The Staten Island Hunger Task Force is an organization providing resources for Staten Island community members who are food insecure and information for volunteers interested in helping the community.
I connected with a client from the SI Hunger Task Force to learn about their organization and provide suggestions that would better serve people visiting their site. My goal was to determine whether target users could navigate to and understand the information they need, especially since the site provides such a large breadth and volume of information.
My team and I conducted Moderated Remote Usability Tests on a total of 7 participants that fit the website’s target users to evaluate the usability of www.hungryonstatenisland.com. Each participant gave consent to taking part in our tests and were each compensated with a $15 gift card.
I connected with my test participants on a video-calling platform that allowed screen sharing through their phone (i.e. Zoom, Google Meet). I gave the participants a scenario and a set of tasks which encompassed the site’s main objectives.
After the tasks, participants answered a System Usability Scale questionnaire to numerically rate the site's usability. My team listed all relevant quotes, places where the findings occurred, and the participants' difficulty level rating for each task. All these findings were later color-coded and consolidated to derive the three most crucial recommendations for hungryonstatenisland.com
My tasks determine whether users can accomplish the main functionalities that the SI Hunger Task Force site offers to potential volunteers. These include finding organizations in need for help, finding ways to donate, joining the Task Force, and reaching out to the Task Force. In addition to the tasks above, we also asked participants follow-up questions involving rating the difficulty of each task from 1 (easy) to 5 (hard), as well as overall feelings and suggestions for the site.
RECOMMENDATION 1: declutter and increase visual hierarchy
Due to the large volumes of text, users struggled to locate the information they needed. Users extensively scrolled through pages, which reduced their navigation speed and success in finding key information. The pantries list page has been redesigned by minimizing visual clutter and hiding secondary information.
Drop-down bars contain all secondary information like addresses and links. Doing this draws the users’ attention to the main titles and headers of the page. In case a user wants to learn more about a specific pantry, they simply can click on the dropdown to expand its information. However, our client mentioned that this recommendation might pose usability barriers to people requiring accessible features, especially since the addresses need to be manually expanded and may not be immediately recognized by screen readers. A potential area of study is optimizing our recommendations to follow accessibility standards.
RECOMMENDATION 2: give users multiple ways to access information
Some subpages contained important features and information that were only found on that specific page, rather than also being accessible through the homepage. One of my participants heavily relied on finding necessary information via the homepage and relied on it more than navigating the menu bar and its subpages.
We therefore condensed and compartmentalized the homepage contents such that key information could be easier to find and read. Buttons and hyperlinks redirect users to the appropriate sites should they want to read more information about that section. By using a Contents window, we made sure they could efficiently access their desired section at the top of the homepage. An addition of a “Go to top” button shortcut expedites finding information and scrolling.
In my new design, the calendar is placed directly underneath the map. Both are now accessible via the homepage rather than in two separate pages. I also included a button to show and hide the map interface so users can view both map and calendar at the same time. Should users want more information on food pantries, there also is a button redirecting them to a separate Food Pantries page.
RECOMMENDATION 3: rename and reorganize pages
Users were particularly confused by the category names under the site menu. The category names are vague, too similar to each other, and don’t fully inform users about their page contents and what kind of information will be provided. Categories and labels could be more accurately and distinctively renamed.
Multiple users struggled with knowing where to click if they wanted to donate food. One participant clicked on “Help for Pantries” instead of “How can I help?” due to the lack of distinction between the two category names. Yet, the “Help for Pantries” page is not a page intended for users looking to donate food. It is a page with information for pantries or people who are interested in starting a pantry.
The following map shows the final, restructured information architecture of the Staten Island Hunger Task Force mobile site. We ultimately prioritize links based on target users’ needs, naming the links so that they accurately inform users what each page provides, and re-categorizing subpages to fall under common categories (i.e. Donate). The menu bar was a crucial feature that all participants relied on to complete their tasks. We therefore have reorganized it so that it now contains one main link – “Home” – which links to the homepage. In the homepage, users can access all the key information. Under the "Home" dropdown menu, there are three main subpages – “Food Pantries”, “Donate”, and “Contact Us”.
Over the span of two months, I met with my teammates multiple times a week to discuss and collaborate on our work process, both in-class as pictured, and outside of class through productive video calls.
It would be valuable to test a broader scope of user groups with a different set of tasks. With more time, my team and I could have studied the site's usability on pantry clients and ensured that they could accurately find the help they need. It would be a valuable learning experience to set up and moderate multiple test sessions at the food pantries in Staten Island, as well as meeting our client in person.