Institute for Genomic Biology Website Usability Study

 The Institute for Genomic Biology is an interdisciplinary institute at the University of Illinois. It exists to bring researchers from different areas of campus together to collaborate on the study of genomics. My coworker and I wanted to take a look at our website and see how well it was serving our users. We knew that there were two main types of users for the site - internal and external. That is, people who work at the IGB and use the site for work, and people who don’t and want to learn more about the IGB’s mission. To help us understand their needs, we first scheduled user interviews.

Screenshot of the IGB homepage before usability tests.

Screenshot of the IGB homepage before usability tests.


User Interviews

User interviews were scheduled with a cross section of people that worked at the IGB to begin with. We scheduled interviews with office managers, professors, academic professionals, and graduate students. Our goal was to find out what stakeholders thought the main purpose of the site was for both external and internal users as well as any pain points in the existing site, so we could successfully write tasks for user tests. Care was taken to write open ended questions so that users could give us unbiased feedback. Below is the script used for the interviews.


Hi my name is ________________.  Thanks so much for being willing to talk to us today, this is just an exploratory interview, we are interested in getting to know you and about your work at the IGB. There are no wrong answers here. (Maybe more things here about why we are talking to people) We are meeting with users to improve the IGB website to improve the user experience.

  1. Please tell me about yourself and your relationship to IGB.

    • If they are student ask — major, year, school?

    • If they are employee ask — what type of employment, and for how long?

  2. Describe your typical day at [IGB]?

  3. Are people ever confused about what the IGB is? ( this could be friends and family, potential collaborators, or larger granting bodies)

  4. When you tell people about the IGB how do you explain to them what it is?

  5. What do you think the IGB needs to do a better job of explaining to the public/ science community/ etc. about its mission or its current work.

  6. Tell me about the first thing you notice on the IGB homepage.

  7. Tell me about a time you couldn’t find something on the IGB site.  What were you looking for? What did you do?

  8. What device do you typically view the site on?

  9. What is a list of the four most common things you need to find on the IGB site on a regular basis?

  10. Can you remember the last time you used the IGB’s website? What were you trying to do? Why? Could you accomplish that task?  Was it difficult or easy?

  11. What do you see as the primary function of the site?

  12. Do you have any experiences using websites that are similar to the IGB?  How is that site similar/different?

  13. What information do you expect to be able to find on the site?  

  14. Is there anything on the site that is missing or hard to find?

  15. What haven’t we asked you today that you think would be valuable for us to know?