Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

The challenge

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) commissioned User Vision to conduct user research into the usability, Information Architecture (IA) and page designs of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) website.

This has comprised three rounds of usability testing: an initial examination of the site usability, further testing focused on the site’s Information Architecture (IA) and a third round of user testing to benchmark the changes made against the initial rounds of testing and explore the revised site architecture.

Of primary importance was to review, redesign and test the amended site architecture. Due to the wide range of user profiles, each having different needs and expectations, it was a challenge to develop an IA for the site that performed efficiently for all users. The resulting navigation menu has been redesigned to provide a more efficient navigation experience for all users with greater findability of content.

This project posed some interesting challenges due to a new and potentially unfamiliar system of education. Furthermore, the site caters for a wide range of users who each visit the site with varying different needs and expectations. The CfE site is primarily used by teachers as a document resource and pupils to access their workload resources and information on exams.

Secondary user groups include parents, colleges, universities and employers who must understand the new qualification system.

The general public or media may also use this site as a resource to research the development and evolution of the CfE programme. As a result, each round of testing used representatives from each user group to capture all perspectives.

The wide range of audiences and requirements makes the CfE site complex when attempting to meet all users’ needs without overburdening anyone with unnecessary information. SQA wanted to ensure that whilst some primary audiences (teachers and pupils) were considered, all potential audiences would be catered for and be able to use the site effectively.

What we did

User Vision’s initial round of testing was primarily a fact finding session, where each user group performed the critical user journeys. The aim was to identify the user experience barriers, and capture the expectations and unique requirements of the different user groups. We identified a number of significant user experience obstacles across each of the user groups.

Many of the obstacles involved a navigation structure that had previously been effective, but no longer met the evolving needs of the current sites users.

There was also a general lack of focus in the page layout and design across the site, with information often located in multiple locations, but not allowing for efficient and speedy user journeys. This was compounded by the complex nature of the language introduced by the new Curriculum for Excellence itself and a tendency to duplicate links to make them more visible.

The outcome

As a result of User Vision’s research and design consultancy, SQA has developed a revised IA which provides a more efficient and focused approach to site navigation and also a more effective prioritisation of the menu structure based on user needs.

The page designs were also greatly improved based on the evidence from the usability testing, particularly the homepage layout User Vision and the SQA successfully handled the challenges of this project by applying an iterative approach whereby the site was tested and retested over three rounds.

We developed solutions based on a range of inputs from all users and tested the solution against benchmarks from the previous rounds of testing to ensure continuous improvement.

This process was greatly enhanced by the SQA’s enthusiasm and desire to make changes rapidly and implementing a significant site development in less than 6 months.

Through evidence-based redesign based on a series of usability and information architecture reviews, User Vision has provided the SQA with detailed recommendations to improve the navigation and overall user experience.

This successful and productive style of working has resulted in a strong relationship between User Vision and SQA whereby User Vision are a valued extension of their team, ensuring the voice of the customer is at the core of the site development.

What our client said

User Vision quickly developed an understanding of the issues we face with the website as we move from developing to delivering the new national qualifications.

Their insights showed how the structure and content needed to be changed to better meet the needs of our stakeholders.

Their thorough research and evidence based recommendations have given us a clear way forward and shown that the changes we’ve implemented have improved our service.


Web Manager, SQA

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Call 0131 225 0850 or email us and take the first step towards improving the user experience and effectiveness of your site.