The Student Loans Company (SLC) administers government-funded loans and grants to students throughout the United Kingdom. It runs five websites offering information and online application. Getting the usability and accessibility right for five SLC sites, thousands of pages and six different user groups is highly complex.
To tackle this mammoth task, SLC turned to User Vision, with whom they have worked since 2004 and have recently appointed as the exclusive supplier of User Experience Consultancy services.
What we did
Initially, User Vision carried out rigorous usability testing and depth interviews of the public facing websites including various tools, the secure area, the online application and the Local Authority application processing portal.
These were tested extensively to ensure key user journeys were effective across the different user groups. We then helped improve overall functionality of the portal with modifications, such as making it clear which region the user was applying from. As students move through several pages and websites to complete their application,
User Vision conducted eye tracking tests on certain key pages. By watching test subjects complete tasks, improvements could be made, based on empirical evidence gathered from their reactions and feedback.
This was essential to accurately identify and repair any issue on any part of the user’s journey. All variations from Directgov to the five main pages, all the way up to actually applying on the customer portal were included in this extensive work. User Vision also created a set of recommendations and guidelines for the Directgov student finance pages.
Testing highlighted a series of usability issues including lack of colour differentiation. There were also recommendations for easing accessibility for disabled users, as testing showed confusion, for example, over navigation. These issues were noted and fed back to the Directgov Central Team. Further to this testing,
User Vision conducted a large-scale accessibility audit of the five main customer websites and the Student Loans corporate website. As well as a continued effort to highlight areas for improvement, User Vision has also been involved in testing applications, including a prototype online entitlement calculator for students, ensuring the concept is developing in the right direction, and to identify and resolve early design issues.
As a result of this work, the new ease of use has driven a 67% increase of students applying online since 2006. Following User Vision’s recommendations a new repayment portal has been developed, bringing in over £3 million in public debt. All of the SLC websites now adhere to the W3C Level A as a minimum.
To emphasise their commitment to access for all, SLC are now working with User Vision to achieve Level AA over coming months.