Usability testing on behalf of Elections Canada
Increasing Voter Confidence
Elections Canada published an online voter registration tool that includes the ability to submit electronic signatures, to change or update voter addresses, and to submit other documentation.
Usability testing was conducted to evaluate the ease of the voter registration process. The purpose was to gather feedback from a diverse segment of the population and ensure that elements of the voter registration process are user-friendly and clear to voters.
In addition, the research was designed to identify any barriers or challenges faced by different types of users in the online registration process.
To address the need, I recommended one-on-one usability interviews with members of the general public 18 or older. Participants were screened to reflect a mix of demographic characteristics including gender, household income, education level, family size and ethnicity. In addition, participants were screened to include individuals who use the internet frequently, but who are not professionally responsible for web development or IT support.
A discussion guide was developed to review the overall design and functionality of the election registration site. The approach included a preliminary review of the home page designed to elicit top-of-mind reactions to the home page before engaging with the site more deeply through test several use-case scenarios. The scenarios were each designed to test a different aspect of the website’s functionality representing both common and less common purposes.
While most participants described the home page in positive terms, a sizable minority said there was too much information and that the information was not well organized.
The voter registration process was made difficult by an automated address location function which confused participants as to which information they were required to enter and how they were to enter it. While most participants were able to navigate this section with relative ease, nearly all participants expressed an initial degree of confusion. In a few extreme reactions, participants said the difficulty entering their address would discourage them from continuing further in the registration process.
Most participants found the “tips” section of the site to provide extraneous information rather than practical guidance. Some suggested that this section be re-labelled as “additional information” for those curious enough to click through on it; others suggested the section be dropped altogether as an unnecessary complication that does little to make the registration process easier.
The overall consensus was that, in spite of the need to make a few modifications, the intent, layout and functionality of the application was very clear and straightforward, and that the application is generally user-friendly. It should also be noted that participants were recruited to test the site and took this responsibility very seriously, purposefully looking for issues to address.
As a result of the research, several improvements were made to ensure the online registration process was as ergonomic as possible, that extraneous information was limited, and that the overall process led to a credible result for prospective voters. The results ultimately allowed the client to present the tool as an important element in Elections Canada’s efforts to promote confidence amongst voters in the electoral system as a whole.