Class: Needs and Usability Evaluation   Date: Jan - Apr 2016    Category: UX Research & Project Management


Visual Compass is a web design and development agency based in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is aiming to expand their customer base into the Detroit and Ann Arbor Area.
They specialize in building custom websites and apps, creating promotional media, and digital marketing for smaller organizations, both for-profit and non-profit.


We used a variety of methods, including User Interviews, Comparative Analysis, Personas & Scenarios, Surveys, Heuristic Evaluations, and Usability Tests, to identify user needs, usability issues and areas for improvement for the website.

User interviews

We started out by interviewing 5 of Visual Compass’ clients. We needed to understand how they work and what they need from a web design agency.

4 of our interview participants worked in the nonprofit or education sector, and 2 were in the service industry.


We developed three user personas to reflect the different needs, concerns and backgrounds of the people we spoke to. 

Comparative Analysis

Then, we conducted a comparative analysis of other design and marketing agencies. We looked at websites from 5 competing agencies to identify VC’s strengths and opportunities for improvement.


After finishing our comparative analysis and personas, we wanted to see if the findings from the interviews applied to a larger population. We created a survey to understand the attitudes, motivations, and goals of business owners regarding web development. We analyzed responses from 29 middle-and-small-sized business owners.

Heuristic Evaluation

To pinpoint major usability problems, our team performed a heuristic evaluation of VC’s website. Based on the feedback from our interviews and surveys, we identified key tasks and sections of the website to focus on. Then we used Jakob Nielsen’s 10 usability heuristics to help us analyze the sections. 

Usability Testing

Now, it was time to observe user behaviors in order to understand how people actually interact with the website. To prepare for our usability tests, we identified five core tasks for first-time users who are looking to acquire VC’s services. We found six participants, four of whom owned a small business and two of whom have needed to build and host a website for their business. The tasks we chose focused on 3 areas: Pricing, Testimonials and Portfolio. 

Finding 1: When looking at the Portfolio page, users could not determine what Visual Compass had done for their previous clients.

Finding 2: We found that people were more likely to visit Our Services before Our Pricing to learn about VC’s pricing information.

Finding 3: To meet users’ expectations, VC should express the price in the form of dollars rather than hours.

Finding 4: The names of VC’s navigation links all seemed to blur with one another. Phrases like ‘Our Process’, ‘Our Work’, and ‘Our Services’ seemed to overlap in meaning, creating confusion for users on where to go.

Finding 5: We found that people had a difficult time gleaning information from the compass graphic. They found it to be visually intriguing but not very usable.

Recommendation 1: 

To address this problem, VC can add more information about their past projects in the form of images and descriptions. We also recommend that VC place their testimonials higher on their homepage or under Our Work to make them easier to find.

Recommendation 2: 

We recommend that VC add a link to their pricing info on their Services page.

Recommendation 3: 

To meet users’ expectations, VC should express the price in the form of dollars rather than hours.

Recommendation 4: 

Change the wording of the navigation sections to be more distinct from each other. They should match people’s expectations. For instance, “Portfolio” instead of “Our Work,” and “About Us” instead of “Who We Are.”

Recommendation 5: 

We recommend redesigning the Our Process page to show a step by step delineation of their process.

next steps

We believe appropriate next steps would include conducting more usability tests with target customers, which include restaurant owners and decision makers in steel companies.  We also recommend that VC create alternative prototypes and test these models using unmoderated testing tools such as or UX Gofer to get more feedback.