starts usability testing

Have your say in the new look and feel of

Yesterday,'s development team worked with UX design agency Cyber-Duck to put the website through its paces as part of a significant redesign process reported earlier this week.

With the community the focus, the team conducted usability testing with a group of test users to look at the ways in which people navigate through the site while also gathering their thoughts and feelings on the experience and on how to improve, using an approach called user centred design.

Starting in the afternoon, key parts of the site were tested using five brand new users who were then interviewed about their experiences. In the evening the legends came in - Tom Corey, Warrick Howard, Lexi Quinton, Hannah Simmons and Nikki Smith, the champions of, worked through a series of key tasks while hooked up to cool eye-tracking hardware, before telling us what they really thought of the site.

Luckily, they quite like (which is why some of them have been members for over eight years) and they highlighted a number of areas that could be improved to make the site more awesome.

As part of the user experience project are looking to redesign the site's navigation to make it easier to use.

The user testing went long into the night

Cormac Scanlan, our COO, who also heads up design and development on, felt the day had been very valuable.

It was fascinating to watch real users interacting with the site for the first time and analyse where they intuitively look for various types of content. Some of what we witnessed validated the need to sort out issues we already knew about, but the process also highlighted a number of areas which could be improved upon with a redesign. Both new and existing users highlighted the need for user generated content to be much more visible on the site and this is something we want to address as a priority.

He added:

It was also great to sit down for a beer with some real site legends and scope out our future plans. The experience of our core user base is central to everything we do and we'll be regularly engaging them throughout the process to ensure we deliver the experience our members want to see.

Matt Gibson, project manager of the user experience project at Cyber-Duck, said:

Our user centred design approach means that rather than assuming what users want or need from the website, we actively seek to get them involved in the design process. From this we can ensure we are making the right design decisions with the user in mind.

Commenting on the value of real-time feedback, he said:

Meeting existing members of the website was extremely valuable; you can quickly see how passionate they are about really pushing forward as the leading community for gap year travellers. Cyber-Duck will continue to work closely with and their users throughout the redesign process to deliver a design that is tailored to achieving this. Watch this space!

We want to hear what you've got to say, so if you have any suggestions for new features, or things you'd like changed, drop us an email, comment below, or let us know on the boards.