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Market evaluation: Usability and participant profiles

Pre-launch research

April 2003

Two rounds of usability testing were carried out by Flow Interactive on clickthroughs of the site. (A clickthrough is a set of clickable graphics, rather than a fully functioning website.) In each case, ten would-be users were shown the prototype of the website and asked to perform a set of tasks.

The first design that was tested was a 'wireframe', a page that reflects the would-be layout of the site, but contains no graphics:

The first wireframe homepage that was tested by users

The most important finding that came out of the wireframe test was that users thought this was a site filled with content written by the BBC. They did not understand that the site was 'empty' and that they needed to 'fill' it with content. Designs were adjusted accordingly, with a stronger call to action to contribute a story.

The next design that was tested contained branding and graphics, and played on the concept of the site being 'empty':

The simpler homepage that was then tested

May 2003

Ideas Bazaar carried out four focus groups in Leeds and London to test the idea and the name for the website. The idea received an enthusiastic response, especially from veterans, although they were hesitant about contributing to a website. There was an overwhelming preference for WW2 People's War over other options such as WW2 Talk, WW2 Stories, WW2 Your War, and WW2 Connections.

Market evaluation during the project

November 2004

A market research report was compiled by Hugh Hope-Stone Associates in November 2004, based on 535 self-completed questionnaires.

The report found that the site exceeded its performance targets on several fronts: 80% of contributors were over 60 (target 30%); 92,000 unique users visited every month (target 70,000); and 19% of the population was aware of the existence of the site (target 5%). Among people aged 65 and over, 65% were aware that the BBC was collecting wartime memories, although only 10% of that group knew the medium for collecting the stories was the internet.

The same study found several barriers to contributing to the site: people felt that their stories weren't worth telling; they had a fear of computers and a preference to write using paper and pen; some were unwilling to recall unhappy memories. However, a quarter of the 65-plus participants received help submitting their story, either from a family member or associate centre, and felt that it helped with their understanding of the internet. Of those people who were familiar with the internet, 71% said they would visit the site again, while 30% of people who had never used the internet said they would come back.

June 2005

An evaluation of the project was carried out by Hugh Hope-Stone Associates in June 2005, based on around 50 face-to-face interviews.

The study found that leaving a legacy was the most vocalised reason for contributing a story, but that people felt the real pleasure of contributing was in talking, reminiscing and having a willing ear to bend. Many felt they were learning more about World War Two (service personnel learning about the Home Front, and vice versa) and for some it was an opportunity to get the autobiography out of the cupboard.

The evaluation found that the project did not significantly affect uptake of the internet among the target audience, but that it did contribute to people's happiness - something which couldn't be measured, but which was of key importance to contributors, volunteers and partners.

The archiving project

The archive build project started in June 2005. The team used a typical iterative design process, with three rounds of usability testing: paper prototypes, clickthrough wireframes and prototypes. The usability testing was done in-house, with users recruited by an outside agency. Most of the people who participated were from a local history background, some were existing users of the site, and some were parents helping their children with homework.

Market evaluation at the end of the project

February 2006

At the end of the project, another marketing evaluation was compiled by Hugh Hope-Stone Associates. The performance of the project was compared against the targets that were set in early 2003.

Over the course of the final year of the project, 221,623 lesson plans for schools were downloaded.

These figures show that the project outperformed its targets, but far more important - and impossible to measure - was the way the project made people feel. Older people who attended outreach events enjoyed the opportunity to meet like-minded people and share their stories. Many people relished the thought of being part of a national project with a long-term legacy, and the fact that they were leaving something for posterity gave them a greater sense of self-worth.

At events where children helped to gather stories, participants reported a clear emotional impact on the children - a sense that the stories were real and about people just like themselves. Many of the storytellers were children during the war, and locally based, helping to bring history alive for the children.

The project has created a resource for current and future generations, and has given thousands of people the opportunity to share stories that may never have been told otherwise.

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