Curtis Associates Research Ltd
Higher Education and Industrial Research Market Research, Database Management and Business Development Services

User Testing Using Market Research Techniques

Client need:
Positioned in the higher education sector, our client was developing software that would be used within a university to streamline certain aspects of the student registration process.  This is a high load process that happens once a year.  The profile of users is such that each year approximately 30% of records relate to previously unknown users, the remainder coming from existing users.  The client had a need to understand a balanced spectrum of users’ reactions when interacting with the new software.

Market research needs:
To understand the functional integrity of the online software system from users’ perspectives.
To gain user feedback through end-to-end testing within balanced user segments, recommending changes where appropriate.

This study was both qualitative and quantitative in nature.  Our starting point involved gaining an understanding of how the software was intended to work.  Because there were severe time and budgetary constraints, we concentrated on the large segments of users for testing, preferring to capture issues from these groups since these would be showstoppers.  The techniques used were a combination of one to one interviewing, work flow tracking and focus groups after the user testing.

Key outcomes:
Functionality was the most critical issue that emerged from the research, with several major difficulties being experienced by many groups of users.  Understanding both the level and nature of these difficulties allowed the client to evaluate what was necessary to rectify the system.  A complete front-end rebuild followed, with the client avoiding system crash on going live.
Other minor problems were discovered which allowed the client to assess how much help desk resource to make available at go live.

The success of the re-built system at go live was such that the client achieved significant savings in resource from go live onwards.  Initial help desk calls were less than 1.5% of the total user load and 68% of those calls were resolved at first contact.

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