Usability Test: Emerald Downs Racetrack and Casino

Site URL:


Horse racing facilities rely on the attendance of racing enthusiasts as well as interested members of the general public to keep going.

One way Emerald Downs can connect with potential visitors to their physical site is through publishing a calendar of races and other events on their website.

I conducted user testing to find out how well Emerald Downs is doing this.


I enlisted the help of three user testers. Two tests were conducted in person and one was conducted remotely. All sessions were recorded using Kazam, screen capturing software which also records audio.

Due to time constraints, usability testing focused only on how well the website implemented calendars and event listings to support the goals of website visitors in planning a visit to the Emerald Downs.

The first portion of the test asked the user to visually explore the site’s homepage using their mouse without clicking on any links. The remainder of the test had users complete three tasks:

  1. Locate the events calendar and take a look at what’s happening on a few different days. Describe the types of events you see.
  2. Determine whether Emerald Downs is a good place to bring kids. Are there any kid-specific events coming up?
  3. Pick a weekend day in the events calendar when you would like to view some horse racing. Find out what races are being run that day and when the gates open.

Following the completion of tasks, users were given an opportunity to share impressions and remarks about the site.

Demographic Summary

Users are not horse racing enthusiasts but based on response to opening questions are interested in attending live horse racing events. One person has attended a couple of horse races in the past, although not at this location. One user has an infant and the other two have no children. All users reported making heavy use of the internet when planning activities and events to enjoy with family and friends.

Usability Testing Results

The first portion of testing asked users to explore the homepage without clicking any links. All users were able to quickly determine the purpose of the website, although only two verbally recognized the dual-role of this facility as a racetrack and casino. One user focused almost exclusively on the top menu bar when asked to figure out what kind of information was hosted on the site. Unlike the other two testers, this user verbalized having noticed sections of the site set aside for specific rather than general audiences like “Horsemen” and the press.

The main navigation bar includes options for specific audiences (horsemen, the press, etc.)

The other two users set about the task of determining the contents of the site more by scrolling the length of the website from top to bottom. One of these users, along with the user who relied more on the main menu bar, mentioned the presence of social media icons and aggregated social media data.

Task One

The purpose of the first task was to determine how users would access the calendar, given multiple links to choose from. Two users selected the calendar option from the main menu bar, while the third user opened a link featured in a calendar graphic. The link in the main menu bar directs users to a calendar view of events while the link selected by the third user directs them to a listing of events. This user complained about arriving on a page with a calendar view. Despite there not being an clear option to “toggle” between a list and calendar view, this user selected “Calendar” in a page menu which directed them to a page displaying the calendar view.

Task Two

The second task builds on the first, asking users to find out whether the racetrack is kid-friendly. Users were asked to determine the answer to this using the calendar and any other portions of the site. Here is where I noticed the most variability in how users attempted the tasks, and where I personally feel my expectations were the most challenged by what actually unfolded.

The two users without children carried out this task fairly quickly and didn’t seem as invested in the task as my one user with an infant, which I wasn’t too surprised by. This user, who when asked what kind of information they look for online before attending an event or visiting a location provided a much longer list than the other two users, was very quick to go directly to the “Admissions” page, where there is a statement about the racetrack being “kid-friendly”. This is not where I would have gone first. The other two users scrolled and clicked the calendar. One was contented by the presence of ostrich and zebra racing events to know that the track is kid-friendly, while for the last user speculated that maybe the track wasn’t very kid-friendly, since it’s also a casino and the site hosts a lot of evening entertainment targeting adults.

Task Three

The final task was very open-ended, and asked users to pretend to plan a weekend day sometime in the next few months to visit the track for some live horse racing. They were asked to locate this date on the calendar, determine which races were being run, and find out when the gates open. Users were then asked to look for any other information they would normally look for before visiting a place for the first time.

All users were able to quickly locate a “live race” day using the calendar’s legend. At this stage of testing, two users commented on not being sure what was meant by “simulcasting”. One user speculate it meant “virtual” or “simulated” racing.

“What do you mean by, ‘simulcast’?

When one user opened the page for a particular date, they were confused to not be able to find any information about particular races being run that day but were able to find the time when gates would open. The other users happened to open pages on days when “stake races” were ran which include the race name as well as the gate time. Figuring out the gate time requires taking a given time and calculating a time thirty minutes prior. None of the users expressed any frustration about this.

Users did not seem to mind calculating the gate time

Two users, including the one with an infant, went immediately to the “Parking” page when asked to look for additional information to support planning for their trip. The user without a child who sought out the parking page also located the “Dining Options” page under “Visit” in the main menu. They did not spend much time on this page, which doesn’t display menu information in a traditional way.

User Testing Script (PDF)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *