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PRATT INSTITUTE WEBSITE 
USER TESTING REPORT 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hyerim Hwang 
Shivani Ishwar 
Meera Nathan 
Archana Ravi 
 
 
Prof. Elena Villaespesa 
Pratt Institute 

 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Pratt  Institute  is  a  higher  education  institution  located  in  New  York  City,  which  serves  5,000 
students  across  undergraduate,  graduate,  and  continuing  studies  programs.  Its  disciplines 
range  from  liberal  arts  and  sciences  to  design,  architecture,  and  information  studies.  With 
over  50  degrees  and  programs  on  offer,  Pratt’s  website  is  an  important  tool  for  students, 
faculty,  staff, alumni, and other members of the Pratt community to find information about the 
admissions process, academic curricula, events, and more that the website has to offer. 

In  order to assess the effectiveness of Pratt’s website at communicating this information to its 
intended  audience,  four  researchers collected data from eight participants in a user test, then 
analyzed  that  data  to  form  conclusions  about  the  interface.  Both  desktop  and  mobile 
interfaces  were  used,  and  the  testing  process  focused on a few areas of the site including the 
homepage, admissions tab, and events page. 

While  users  generally  had  a  positive  first  impression  of  the  site, researchers were able to find 
a  few  ways  in  which  the  website  caused  confusion  or  frustration  among  users.  Based  on 
feedback  from  the  user  test  participants,  as  well  as  data  gleaned  from  Google  Analytics, 
researchers  identified  the  four  most  pressing  of  these  problems.  This  report  details  the 
findings  from  the  user  test  process,  as  well  as  recommendations  on  how  to  ameliorate  the 
issues discovered. The four points the research team recommends focusing on are: 

Recommendation 1: Redesigning the homepage


Recommendation 2: Redesigning the admissions page
Recommendation 3: Improving the layout and content
Recommendation 4: Improving responsiveness for mobile users

The  goal  of  these  recommendations  is  to  remove  the  most  common  sources  of  confusion, 
frustration,  or  negative  user  experience  for  future  users  of  the  website.  The  research  team 
hopes  that  the  implementation  of  these  improvements  may  lead  to  a  more  natural,  intuitive, 
and positive user experience on Pratt.edu in the future. 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS 

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EXECUTIVE  SUMMARY                                             1 

INTRODUCTION  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 3 

METHODOLOGY   ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬  4 

⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬⚬

Setting  Up  the  Test                                                           4 

User  Profiles and Recruitment  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬  4 


User  Testing  Process  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 5 


Task  List  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 6 


User  Questionnaires  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬  7 


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FINDINGS  & RECOMMENDATIONS                                 8 


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Recommendation  1:  Redesigning  the homepage                              9 

Recommendation  2:  Redesigning  the  admissions page  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬  12 


Recommendation  3:  Improving  the layout and content ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 17 


Recommendation  4:  Improving  responsiveness for mobile users ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 19 


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CONCLUSION                                                     23 

REFERENCES  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 24 

APPENDIX  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 25 

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Appendix  I.  Recruitment  Questionnaire  Responses 

Appendix  II.  Pre-Test  Questionnaire  Responses  ⚬  ⚬  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 26 


Appendix  III. Post-Test Questionnaire Responses  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬  26 


Appendix  IV.  Consent  Form  ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬  27 


Appendix  V.  Test  Moderator Script ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 29 


Appendix  VI. Task Evaluation ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ ⚬ 32 

 
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INTRODUCTION 
 
Pratt  Institute  is  a  higher  education  institution  located  in  New  York  City.  Founded  in  1887, 
Pratt  has  a  long  history  of  educating  undergraduate-  and  graduate-level  students  in  art, 
design,  architecture,  information,  and  liberal  arts  and  sciences.  Pratt  has  campuses  in 
Brooklyn  and  Manhattan,  as  well as one location outside of the city, in Utica, NY. According to 
its  website, Pratt Institute is “consistently ranked among the best in the country.” Pratt prides 
itself on its renowned faculty and its programs’ interdisciplinary, collaborative focus. 
 
With  a  student  population  of  roughly  5,000  people  split  between  three  campuses and over 50 
degrees  and  programs  within  its  6  schools,  Pratt’s  website  is  an important tool that connects 
students,  faculty,  and  other  members  of  the  Pratt  community  to  the  information  they  need. 
The  website  contains  valuable  resources  for  current  and  prospective  students,  alumni,  and 
faculty  and  staff.  This  includes  information  about  applications,  tuition  costs,  semester 
calendars,  the  locations  of  its  various  facilities,  news  about  Pratt,  and  events  put  on  by  the 
institute. 
 
This  report  presents  the  results  of  a  usability  test  conducted  on  the  Pratt  website  in  order  to 
determine  its  efficiency  in  getting  that  information  to  its  intended  audience.  A  total  of  four 
usability  experts  conducted  user  testing  with  eight  participants,  then  analyzed  the  data 
provided  by  those  participants  to  discover  four  main  conclusions  about  the usability and user 
experience of the site. 
 
Pratt’s  website  overall  is  strong,  and  users  were  pleased  with  the  “sleek  aesthetic”  and 
“illustrations  and  design.”  However,  the  researchers  also  found  that  users’  expectations  in 
using  the  website  did  not  always  hold  true.  Some  users  called  the  site  “confusing”  and 
“difficult,” while one said that the site “wouldn’t help me.” 
 
The  findings  and  recommendations  detailed  in  this  report  are  intended  to  improve  the  user 
experience  based  on  this  feedback,  hopefully  leading  to  a  more  intuitive  and  easy-to-use 
interface for Pratt’s target audience.   


METHODOLOGY 
 
User  testing  is  a  way  of  testing  the  usability  of  a  website  by  observing  specific  users  in  a 
controlled  environment,  with  users  performing  specific  tasks  selected  for  the  test  process 
(Barnum,  2011).  The  controlled  setting  is  most often a laboratory wherein the user completes 
testing  while  accompanied  by  a  moderator,  and  permits  the  moderator  (and  potential 
additional  observers)  to  watch  the  user’s  experience  and  behavior.  In  addition  to  the 
controlled  setting,  the  tasks  performed  by  the  user  are  controlled,  and  may  either  deal  with 
specific  areas  or functions of the website that the design team wants to test, or deal with a set 
of random tasks intended to discover how the user reacts to the website as a whole. 
 
User  testing  emphasizes  the  study  of  the  user’s  ability  to  complete  specific  tasks  within  a 
reasonable  timeframe,  as  well  as  user satisfaction and perceived performance (Usability.gov, 
2013).  This  process  typically  includes  an  audio  or  video  recording  of  the  user;  a  “think  out 
loud”  procedure,  which  provides  the  moderator  insight  into  the  user’s  thought  process  while 
working  on  the  task;  and  the  use  of  surveys  and  questionnaires  at  various  points  during  the 
user  test.  It  allows  testers  to  analyze  both  quantitative  and  qualitative  feedback  from  the 
users’ performance during testing. 
 
Setting Up the Test 
 
For  the  purpose  of  this  test,  the  research  team  coordinated  with  Pratt  Institute’s 
Communications  and  Marketing  department in order to discuss the goals for user testing. This 
study’s  focus  was  to understand usability issues faced by prospective and current students on 
the  Pratt  website.  The  primary  areas  of  interest  were  determined  to  be  the  Homepage, 
Admissions,  News,  and Events sections of the website; the design team was also interested in 
a comparison between the mobile and desktop websites. 
 
In  order  to  fulfill  the  goals  of  this  usability  test,  the  four  researchers  determined  that  user 
testing  would  be  conducted  with  a  total  of  eight  participants,  testing  their  performance  on 
both desktop and mobile interfaces with tasks geared towards various sections of the website. 
The  desktop  interface  used  for  testing  was  a  Mac  using  Google  Chrome  as  the  browser.  For 
the  mobile interface, users used their own smartphones and whatever browser they were most 
accustomed to using. Seven participants used an iPhone, while one used an Android. 
 
User Profiles and Recruitment 
 
The  research  team  decided  to  choose  one  group  of  users  that  would  be  able  to  test  parts  of 
the  website  geared  towards  both  prospective  and  current  students.  In  order  to  achieve  this, 
researchers  targeted  current  undergraduate  students  in  their  third  or  fourth  years  at  Pratt, 
who  were  interested  in  pursuing  or  were  sure  they  would  pursue  a  graduate  degree.  The 


researchers  recruited  students  with  the  help  of  an  email  sent  to  third-  and  fourth-year 
undergraduate  students,  sent  from  the  Office  of  Student  Affairs.  Those  respondents  were 
further  narrowed  down  using  a  screening  questionnaire  to  determine  whether  they  fit  in  the 
target  demographic  for  the  user  test.  (The  full  breakdown  of  screening  questionnaire 
responses can be found in Appendix I.) 
 
Ethical  considerations  taken  included  ensuring that the participants were over 18 years of age 
and  had  signed  a  participant  consent  form  that  informed  them  of  the  process,  risks,  and 
information obtained in the study. (The full consent form can be found in Appendix IV.) 
 
Participants in the user testing process were compensated with a $10 Amazon gift card. 
 
Information about the user test participants can be seen below (Figure 1). 
 

 
Figure 1: A closer look at the user test participants. 
 
User Testing Process 
 
User  testing  was  conducted  on  the  Pratt  Manhattan  campus  by  two  members  of the research 
team  at  a  time.  One  in  each  pair  acted  as  a  moderator,  while  the  other  functioned  as  a 
secondary  observer  and  note-taker.  (The  note-taking  method  and  results  can  be  found  in 
Appendix VI.) 
 
In  addition  to  the  use  of  written  notes  to  document  each  user’s  experience  with  the  Pratt 
website,  audio  and  video  recordings  were  also  taken  during the test. The tools used to record 
findings  included  the  screen  capture  program  Quicktime  player  (used  on  a  desktop  Mac 
interface)  and the IPEVO V4K Ultra High Definition USB Document Camera (used to record the 
mobile devices). The set-up for the tests is illustrated below (Figure 2). 


 
Figure 2: The IPEVO V4K Ultra High Definition USB Document Camera connected to the iMac 
interface, and was used to record users’ mobile devices for the second part of the test. Tape 
was used to indicate the general range in which users should hold their phones. 
 
Task List 
 
The  user  test  was  conducted  partially  on  a  desktop  interface,  and  partially  on  mobile. 
Participants  were  asked  to  complete  a  total  of  seven  tasks,  which  were  targeted  towards 
analyzing  how  users  typically  interact  with  various  sections  of  the  Pratt  website.  The  tasks 
were as follows: 
 
DESKTOP 
A. Homepage 
1. Find information about how to visit Pratt, and meet with a Pratt representative. 
2. Find out what graduate programs are available at Pratt. 
B. Admissions 
3. Find  the  application  deadline  for  the  Fall  2020  semester  for  a  graduate  program 
you might be interested in at Pratt. 
4. Find  an  estimate  for  the  tuition  and  other  costs  associated  with  a  graduate 
program you might be interested in at Pratt. 
 
   


MOBILE 
C. News 
5. Find any recent news items about Pratt’s national ranking. 
D. Events 
6. Find an event happening at Pratt on December 4th. 
7. Find an event that you might be interested in attending at Pratt. 
 
User Questionnaires 
 
In  addition to the screening questionnaire which helped the researchers select participants for 
testing, participants were asked questions both before and after the testing was conducted, in 
order  to  get  an  idea  of  their  overall  impressions of the website. These questions can be found 
below: 
 
Pre-Test Questionnaire 
 
1. What's your name? 
2. How old are you? 
3. What is your gender? 
4. What school do you belong to? 
5. What's your major or program? 
6. What are your initial thoughts about the Pratt website? 
7. How often do you use the Pratt website? 
 
Post-Test Questionnaire 
 
1. What moments in the test caused you the most difficulty or stress? 
2. On  a  scale  of  1  to  5,  how  complicated  did  you  find  the  interface  to  be?  (1  is  very 
simple, and 5 is very complicated.) 
 
Participants  were  also  asked  a  question  after  each task of the user test, in order to determine 
the user experience of completing those tasks individually. 
 
Post-Task Question 
 
1. How  easy  did  you  find  this  task,  on  a  scale  of  1  to  5?  (1  is  very  hard,  and  5  is  very 
easy.) 
 
A  breakdown  of  the  users’  feedback  on  each  task,  as  well  as  responses  to  the  pre-  and 
post-test questionnaires, can be found in Appendix II, III, and VI.   


FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS 
 
After  analyzing  the  user  testing  data,  the  researchers  have  found  that  Pratt’s  website  is 
overall  a  strong  and  usable  interface.  Many  of  the  participants  stated  that  they  thought  the 
website  was  “relatively  clean,”  “clear,”  and  “new.”  Some  participants  said  the  site  “catches 
my  eye”  and  “looks  proper.”  With  a  lot  of  important  information  for  current  and  prospective 
students,  alumni,  faculty,  and  staff,  the  website  is  a  valuable  tool  for  many  members  of  the 
Pratt community. 
 
However,  the  researchers  also  found  some  areas  where  the  website  could  be  improved, 
making  it  more  natural  for  people  to  use.  While  the  content  found  on  the  website  was greatly 
appreciated  by  the  user  test’s  participants,  many  found  it  difficult  to  navigate  to  find  the 
information  they  needed.  With  this  in  mind,  the  findings  and  recommendations  listed  below 
are  aimed  towards  making  the  website  simpler  and  more  intuitive  for  its  users.  This  report 
focuses on four main areas for improvement: the homepage, the admissions page, the content 
and layout of the website, and the responsiveness of the website for mobile use. 
 
These  areas  were  selected  because  the  researchers  concluded  that  they  would  have  the 
greatest  positive  impact  upon  users’  experiences  with  Pratt’s  website.  This  was  determined 
both  by  analyzing  the  user  test  results  and  by  looking  at  Pratt’s  website  analytics, illustrated 
below (Figure 3). 
 

 
Figure 3A: Google Analytics reveals that about two-thirds of users access the website on 
desktop, while one-third access it on mobile. 
(Source: Google Analytics, September - November 2019, N=818K sessions) 


 
Figure 3B: Google Analytics reveals that the most popular sections of the website are 
Academics and Admissions. 
(Source: Google Analytics, September - November 2019, N=818K sessions) 
 
Recommendation 1: Redesigning the homepage 
 
The  first  area  of  Pratt’s  website  that  the  researchers  targeted  is the homepage. Because this 
represents  most  users’  first  impression  of  the  site,  as  well  as  the  hub  for  finding  all  of  the 
available  information,  making  some  small  changes  to  improve  the  user  experience  here  can 
make a great difference in users’ experience and satisfaction with the website. 
 
The  current  layout  of  Pratt’s  homepage  features  a  large  banner  that  takes  up  the  majority  of 
the  screen  of  a  desktop  interface,  and  about  half  of  the  screen  on  a  mobile  interface.  This 
banner  has  several  news  items  related  to  Pratt,  which  are  accessed  by  clicking  the  arrows 
located  to  each  side  of  the  banner.  Above  this  banner  are  several  different  tabs  that  lead  to 
different  sections  of  the  website,  as  well  as  a  search  option  signified  by  a  magnifying  glass. 
Below the banner, there are sections for Pratt’s different schools, a list of events happening in 
the coming days, and a number of links listed at the bottom of the page. 
 
The current configuration of the homepage is illustrated below (Figure 4). 


 

 
Figure 4A: The top of Pratt’s homepage, showing large text on a large image, beneath 
navigation menu options. 

 
Figure 4B: Under the large image, tabs for each school can be found; however, this is usually 
not visible on most standard-sized screens until a user scrolls down. 

 
Figure 4C: The bottom of the homepage contains many links that, while useful, are often 
overlooked because they’re far away from the top of the page. 
 
Though  the  Pratt  website’s  homepage  was  described  as  “clean”  and  “sleek”  in  initial 
impressions,  the  research  team  discovered  that  several  users  had  difficulties  with  the  way 
information was laid out on this page. 
 

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Firstly,  only  one  out  of  the eight users who tested the interface made use of the arrow buttons 
on  the  banner.  While  there  is  plenty  of  information  in  that  area  of  the  website,  most  users 
skipped  over  it,  instead  scrolling  lower  on  the  page  to  find  the  information  they  were  looking 
for. This suggests that a large banner taking up most of the page may not be the most efficient 
way to display the multiple links and news items in the banner. 
 
Secondly,  the  listings  of  the  various  schools  below  the  banner  was  a  source  of  confusion  for 
many  users.  Because  the  information  contained  within  each  tab  is  not  standardized,  the 
participants  drew  many  different  conclusions  about  what  each  school  meant,  and  what 
programs  were  offered  by  each.  The  “Research  and  Centers”  tab  next  to  the  schools  also 
confused some users. One user said, “I struggled a lot” with this page structure. 
 
Finally,  the  “Pratt  Webspace”  links  present  at  the  bottom  of  the  homepage  were  mostly 
overlooked  or  ignored  by the user test participants. Since the participants are all current Pratt 
students,  many  of  their  most  relevant  pages,  such  as  the LMS or myPratt area of the site, are 
found  within  the  Pratt  Webspace  menu.  Yet  participants didn’t use those links, or that area of 
the website, to navigate to the information they wanted to find. 
 
In  order  to  address  these  concerns,  the  researchers  came  up  with  a  suggested  alternate 
design for the Pratt homepage, illustrated below (Figure 5). 
 

 
Figure 5A: A mockup based on Recommendation 1. The homepage has a smaller image, 
allowing more information to appear on the screen at once. 

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Figure 5B: A mockup based on Recommendation 1. Information about the schools can be 
found by clicking the tab. This information allows users to learn about each school without 
navigating away from the homepage. 
 
This  homepage  features  an  additional  navigation  bar  at  the  top  to  draw  attention  to  Pratt 
Webspace  links,  as  well  as  making  the  search  bar  more  prominent.  Instead of a large banner, 
this  page  has  a  picture  of  Pratt’s  campus,  which  one  user  said  they “would expect to see” on 
the  homepage.  Below  that  are  the  six  schools,  each  containing  a  short  description  of  the 
school  and  a  menu  for  the  programs  offered.  And  at  the  bottom  is  the  information  formerly 
found in the banner, which includes application deadlines as well as news items from the site. 
 
This  homepage  is  designed  to  draw  users’  attention  to  the most important information on the 
page:  namely,  the  Pratt  Webspace  links,  the  information  about  each  school  within  Pratt,  and 
the news items that are most likely to be relevant to what users are searching for on the site. 
 
Further  research  could  include  heat-maps  and  scroll-maps,  which  might  help  assess  how 
many  users  view  certain parts of the screen, and how many users are likely to scroll down past 
certain points on the screen, in order to refine these recommendations. 
 
Recommendation 2: Redesigning the admissions page 
 
The  second  area  of  note  on  the  Pratt  website  is  the  admissions  page,  where  potential 
members  of  the  Pratt  community  come  to  learn  about the application process and the ins and 

12 
outs  of  becoming  a  Pratt  student.  It’s  imperative  that  this  section  of  the  website  is  easy  to 
navigate, and that each facet of the process is discoverable. 
 

 
Figure 6: The second most popular search for “Pratt Institute” on Google is “tuition.” This 
shows how important it is to students that they be able to find admissions-related 
information. (Source: Google Search) 
 
One  common  frustration  expressed  by  the  users  was  that  clicking  on a label or contextual link 
(like  “cost  of  attendance”)  took  them  to  either  graduate  or  undergraduate  information,  with 
no  indication  whether  the  information  would  be  displayed separately or together. This caused 
the  users  to  revert  their  steps  when  they  realized  they  were  in  the  wrong  place,  under  the 
misconception that they had made a mistake. One such example is shown below (Figure 7).  
 

 
Figure 7: This “cost of attendance” link leads to the undergraduate cost of attendance page, 
even though the text says “graduate and undergraduate.” 
 

13 
Another  issue  was  the  inability  to  read  through  the  copy  on  the  admissions  pages, due to the 
amount  of  text  as  well  as  its  size.  One  user  stated  that  reading  this  information  felt  like 
“reading  an article,” and many people expressed the desire to use the browser’s Find function 
(cmd+F) to isolate the answers they were searching for. 
 
Finally,  the  task  with  the  lowest  performance  scores  was  to  find  the  cost  of  attendance  for  a 
graduate  program  at  Pratt.  These  scores  were  due  to  a  lack  of  division  between 
undergraduate  and  graduate  information,  as  well as the total costs being displayed as a list of 
expenses  on  one  page,  and  a  difficult-to-read  PDF  on  another. This issue is illustrated below 
(Figure 8). 
 
 
←  Figure  8A:  The  page  listing  graduate 
tuition  and  fees  is  broken  up  into  individual 
costs,  with  no  way  to  find  a  total  estimate  for 
the  total  cost  of  attendance based on program. 
This  led  to  some  test  participants  trying  to 
calculate  the  cost  themselves,  an  inconvenient 
process.  
 
 

 
→  Figure  8B:  This  PDF  is  another  way  to 
see  the  graduate  costs  of  attendance,  this 
time  broken  down  by  program.  However,  in 
addition  to  being  difficult  to  find,  this  PDF 
does  not  provide  an  easy  way  to  search 
through  each  program,  and  some  of  the  gray 
backgrounds  are  dark  enough  to  make  it 
difficult for some users to read the text. 
 

14 
These  issues  can  be  addressed  using  a  number  of  small,  relatively  easy  improvements.  First, 
the  research  team  recommends  a  complete  separation  between  graduate  and undergraduate 
admissions,  made  clear  from the beginning of the prospective student’s task flow. While there 
will  inevitably  be  some  overlap  of  information  between  the  two  educational  levels,  users  are 
typically  decided  on  what  level  of  study  they  want  to  pursue  before  they  come  to  the  Pratt 
website.  With  these  two  levels  uncoupled,  prospective  students  would  not  need  to  wonder  if 
they  are  getting  the  correct  information.  The  separation  does  not  need  to  occur  at  the 
information architecture level, but should be prominent in the user interface. 
 
Second,  the  researchers  recommend  a  more  image-forward  layout,  which  can  be  found  on 
some  other  pages  of  the  Pratt  website.  This  layout  includes six cards with photos that display 
the  most  helpful  and  important  links  without  requiring  the  user  to  read  too  much  text.  In  the 
same  vein,  links  for  total  cost  calculators  are  provided  so  that  users  do  not  have  to  rely  on 
their own calculations to know how much they would have to pay. 
 
These changes are illustrated below (Figure 9). 
 

 
Figure 9A: A mockup based on Recommendation 2. The image-forward, less text-heavy 
layout should lead to less user confusion while discovering admissions information. 

15 
 
Figure 9B: A mockup based on Recommendation 2. This page has an immediate separation 
between undergraduate and graduate admissions, hopefully leading to less user confusion. 

16 
Applying  these  design  principles  to  the  admissions  page  would  ideally  make  the  process  of 
applying to Pratt and joining the Pratt community seamless and engaging. 
 
Recommendation 3: Improving the layout and content 
 
In  addition  to  finding  specific  areas  of  the  website  that  may  be  improved,  the  research  team 
concluded  that  some  overall  changes  could  be  undertaken  on the website in order to enhance 
the  user  experience.  Several  of  the  test  participants  commented  on  aspects  of  the  site  that 
could  be  improved  on  every  page,  and  the  research  team  observed  other  behaviors  that 
should be addressed in future designs of the Pratt website. 
 
Firstly,  the researchers noticed that most participants did not click on the side navigation bars 
in  order  to  look  for  information.  While  the navigation headers generally make sense and could 
be  a  helpful  tool  for  users  in  finding  what  they’re  looking  for,  most  users  scrolled  down  in 
order  to  access  the  page’s  main  text.  Because  the side menu does not follow the user as they 
scroll  through  the  page,  many  users  didn’t even try to find it. This often led to frustration: one 
user  said,  “All  of  the  words  distracted  me,”  while  another  commented,  “I’m  not  sure  how  to 
find” what they were looking for. 
 
The  text  itself  was  also  a  point  of  confusion  for  some  users:  in  addition  to  some  information 
being  worded  in  a  misleading  way,  the  amount  of  text  present  on  a  page  was  thought  to  be 
“intimidating”  and  “quite  small  and  hidden.”  Because  the  participants  were  trying to look for 
specific  information—as  is  typical  for  someone  navigating  a  school’s  website—the  large 
amounts of text were off-putting. 
 
The current layout of one page from Pratt’s website is illustrated below (Figure 10). 
 
 
← Figure 10A: The current side navigation bar is 
off  to  the  side  of  the  page,  and  doesn’t  hold  the 
user’s  attention.  This  is  partially because the user 
has  to  scroll  down  past  it  in  order  to  get  to  the 
page’s text. 

17 
 
Figure 10B: The dense text on this and many pages of the Pratt website led users to be 
confused and intimidated on their search for information. 
 
In order to remedy these concerns, the research team came up with a few ideas on how Pratt’s 
website  might  consider  laying  out  its  information.  Firstly,  the  side  navigation menu should be 
highlighted  in  a  brighter  color,  in  order  to  draw  the  user’s  attention.  In  addition,  it  should  be 
able  to  follow  the  user  up  or  down  a  page,  so  that  they  have  access  to  menu  options  without 
needing to scroll to the top (which some users described as “annoying”). 
 
Secondly,  the  text  should  be  streamlined  and  cut  down  in  order  not  to  intimidate  users  who 
want  to  learn  about  Pratt.  Some  of  this  text is important and can’t be cut down; but it can still 
be  made  less  dense  and  confusing  by  using  varying  sizes  and  colors  of  text,  as  well  as  using 
graphics  or  images to break up large blocks of text. Pictures can help users understand what a 
certain  section  of  a  website  is  about,  as  well  as  enticing  users  to  click  on  links  to  learn  more 
about  what  they’re  seeing.  This  can  especially  help  users  learn  more  about  news  stories  and 
events, which the test participants were less likely to be drawn to with only text. 
 
These recommended changes are illustrated below (Figure 11). 

18 
 
Figure 11: A new page layout features a brightly-colored navigation menu, as well as bold, 
large headers to break up long paragraphs of text. 
 
Recommendation 4: Improving responsiveness for mobile users 
 
On  the  whole,  Pratt’s  mobile  website  is  well-organized  and  “very  similar”  to  the  desktop 
version,  allowing  users  to  easily  access  information  from  whichever  device  they’re  using. 
However,  the  research  team  observed  that  participants  generally  seemed  less  confident  and 
more  confused  while  using  Pratt’s  mobile  interface.  In  order  to  alleviate  this  confusion,  it 
would  be  beneficial  for  the  Pratt  website  to  improve  its  mobile  responsiveness,  making  the 
mobile web experience a more intuitive and comprehensible one. 
 
Users were quick to point out that many of the page titles on mobile were so large they took up 
multiple  lines,  often  the  entire  length  of  the  screen.  “That  type  is  extremely  large,”  said  one 
participant.  In  addition,  on  certain  pages  of the mobile website, there are floating arrows that 
appear  seemingly  at  random  on  the  page,  at  times  blocking  important  text  or  clickable  links. 
One participant observed, “There’s these flippers here, got to be careful not to press them.” 
 
In  addition,  the  calendar  view  of  the  Events  section  is  located  very  far  down  the  page,  which 
meant  most  users  didn’t  discover  it.  Furthermore,  the  calendar  was  poorly  displayed  on 
mobile,  showing  each  day  of  the  week  in  a  list  before  getting  to  the  numbered  days  of  the 
month. This confused users even further if they did manage to find the calendar. 
 
Another  important  discovery  was  users’  tendency to scroll to the bottom of the page in search 
of  menus  or  other  information.  While  there  is  a  “hamburger”-style  menu  at  the  top  of  the 
page,  denoted  by  three  horizontal  lines,  users  either  didn’t  notice it at first or thought of it as 

19 
a  last  resort  when  it  came  to  browsing  on  mobile.  This  is  concerning  especially  because  the 
search button is also nested within the hamburger menu—meaning that if users don’t look into 
the menu, they will not find the option to search the website. 
 
These features are shown below (Figure 12). 
 
 
←  Figure  12A:  The  large  title  text  was off-putting 
to  some  users,  and  in  some  cases  the  title  took  up 
the  entire  length  of  the  screen,  preventing  them 
from seeing other information until they scrolled. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
→  Figure  12B:  On  some  pages,  these 
floating  arrow  symbols  appeared  seemingly 
at  random,  obscuring  text  and  preventing 
links from being clicked on. 
 
 
 

20 
 
 
 
←  Figure  12C:  The  calendar  view  on  a 
mobile  interface  is  illogical  and  led  to  a  lot  of 
confusion among users. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In  order  to  address  these  issues,  the research 
team  came  up  with  an  alternate design for the 
mobile  web  experience.  Title  fonts  should  be 
smaller  and  not  take  up  the  entire  page,  and 
the floating arrows should be removed, though 
this  arrow  placement  was  likely  unintentional 
and should be fixed regardless. 
 
The  calendar  should be displayed according to 
convention:  a  grid  with  seven  columns  and 
each  day  given  a  square.  This  is  more 
consistent  with  what  users  would  be  used  to 
seeing  elsewhere  on the web, both on desktop 
and  on  mobile.  Moving  it  further  up  the  page 
would  also  allow  users  to  discover  it  more 
easily,  making  it  simpler  to  find  events  for  a 
particular  day  instead  of  pressing  multiple 
buttons to get there. 
 
The  alternate  design  also  recommends  highlighting  the  hamburger  menu  at  the  top  of  the 
page,  and  separating  the  search  feature  to  a  different  button.  Accenting  these  with  a  bright 
color  is  expected  to  attract  users’  eyes  more  readily  to  the  top  of  the  page,  allowing  them  to 
explore  the  menu  and  search  options  as  they  look  for  information  they  need  on  Pratt’s 
website. 
 
These changes are illustrated below (Figure 13). 

21 
 
 
 
 
←  Figure  13A:  A  mockup  based  on 
Recommendation  3.  This  calendar  is  consistent  with 
most users’ expectations, leading to less confusion. 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
→  Figure  13B:  A  mockup  based  on 
Recommendation  3. The hamburger menu and search 
button  are  highlighted  in  this  version  of  the  website, 
making it easier for users to discover these functions.   

22 
CONCLUSION 
 
The  Pratt  website  has  proven  to  be  a  useful  tool  for  many  current  and  prospective  students, 
giving  them  insight  about  admissions,  current  events,  and  news.  The  website  is  highly 
regarded  as  clean,  generally  easy  to  navigate,  and  aesthetically  pleasing.  However,  this 
study’s  research  team  identified  a  number  of  pain  points  in  the  usage  of the site. Addressing 
these  points  and  following  the  recommendations  laid  out  in  this  report  could  make  the  user 
experience  more  natural  and  intuitive,  thereby  increasing  engagement  and  decreasing  time 
and frustration while using the Pratt website.  
 
Streamlining  the  homepage  and  the  myPratt  login can expedite the navigation process for the 
whole  site.  In  separating  graduate  and  undergraduate  admissions  information,  confusion can 
be  mitigated  for  prospective  students.  Opting  for  less  text  and  more  images,  as  well  as 
highlighting  the  navigation  bar  can  ensure  more  efficiency.  Finally,  improving  the 
responsiveness  of  the  mobile  site  will  secure  a  better  on-the-go  experience  for  current 
students.  
 
Pratt  has  so  much  to  offer  the  artistic  and academic communities, particularly the community 
of  its  own  students,  prospective  students,  faculty,  staff,  alumni,  and  more.  The  suggestions 
outlined  in  this  report  are  intended  to  allow  Pratt.edu  to  reflect  the  talent,  hard  work,  and 
expertise that is found at Pratt Institute.   

23 
REFERENCES 
 
Barnum,  C.  M.  (2011).  Usability  testing  essentials:  ready,  set  ...  test!  Burlington,  MA, 
Amsterdam: MK, Morgan Kaufmann. 
 
Pratt Institute. Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://pratt.edu. 
 
Pratt  Institute  —  main.  Data  USA,  Retrieved  November  28,  2019,  from  https://datausa.io/ 
profile/university/pratt-institute-main. 
 
Usability  Testing.  Retrieved  November  28,  2019,  from  https://www.usability.gov/how-to- 
and-tools/methods/usability-testing.html.   

24 
APPENDIX 
 
Appendix I. Recruitment Questionnaire Responses 
 

 
 
These  responses  are  reflective  of  all  students  who  completed  the  recruitment  questionnaire, 
not just the ones who eventually became participants in the user testing. 
 
 
 
 
   

25 
Appendix II. Pre-Test Questionnaire Responses 
 

 
 
Appendix III. Post-Test Questionnaire Responses 
 

   

26 
Appendix IV. Consent Form 
 

27 
 

28 
Appendix V. Test Moderator Script 
 
Introduction and Confirmation of Consent 
 
Hello, my name is [moderator name] and this is [second moderator name]. Thank you for 
agreeing to take part in our user test. Your feedback from this test will help us to evaluate the 
usability of the Pratt Institute website, pratt.edu. 
 
During this test, we will be reading from a script in order to ensure that all of our participants 
have the same information and experience.  
 
This is a consent form to inform you of what your test today will entail, and your rights as a 
study participant. [give them consent form, allow them to read and sign] 
 
Do you have any questions for us at this point, about the consent form or the test? 
[if so, answer questions] 
 
You can keep the first page of this form, so that if you have any questions after you leave here, 
you can contact us with the information listed there. [collect second page] 
 
We are here to get an idea of your thoughts and experiences with using Pratt’s website. This 
user test will involve audio and video recordings of your time navigating the site. We will also 
ask you to answer some questions, either verbally or written down, at various points. After 
your testing session is complete, we will review your answers, audio, and video in order to 
assess the Pratt website’s usability. 
 
This test is expected to take about 30 to 45 minutes. We will ask you to: 
● Answer some questions before the test. 
● Complete some tasks on the desktop interface we’ve set up here. 
● Complete some tasks on your mobile device. 
● And finally, answer some questions after the test. 
 
While you’re completing the tasks, we encourage you to “think out loud.” That means voicing 
your impressions of the website, why you are taking an action like scrolling or clicking on 
something, and any questions or confusions you have with the website. That will allow us to 
get a better idea of how you’re using the website. 
 
It’s important to remember that this user test is not a test of your abilities; we are using your 
experience in order to test the success and efficiency of the website. There is no penalty for 
making a mistake or failing to complete a task. None of the research team was involved in 
designing the Pratt website, so we won’t be offended or take it personally if you have negative 
things to say. All we would like from you is to be honest about what you’re thinking and doing 
during the test, and tell us as much as possible about your experience. 
 
At this time, do you have any questions to ask us? [if so, answer questions] 

29 
 
Pre-Test Questionnaire 
 
First, please fill out this form for us. This will help us get some basic information about you and 
your current experience with Pratt’s website. Once you’re done, just hit “Next” and leave the 
tab open. [allow them to fill out the pre-test questionnaire on desktop and then proceed] 
 
Tasks 
 
Now we’re going to move on to the tasks. This is where we’ll start recording your audio and 
video. Again, when you’re going through these tasks, please try your best to “think out loud” 
and state your thoughts and opinions about the website, so that we can use them in our 
evaluation of the site. [start recording with Quicktime, go to pratt.edu on desktop] 
 
First, take a moment to look at this website. Don’t click on anything, but feel free to scroll 
around. What is your first impression of this site? [allow them to answer] 
 
Task 1 
The first task is to find information about how to visit Pratt, and meet with a Pratt 
representative. You can begin whenever you’re ready. [allow them to complete the task] 
 
How easy did you find this task, on a scale of 1 to 5? 1 is very hard, and 5 is very easy. 
[allow them to answer, return to homepage] 
 
Task 2 
The second task is to find out what graduate programs are available at Pratt. You can begin 
whenever you’re ready. [allow them to complete the task] 
 
How easy did you find this task, on a scale of 1 to 5? 1 is very hard, and 5 is very easy. 
[allow them to answer, switch to admissions tab] 
 
Task 3 
The next task is to find the application deadline for the Fall 2020 semester, for a graduate 
program you might be interested in at Pratt. [repeat if necessary. allow them to complete the 
task, prompting them to speak out loud if necessary] 
 
How easy did you find this task, on a scale of 1 to 5? 1 is very hard, and 5 is very easy. 
[allow them to answer, return to admissions tab] 
 
Task 4 
The next task is to find an estimate for the tuition and other costs associated with a graduate 
program you might be interested in at Pratt. [repeat if necessary. Allow them to complete the 
task, prompting them to speak out loud if necessary] 
 
How easy did you find this task, on a scale of 1 to 5? 1 is very hard, and 5 is very easy. 
[allow them to answer, end Quicktime recording] 

30 
 
 
Task 5 
For the rest of these tasks, we’d like you to use your smartphone to access the Pratt website. 
For this part, we’re going to be recording your audio, as well as the image of your screen, 
using this recording device. 
[set the user up to record mobile and start a new Quicktime recording] 
 
Now, on your phone, navigate to the Pratt website. From here, your task is to find any recent 
news items about Pratt’s national ranking. You can begin whenever you’re ready. 
[allow them to complete the task] 
 
How easy did you find this task, on a scale of 1 to 5? 1 is very hard, and 5 is very easy. 
[allow them to answer] 
 
Task 6 
Your next task is to find an event happening at Pratt on December 4th. You can begin 
whenever you’re ready. [allow them to complete the task] 
 
How easy did you find this task, on a scale of 1 to 5? 1 is very hard, and 5 is very easy. 
[allow them to answer] 
 
Task 7 
Now, for your last task, please find an event that you might be interested in attending at Pratt. 
You can begin whenever you’re ready. [allow them to complete the task] 
 
How easy did you find this task, on a scale of 1 to 5? 1 is very hard, and 5 is very easy. 
[allow them to answer, end recording] 
 
Post-Test Questionnaire 
 
Thank you so much for completing those tasks. Now that we’ve finished, we’d like you to fill 
out this form about your overall experience with the test today.  
[allow them to fill out and submit the post-test questionnaire] 
 
Debrief 
 
Thank you for participating in our user test. We really appreciate your time, and your feedback 
will be very valuable for our project going forward. As a reminder, all the information you 
shared with us today will remain anonymous and nobody besides our research team will see it. 
 
Do you have any last questions for us before you go? [if so, answer questions] 
 
Now, please fill out this form in order to receive your $10 Amazon gift card. Once you fill it out, 
you can expect to receive that compensation within about a week. 
[allow them to fill out and submit the Amazon gift card form]   

31 
Appendix VI. Task Evaluation 
 
While  observing  the  participants  during  user  testing,  one  person from the research team took 
notes  on  how  well  each  user  completed  each  task.  Each  one was given a score corresponding 
to their success. 
 
0 = Did not complete the task 
1 = Completed the task with difficulty or help 
2 = Completed the task easily 
 
Participant #  Task 1  Task 2  Task 3  Task 4  Task 5  Task 6  Task 7 

1  1  2  2  1  2  2  2 

2  2  1  2  0  2  2  2 

3  2  1  2  1  1  2  1 

4  2  2  2  1  1  2  2 

5  2  2  2  2  2  2  2 

6  1  2  2  1  2  2  2 

7  0  2  2  2  2  2  2 

8  2  2  2  2  2  2  2 

Task Total  12  14  16  10  14  16  15 

Task Average  1.5  1.75  2  1.25  1.75  2  1.875 


 
While  most  of the tasks were completed by users, two tasks had particularly low ratings: Tasks 
1  and  4. These success ratings allowed researchers to focus on the most pressing issues when 
compiling this report and making recommendations for the website. 

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