is better with the user not having to scroll to view results both on a computer and a mobile device.

 

Looking at the course details page on the Napier website the layout is very clear and it is easy for the user to find all the relevant information. The top part of course page shows a relevant image colour coded with the colour used by the university for the ‘school’ for example computing courses are shown in blue and business courses are shown in orange.  The website also uses breadcrumbs which also helps with usability.  The bottom part shows the main course summary and details on how to apply for the course and a link to send an email to find out more information.  The main course information is displayed clearly with tabbed sections showing more detailed information including course outlines, careers and entry requirements. This makes it easy for the user is able to click in more depth if they are interested in finding out more details.  Further down they are given stats with feedback from students then above the footer area there are more general options for the user to find out about studying at Napier.

 

 

Overall the layout of the Oxford Brookes course page layout is more successful. The course information is displayed clearly as with the Napier website but the balance of the website is better as more details can be seen without the user having to scroll. The website has a good level of contrast with the limited use of colour and this also helps the course details stand out more.  The course video makes the page more interactive for users but it could have been laid out slightly differently below the general course details to make better use of the space on the page. Oxford Brookes also uses links to find out more information on the university below the course details in a similar way to Napier. The use of the symbols is successful and clear for the user and gives a less cluttered look to the design than the use of the image banners by Napier.

 

Overall both websites are easy to use and clear for the user. The Napier website search results could benefit from being more relevant for the user, for example, alphabetical sorting but the search box is a great functionality to have. The information displayed on the course pages for both universities is clear and relevant. The course pages of Oxford Brookes University could be benefited further by the listing of similar courses to help give the user a call to action to keep on the website and continuing to click. Both websites are responsive and display well on mobile devices. The Napier website functions better on mobile as on computers the fonts and design elements can feel oversized. The Oxford Brookes website displays well on both mobile devices and computers. From what I have looked at I feel that Oxford Brookes is better from a design perspective but the Napier website has better overall functionality.