Project: What Matters Now

Usability Research

Step #1 – Hold Kick-Off Meeting
The Co-Founder/Executive Director and I first met to have a broad discussion about her web-based service. I wanted to know its history and how it worked, about its user base as well as basic current usage statistics.

What Matters Now staff had informally gathered some user feedback, but there was plenty of room to dive more deeply into the user’s perspective. We also discussed their primary competitors and how they differed from What Matters Now.

The objective in doing UX work was to increase the number of active users. What emerged as the primary research question was: Why do users set up a free website and then not use it? 

Finally we discussed the phases of the research study and deliverables that I thought would be useful based on their needs and settled on those. We then created a project timeline and project plan. The Executive Director later provided me with marketing use cases and personas that had been created previously.


Step #2 – Create a Site Map
I began by diagramming the structure of the websites with simple site maps to show page hierarchy and off-site links. I mapped both the main What Matters Now website, and a personal website (the sites users create). What jumped out at me about the main site was that there was a tension about whether this was a website about What Matters Now the product, or What Matters Now the organization. Information about the product was hidden in the ‘About Us’ section. Information about the organization was up at the top layer. There were several calls to action for the user on the Homepage, and I wondered whether their order of prominence corresponded with the organization’s priorities.


When I mapped the personal website structure, I noted some language differences from the main site, and noticed which links pulled the user back there.


I also mapped the user flow of creating a personal website. The idea was that all of these deliverables would provide common visuals for discussing any future restructuring of the sites, while also getting me well acquainted with the sites themselves.



Step #3 – Conduct an Expert Review
Next I reviewed both the main What Matters Now site and a personal site using a set of 12 heuristics that were a blend of Jakob Nielsen’s usability heuristics and standard web usability principles. I noted where these principles were violated and made recommendations as to how to remedy the issues.

Since their primary business goal is to draw users to create, access and use their personal websites, I paid special attention to the wording used in calls to action on buttons (i.e. “Create your site now”) and sign in links. I wanted to ensure that users didn’t feel any confusion at all about what they were committing to by clicking on a link or button. I also focused on the account creation and sign in processes, making sure to review the sites while both logged in and not logged in, in order to review all possible states.


 Step #4 – Conduct a Competitive Analysis
At my client’s request, I focused the Competitive Analysis on their main primary direct competitor, Caring Though Caring Bridge didn’t have the most stellar user experience itself, the idea was for What Matters Now to learn from Caring Bridge’s successes. I found that Caring Bridge had been especially successful in these areas:

  • Clearly defined website creation process
  • Addressing privacy concerns within the website creation process
  • Social elements that allow for interaction and create a sense of community
  • Providing a satisfactory level of user control in the areas of customization, text editing and content navigation


Step #5 – Hold User Interviews
To prepare for user interviews, I discussed with the Executive Director what she would like to learn from this stage of the study. I then drafted an interview protocol that covered the her questions and that I thought would invite users to talk about their goals and motivations, as well as any ideas they might have for improvements. I tasked the Executive Director with finding five users for me to interview, which I specified should vary in terms of age, user type (guest, admin for own site, admin for other’s site) and technical fluency. I also asked that they all have a fairly high level of familiarity with What Matters Now, and added that having experience with similar services would be a plus.

Unfortunately, interviews were never held because…


The Project is Called Off
At this point in the project, the Executive Director took a full-time position at Facebook and the research study was called off. Uninitiated phases included usability testing and survey disseminating and analysis.

What Matters Now continues to live on, however, and I wanted to leave my client with a wire frame that captured how I thought the main site navigation could be improved. I determined through conversation with Executive Director that the calls to action on the homepage were (in this order):

    1. Create a site
    2. Share WMN with friends
    3. Donate
    4. Connect via social media
    5. Share a testimonial


I think this redesign aligns with the hierarchy of the calls to action, moves information about the product to the top navigation level, and makes information about the organization less prominent.


Wireframe of proposed Homepage redesign