JKBowley avatar

Discovering users’ wants and needs when it comes to the main ICE website

The challenge

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) had a strong feeling their main, public, website wasn’t performing for them or their users (it had gotten bloated, neglected and very difficult to navigate). They wanted to understand exactly why it wasn’t working and what could be done to make it better from their users’ perspective.

The plan

The plan was split into two separate areas of Discovery – internal and external. We wanted to get the full picture when it came to the website: what do internal colleagues think of it, and what did external users think of it. I could then analyse the data from both to uncover insights and develop recommendations. This was also augmented by quant research and analysis of Analytics and a new Survey.


As this was a comprehensive Discovery project, the process quite simply involved qualitative and quantitative research and analysis, the majority of which was Primary research. I started out with the internal research…

Internal research

GA Analysis

I started with a simple analysis of the Google Analytics data, to understand how the current website was performing. The main focus here was understanding user behaviour and uncovering the ‘So what?’ behind it. The output here was a GA Analysis report.

Internal Workshop

A workshop with the key stakeholders and directors was arranged to get their understanding of the website and to get under the skin of the organisation (understand how they work, how the teams are structured etc). Homework was set before the workshop so we could discuss some of the responses and dive into interactive exercises. I set two exercises which were ‘Newspaper headlines’ and ‘Hope and Fears’. This helped to gauge elements of what success looks like, along with potential pitfalls and areas of concern as the project began.

Exercises during the workshop included completing a Business Model Canvas, audience identification, persona creation and defining (and measuring) success. This was all done within a 2-hour remote workshop.

The workshop ended with a full Miro board full of great collaborative insights, and a project team that was onboard with what we were trying to do. We also understood the organisation in much more detail.

Internal Interviews

After the workshop, I identified a few key stakeholders for indepth interviews, so we could understand their area of responsibility, how the website fits into that and what their challenges are in their day-to-day role. I developed the research objectives, the research plan and the discussion guide before the interviews were scheduled.

18 people were interviewed for 30-60 minutes each and the results were synthesised and analysed using thematic analysis (affinity maps) to uncover insights that will form part of the final report. This wrapped the internal primary research.

External Research

Indepth Interviews

I started out by developing the research plan, objectives, participant recruitment and discussion guides for all user interviews. Participants would be recruited by contacts within the ICE and incentives would be offered to those taking part. The interviews involved speaking to 29 users from across their user base for 30-60 minutes each. All completed remotely via Teams and Google Meet. Notes and recordings from the interviews were synthesised and analysed using thematic analysis and a comprehensive research report was compiled based on the insight. Analysis was conducted using NVivo.

SUPR-Q Survey

Using the Standardized User Experience Percentile Rank Questionnaire (SUPR-Q) as a standardised approach, the survey was sent via an email shot to existing ICE Members. There were 378 responses and it now meant we were able to gauge how the current website was performing before any work was carried out on it in the future. The intention would be to complete this survey every year, particularly after updates have been made, so the impact of these changes can be measured over time.


The Discovery phase was a success from start to finish. After multiple Director presentations of the final report (100+ slides), it was clear to see where the current website was failing and what needed to be looked at in order to not just improve the experience, but actually solve real problems for its users.

The next step would be to implement some of the recommendations – starting with the information architecture of the website and go from there.