Usability testing reveals the Good, not just the Bad or Ugly

If you are considering a re-design of your website usability testing is a great way to inform what to focus on because it reveals user experience issues. But, just as importantly, it can also reveal what is working – so you avoid “improving” something that wasn’t broken in the first place! In this website usability review we highlight some great user experiences on the Comic Relief website.

It is an unfortunate feature of these post-financial crash times that charities are feeling more than their fair share of the squeeze from people tightening their belts. Fund raising is a tough business in which every single penny must be made to count. These organisations do not have the luxury of inadvertently losing custom due to poor usability or underwhelmed users and are unlikely to experiment. We thought we’d take a quick look at this sector  to find out how people are rising to this challenge.

User Selection and Test Set Up

We decided to ask some potential users to test out Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day. We screened the users to ensure that those who responded would be open to the thought of donating to charity. This was an important step since we wanted the results to be as accurate as possible. A study performed in 2004 by “The Giving Campaign”  found that certain sections of society would never be likely to donate. (I was somewhat horrified but sadly not surprised to learn that these demographic types were “higher-rate taxpayers with expensive leisure interests and fashionable homes” and “well-educated, stylish young professionals”.)  Thus we ensured the screening questions revealed behavioural attitudes given that we could not go on socio-economic factors alone.

The task itself was simple. We asked people to explore the site and find some activities for Red Nose Day that they would genuinely consider undertaking.

The Site

Red Nose Day Home Page

The look and feel of the site is very graphically rich – with large photographs of the celebrities and others involved. The design elements are bright and bold but with an overlaid appearance on a grey background and plenty of  white space it looks clean and easy on the eye. The overall effect is that it is a cheery, approachable site. There are plenty of ideas for activities and events the organisers have thought hard how to make it easy for people who may not have experience of organising charitable events. The site also targets information at people who may be organising activities at work and in schools.


All of our users successfully found their way through the suggestions for fund raising activities and also to the free fund raising packs for order. They commented positively on the visual design and the overall look and feel. The site succeeded well in providing an engaging experience for these users.


As we know, usability testing is an extremely successful  way to revealing the problems in the UI , but just as important is knowing what works so the good stuff isn’t thrown away in the next redesign. Testing little and often is great way to ensure your designs are still on track. Just imagine filling those PowerPoint presentations with good news for a change!

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