Project: Usability Test of the Central Co-op Website

Usability Test Summary

For this usability test, I selected the Central Co-op website:


The Central Co-op is an independent co-operative natural food grocer with locations in Seattle and Tacoma. A co-op is a business owned and operated by and for its users. Member-owners receive benefits such as voting privileges, access to special sales, an annual dividend based on individual expenditures, as well as regular communications about the workings of the business. To become a member-owner, an individual must purchase a share in the business.


This usability test examines the ease with which users are able to navigate the site, in order to drive them to content supporting the following primary goals:

  1. Member-owner recruitment and education
  2. Locating and shopping in the physical store
  3. Promoting enrollment in new grocery delivery service


For this test, there was 1 test administrator (myself) and 3 test subjects.

test script adapted from a free, downloadable script found in Rocket Surgery Made Easy© by Steve Krug was used for this test.

The opening script was read aloud by the test administrator in order to explain the test procedure and provide opportunity for participants to ask questions prior to the start of the test.

At the end of the introductory script, subjects were asked to give permission for their test session to be recorded, all subjects agreed and signed a consent form prior to the start of the test.

The Chrome extension Screencastify was used to record both audio and desktop activity throughout the test.

Subjects were asked by the test administrator to give a general impression of the main page of the website, followed by 4 scripted tasks.

All of the tasks were presented in written form and were also read aloud by the test administrator.

Scripted Tasks:

  1. Are you able to locate information about what a co-op is and how to join the Central Co-op?
  2. Are you able to find the cost for membership and figure out what benefits are included with membership?
  3. Are you able to locate the address and hours for the Co-op location in Seattle?
  4. The Co-op has started a new grocery delivery service. Are you able to find out whether your zip code is within their delivery area?

The total time for each session from start of introduction to the end of the recording was designed to last no more than 15 minutes.


The test administrator recruited volunteers from among attendees at an open lab session for a Web Development Certificate program at the Seattle University. Three test subjects volunteered to be participants in this test.

  • Subject 1: Male, a student in a Web Development Certificate program at Seattle University.
  • Subject 2: Male, an instructor in a Web Development Certificate program at Seattle University.
  • Subject 3: Female, a student in a Web Development Certificate program at Seattle University.

None of these participants were member-owners of the Central Co-op, or had visited its website prior to the test. Of the three participants, Subject 1 and 2 expressed having prior knowledge of this business as a brick and mortar store near Seattle University.

Results Summary

1. Are you able to locate information about what a co-op is and how to join the Central Co-op?


What is a Co-op?

There is an informational web page on the Co-op’s website called “Co-ops 101”. This part of the task was meant to test whether the subjects were able to locate this page and interact with the content. One subject navigated here successfully to complete the task. Two of the three subjects never found this page, but found other pages that they felt satisfied the request.

The two subjects diverted by other pages with similar content. navigated from the home page using the top navigation. They both scanned through the navigation tabs in search of the correct page.

  • Subject 1 selected “Join” rather than “Co-ops 101” from the “Ownership” menu tab. This page presents a lot of content detailing the membership process at this particular co-op, but doesn’t go into detail about what co-ops are as a type of business.


  • Subject 3 selected “About Us“,  which led to a page describing the Central Co-op and its principles, but didn’t connect the “Co-ops 101” button with the task.


Based these findings, the name “Co-ops 101” is not clearly enough presented to lead users to it in order to obtain a general description of a co-op run business. Since an important part of recruiting new members and customers is providing this educational content, it should be more accessible to newcomers.


  • The first portion of the task was only successful for 1 of the 3 subjects, although all of them thought they had completed the task. However, all users did find the “Join” page, which has large buttons to this information, as well as a button that links to the current page. Removing the “Join” button from this list and moving “Co-ops 101” to the top would make it appear more important.


  • Adding an in text button on the “Join” and “About Us” pages with the description “Learn more about co-ops and how they work” or something similar would also make the information on “Co-ops 101” appear more important.


  • The “Join” page only has a small link halfway down the page. More emphasis on this link to “Co-ops” 101 would improve user navigation to this information.

COOP 101 recs3

How do I join?

Most of the pages on this website have clearly marked buttons to join, which all subjects found relatively easy to find.


However, navigating from the home page was not as clear. The only clear navigation element to “Join” the Co-op is in an unexpected location below a large button to a news item.


In the top navigation the “Join” page is buried under “Ownership.” Subject 1 and 3 didn’t see the button and went directly to the top navigation and scanned through the tabs to find a way to join. Subject 2 indicated that he was drawn to the large button to a news item more than the button to “Join”, but resisted, and did navigate to the correct page from the button.


  • For new users and customers, one of the primary functions of of this website is to increase membership in the Co-op. Yet, from the home page, the only clear navigation element to “Join” is located below a button to a news item that may distract the user. The addition of another button in a more prominent and “expected” location, such as in the header, would improve visibility.


2. Are you able to find the cost for membership and figure out what benefits are included with membership?


What does a membership cost?

All subjects were able to discover the cost of membership ($100) rather quickly, but benefits that come from the membership were more difficult to decipher.

All three subjects found the membership cost in one click, or less–two came across the information before the task had begun.

COOP-member cost

What are the benefits of becoming a member?

Finding a good reason to become a member, was not as clear for the test subjects. The only clear navigation element leading to information on “Benefits” that come with joining is under the “Ownership” tab in the top navigation. None of the test subjects followed this navigation initially to find the benefits. Only Subject 1 found this link in the navigation after scanning through the “Join” page and “About Us” pages first.


There is only one other mention of benefits suggested by a small link on the “Join” page entitled, “What is the return on my investment?” This is how Subject 2 found the “Benefits” page.


Subject 3 found the “Co-ops 101” page while searching for benefits, and at first thought benefits were embedded in this content, then after scanning, backtracked to the “About Us” page, and then back to “Join”, but was unsuccessful.

For the two subjects that did eventually find the “Benefits” page, both commented while scanning the page content that the benefits described didn’t relate to them directly until more than halfway down the page. The content is presented as a “Principles” statement and prioritizes the benefit to community above consumer gain. Organizing the content in this way required more work on the part of the subjects to fully complete the task.


  • Finding the cost of membership (and the “Join” page) was among of the easier tasks for the test subjects to accomplish. Therefore, capitalizing on the ease of finding this content in order to better promote member benefits makes sense. The addition of a button called “Member Benefits,” to the “Join” page would be a good start to making this information more accessible both with graphical emphasis and clearer language.

COOP-bennies button

  • The content on the benefits page is not easily digestible to a new user, especially if the concept of a co-op is new to them. Culling the information that relates directly to the consumer, like discounts, sales, and dividends, and presenting them clearly on the “Join” page along with links to “more benefits” would simplify information gathering for a new user.

3. Are you able to locate the address and hours for the Co-op location in Seattle?


From the home page subjects were able to navigate rather quickly using a clear, well placed link in the upper right corner of the page.

Clicking this link took them a “Contact Us” page displaying basic information about grocery locations and hours. All three subject paused and scanned the entire page from top to bottom before finding the Seattle location (first item on page).


Even though the information regarding store hours was listed just below the store name, all subjects hesitated when trying to locate them. Subjects 2 and 3 squinted at the page during this process. Subject 2 suggested that the text might be too small.



Although the link “Hours, Location, Contact” is prominently placed and users found it quickly, the “Contact Us” page it navigates to could use improvement. Based on the findings from this test, I would recommend the following changes (illustrated in mock-up beneath list):

  • Create new headers to clearly identify the “Grocery Locations” from “Co-op Events and Meeting Spaces.”
  • Reorganize layout in order to present the “Grocery Locations” side by side and higher on the page.
  • Emphasize both the city name and open hours by increasing font size and weight as well as adding additional space around them.


4. The Co-op has started a new grocery delivery service. Are you able to find out whether your zip code is within their delivery area?


All three subjects were able to accomplish this task rather quickly.

Subject 1 didn’t recognize the graphic in the header referring to the delivery service as a clickable link and instead scanned through all of the top navigation menus trying to locate the information about the service.


From the “order delivery” link pictured, Subject 1 arrived at an informational page detailing how the new service works. This page gave good information about how the service works and also a list of neighborhoods where delivery is covered. Just below this list of neighborhoods, which is below the fold, is a somewhat unobtrusive link to a list of zip codes, which the subject found after a scanning most of the page. The zip code link is in a muted gray text with no underline, but has a rollover effect darkening it to black with an underline.


After clicking this link a small popup appeared with a list of zip codes. This list gave the subject the information needed to complete this task.


Subjects 2 and 3 had different experience completing this task. They navigated to the delivery service link from the home page.


This link took them to a page administered by Instacart, the delivery service, that is outside the Co-op’s domain. Both of these subjects seemed momentarily unsure of where they had landed, because of the change in domain and noticeably different look and feel of the page.


From this page, they were able to enter their own zip code into the form and receive a message indicating that they were within the delivery area.


However, Subject 3 expressed difficulty finding the confirmation message, because it was not given enough emphasis. She also indicated the “Hooray, we offer Delivery in Seattle!” didn’t make her certain that her zip code was accepted.



Discovering whether this service is available in a customers area should take a relatively simple path. Having multiple navigation pathways to a list of zip codes is a plus. However, both pathways had elements that were frustrating for the subjects.

Improve the visibility of clickable items.

  • The path taken by Subject 1, suggested that the graphic in the header may not be recognizable as clickable to some users. Changing this graphic to a design that resembles a button, or a rollover effect with “Click to Order”, would help clarify that this is not just part of a large logo.


  • The link to a list of zip codes on the informational page is located on the bottom half of the page and is styled with a muted gray color and no underline. Although the rollover effect compensates for this, restyling this link as a button located higher on the page would make it more convenient for users.

Improve experience for new users.

  • Subject 2 and 3 both expressed some surprise when taken to a page outside of the Co-op’s domain. Adding a popup or landing page where users can select “Returning” or “New” would allow content to be better tailored to the type of user navigating to this service. Those “Returning” could go directly to the account login and shopping page, while those who are “New” can explore a signup page with the most popular questions answered at the top of the page.
  • The path for users to verify that their location is within the delivery zone should be clear and direct. Subject 3 expressed that the form on the Instacart page seemed like a tactic to trick her into signing up before she was ready. Adding visual emphasis to the response message to the zip code query would help relieve the pressure.

Next Steps

Additions to the recommendations made throughout this summary are below.

Test and Re-test

I would recommend performing this test again, but with simpler tasks. In reviewing the results, I found that in several instances, test subjects found information needed for a future task in advance. This may have changed the way they interacted with the content in subsequent tasks. I have listed suggested revisions for tasks below (no revisions suggested for 5 and 6):

  1. Are you able to locate information about what a co-operative business is?
  2. Are you able to find information about how to join the Central Co-op?
  3. Are you able to find the cost for membership?
  4. Are you able to find out what benefits are included with membership?
  5. Are you able to locate the address and hours for the Co-op location in Seattle?
  6. The Co-op has started a new grocery delivery service. Are you able to find out whether your zip code is within their delivery area?

Test Clarity of Content

I would also recommend testing centered around general accessibility of content. A good amount of the content presented is written for those who are already acquainted with this type of business. Jargon usage in some of the content and navigation elements may prevent the uninitiated from finding out what they need to know in order to make an educated decision regarding membership.

One thought on “Project: Usability Test of the Central Co-op Website

  1. Beth: I’m really impressed by your detailed, very thorough and well documented usability test. You clearly outline the test criteria, the user steps and feedback, and give valuable recommendations based on the results of the test. The Central Co-op would benefit greatly from this work. Great job!

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