Usability Case Study: National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)


The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is a membership-based organization representing 1,400 independent schools and associations across the United States.  Its website is a key means of communication and access for its members, so having a website that is easy to use is critical.


NAIS members weren’t able to find what they needed on the site.  As a result, phone calls to customer support had increased.


NAIS engaged U.S.-based technology customer service company, TerpSys, to help resolve the issues with the website.

There was a perception that certain tasks were completely unworkable on the current NAIS site, but there were no statistics to support this.

TerpSys had already created wireframe prototypes based on a content re-structuring and Information Taxonomy project for NAIS to enable easy and accurate information access.  However, before moving into costly website design and implementation, it needed to evaluate whether the new framework would sufficiently meet NAIS’ member needs.

NAIS Cast Study Prototype

NAIS prototype wireframe set up as a Loop11 project to test its usability against the existing NAIS website.


TerpSys used Loop11 to generate hard data on usability that would form the basis of its site recommendations for the NAIS.

Loop11 was used to systematically test usability performance and collect data comparing the existing website with the wireframe prototypes of the newly designed Information Architecture.  Loop11 enabled Terpsys to:

a)     Establish a usability baseline.

b)     Test a wireframe prototype of the new website.

c)      Test a redacted version of the current live site.

d)     Test both the wireframe prototype and the live site to compare “apples with apples”.

e)     Evaluate the data.


The NAIS membership department generated a list of existing members, spread across their identified audience categories, who were willing to participate.  Each participant was sent links to both projects.

90 NAIS members participated in the online testing, providing fast and instant statistics through Loop11’s ability to record if project tasks were completed successfully and the amount of time each task took.


1. Two separate projects were set up in Loop11 – one each for the prototype wireframes and the existing website.  Each project featured 33 identical tasks and questions.

2. Key participant questions relating to the customer support feedback were identified, including:

– How would find information about NAIS membership?

– How would you find a job at an independent school?

3. Additional questions were asked to gauge the usability and website effectiveness including:

– How often do you visit the website?

– (After each task) How easy or difficult was it to find this information?

Once the tests were launched, Loop11 enabled TerpSys to track the task completion rates and observe the navigation path of participants. TerpSys was also able to instantly access the feedback provided by participants.


1. Participant Task:  “How would you find information about NAIS membership?”

Prototype wireframe: 85% task completion rate
Live website: 81% task completion rate

Analysis:  Loop11 recorded an almost identical completion rate between sites, providing evidence that the task is being completed satisfactorily.

2. Participant Task:  “Where can you find information on serving students with learning differences?”

Prototype wireframe: 65% task completion rate
Live website: 14% task completion rate

Analysis:  In this case, Loop11 recorded the wireframes had a substantially higher task completion rate than the live website. Analysis also revealed (in blue) that there were fairly high task abandon rates on both designs, suggesting that the task wasn’t straightforward to complete in either design.  As a result of this analysis, TerpSys was able to make recommendations for changes required.


Using the statistical data Loop11 generated based on the usability test, TerpSys was able to identify the direct leverage points on the website which would yield the most results.  They were able to make confident, data-based recommendations to NAIS on where to focus their website development efforts to yield the most usable website possible for its members.


NAIS is one of many Loop11 success stories.  Loop11 can generate quantifiable results on your site without the cost and expense of lab-based testing sessions.  Get started now – your first project is free.

Loop11 – Now with Accessibility Testing

Disability symbols

Could your business be missing out on an estimated $1 trillion market?

$1 trillion – $200 billion alone in discretionary spending – that’s what Fortune Magazine estimates the community of disabled people represent, 55 million people in the U.S. and approximately 1 billion people worldwide.  It is the largest minority group.

Many of these people use the web differently from the average user.  Many use assistive technologies to navigate the web, and in order for a site to be accessible it must include the features these technologies rely on.

Could your website’s design be inadvertently excluding people with disabilities?

A quick test of your site’s level of accessibility
Here are three basic things to check in the next week to gauge how accessible your site is (and reminders to help you actually do it – just click the Remind Me button and sign in to set up an automatic reminder to get this done):

1. Make sure all images on your site have alt-text tags.

People using screen readers don’t see images, so make sure the the alt-text of each image is descriptive – particularly if the image itself contains text.

2. Make sure that each field on every forms on your site is properly labelled.

Without labels, forms will not be viewable on screen readers.

3. Make sure your site can be navigated using only a keyboard.

Not everyone uses a touchpad or mouse, so make sure there aren’t any features on your site which require them.

Accessibility testing with Loop11

The three checks above are a good place to start but really, there’s so much more to test to ensure your site is truly accessible.  Each type of disability has its own technology access needs, and each assistive technology has its own requirements and limitations.

Through our partnership with Knowbility – a non-profit organization focused on increasing technology accessibility to the disabled community – Loop11 now offers an easy and affordable way to do comprehensive accessibility testing.

AccessWorks, an extensive database of web-users with disabilities created and managed by Knowbility, reflects a spectrum of visual impairments, hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, and motor impairments. Loop11 customers can now tap into the AccessWorks database for all accessibility testing needs, saving time that would otherwise be spent on recruiting participants for face-to-face testing.

Testing for accessibility issues with Loop11 is simple. When a customer chooses to conduct accessibility testing, they will be prompted to select criteria from a custom panel. Knowbility then pulls participants from AccessWorks to form a group that fits these requirements. Through an email sent by Knowbility, these new participants will have instant access to a tailor-made web-based accessibility evaluation. Next, as participants begin test-taking, Loop11 customers can take advantage of quantitative feedback and real-time monitoring by checking out results instantly.

Case Study

For a recent project, Knowbility crafted an extensive accessibility test using Loop11 and recruiting from the AccessWorks database. The recruited participants reflected two forms of visual impairment (low vision and legal blindness), a cognitive disability (traumatic brain injury) and motor disability (amputee).

They explored a university’s website through 19 tasks. Some used assistive technologies like screen readers, screen magnifiers, and adaptive technology for motor impairments.

The test unearthed a few barriers for mobility-impaired and visually-impaired users.

Results showed that the site could benefit from various improvements – some small, some great. The three main accessibility problems were encountered with keyboard use and screen readers.

Firstly, dropdown menus were inaccessible via keyboard use, which many visually and motor impaired participants use to navigate. Next, a problem with keyboard focus was discovered. Some interactive elements correctly lit up; others did not.

Also a lack of headings made for tedious, time-consuming navigation for those with screen readers. Instead of being able to skip through various sections of content, participants had no choice but to listen to entire pages of content in order to find what they needed.

Web accessibility: Worth looking into

The number of people living with disabilities is only going to grow.  How accessible is your site to this market?  Test and find out.

For more info on web accessibility, watch our recent webinar on accessibility and usability testing with our CEO Toby Biddle and Knowbility Executive Director Sharron Rush:

Come say hi at the UX Australia conference next week

UX Australia

Hi folks!

Coming to UX Australia 2012, in Brisbane next week?  We’ll be there!

UX Australia is Australia’s premier user design conference, which we’re proud to co-sponsor.

It’s a 4-day user experience design conference, with inspiring and practical presentations, covering a range of topics about how to design great experiences for people.  (It’s not too late to sign-up.)

Do come by our exhibition booth to say hi… and while you’re there, enter our raffle to win an iPad!

Toby Biddle and the Loop11 team

LeanUX Denver + extra discount for Loop11 customers

LeanUx Denver, coming up Sept 19-21 in Colorado, is a 3-day event focusing on Lean UX Methodologies, Data-Driven UX, and the tools that can help you achieve a quantifiably better user experience.

We’re delighted that we can offer Loop11 customers a 20% discount on registrationon top of the special Early Bird registration price that runs out on July 31st.  (You’ll save over $100, not bad!).  To get the discount just use the code  “Loop11Discount” when booking your ticket.

There’s a fantastic line-up of speakers – leaders in the field of User Experience and Measurement, including those leading the Lean UX field such as:

  • Jeff Gothelf, one of the leading voices on the topic of Agile UX and Lean UX
  • Gerry McGovern, widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks
  • Hendrik Kleinsmiede, VP of Global Design at PayPal
  • Bill Albert, Director of the Design and Usability Center at Bentley University

There will also be workshops covering areas from the basics of LeanUx to Multivariate Testing.

You’ll get comprehensive insight on Lean UX, including how to implement a Lean UX program, which software to use, how to recruit users, what metrics to use and how to interpret the data.

It all takes place Sept 19-21, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.

This will be an action-packed, value-laden event.  Denver is beautiful.  Come join us.

Book your ticket using the discount code “Loop11Discount” and get your 20% off.  Register before July 31st and you’ll get both the special Early Bird price and the 20% discount for Loop11 customers.


Affordances can point your users in the right direction

My mother-in-law, visiting us for a few weeks, almost burned down the house the other day.

It’s not what it sounds like – she’s very nice and we get along great.  The problem is our  stove.  Its sleek, minimalistic design makes it too easy to turn on the wrong burner without realizing it.  In other words, it lacks effective affordances.

“Affordance” is an industrial design term for a visual clue about how something works.  The purpose of an affordance is to convey to the user exactly what they need to know in order to use the product correctly.

Affordances are embedded into so many everyday products that we hardly notice them.

Airplane seatbelt

Affordances can be used to make websites more usable too.  Let’s take a look at some examples of three common forms of affordances: color, words, and arrows.

1. Color

The shower dial in the image above uses the universal colors for cold and hot – blue and red – to indicate which direction the dial should be turned for cold and hot water.

In a different way, the website of Ritual Roasters uses the contrast of the bright red to highlight the Shop link and direct the user where to go.

2. Arrows

Arrows are even more explicit.  They basically say, “Follow me here”.  The arrow on directs your eyes to exactly where she wants you to go: her newsletter sign-up.

3. Words

Have you noticed that every airplane belt buckle is etched with the word “Lift” on one side?  We all know how to open a buckle (I think), but I suppose in the case of a plane emergency every second you don’t spend fumbling counts.

The website of the social media tool Wildfire uses a word affordance too – but with a twist.  It has a cool six-pointed shape, each point of which is clickable.  Notice the “Hover” label with the arrow pointing towards it?

Here’s what’s interesting: the “Hover” affordance is temporary.  It’s displayed only when the page is first loaded, and after a few seconds it disappears.  You’re given just enough time to grasp how the six-pointed thingy works before the training wheels come off and you’re left simply with their cool design.

4. Combination uses all three forms of affordances.  There’s an arrow, labelled “Looking for my blog?”, pointing towards the blog link, and the “Free Download button” is unmissable in bright yellow:

Has usability testing shown that your users are taking too long to find an important feature on your site?  Consider adding a more explicit affordance to point them in the right direction.

Our Webinar with Balsamiq: The Power of Running Usability Tests on Wireframes

Last week we hosted a joint webinar, Wireframing + Usability Testing = A Headstart on Development, with our friends at Balsamiq, CEO Peldi Guilizzoni and Head of User Experience Mike Angeles.  Balsamiq is a rapid wireframing software provider with more than 80,000 customers.

Watch the recording of the 30 minute webinar, as we talk about the benefits of wireframing and usability testing and demo how they can be used to reduce development time and cost:



Heat maps are here!

We’re thrilled to announce another new feature for Loop11 – Heat maps.

The heat map reports provide you with a user-friendly graphical representation of where your participants click on your website.  The report will let you see task by task everywhere your visitors click anywhere on the page, whether it’s links, images, text or dead space.

The benefits of using heat maps are numerous. The data gathered can offer proof as to where visitors do and do not click, provide useful information when designing and redesigning landing pages, help determine optimal advertisement placement, minimize shopping cart abandonment, maximize conversions of online forms and predict how visitors will use your site in the future.

Loop11 heatmap

The heat map reports can be located through your Clickstream Analysis by clicking any of the links circled below.

Accessing heat maps through clickstream analysis

Oh…and one other important thing…we have been collecting heat map data since April 1 (no joke!). So anyone who launched a project from April 1 onwards will have heat map data in their account.

Happy heat mapping!

Wireframing + Usability Testing = A Headstart in Development

Wireframe + fresh eyes = cost reduction

I don’t need to tell you how important wireframing is for rapidly developing a great site.  It’s become standard practice because it enables teams to visualize and validate their concept before diving into development.

The renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site”.  Which option do you think is easier on timelines, budget, and momentum?

Wireframing saves time and money, period.

Wireframe example

Wireframes are essentially blueprints for a site. They can be created quickly and require no coding.

But… there’s something even more effective than creating wireframes.  It’s creating wireframes and then running usability tests on the wireframes to get solid feedback from “new eyes”.

We talked recently about why usability testing is so important.  It enables you to get inside your users’ heads so you can make a site that they find easy to use and want to stick around on.

The beauty of running usability tests on wireframes is, you get all of that valuable feedback before you spend a minute or a penny on development.  Your usability testers can interact with your wireframes as if they were a fully developed site.  You can then integrate the insight you get from the usability tests into your designs before you start coding.

Usability testing will save you time and money. Who wants to find out, after they spent resources on development, that the design is intuitive to the designers but not to the users?

So, don’t stop at wireframing.  To get a huge headstart on development, take the next step and run a usability test on your wireframes. Go ahead and create your first test now – it’s both easy and free.

Want to learn more about how to get the most out of your wireframe and usability testing efforts? Join us for a free webinar on Thursday, July 12 with three user experience veterans: Loop11 CEO Toby Biddle, Balsamiq CEO Peldi Guilizzoni, and Balsamiq Head of User Experience Mike Angeles.  UPDATE: You can find a recording of the webinar here.

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