Website Assessment for Exemplar Global — A UX Case Study

Deni Haughey
9 min readOct 8, 2021
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash


I would like to share my experience as a UX Designer on my first ever client project. This project challenged me because it was in an area I knew little of. It also challenged me to produce and deliver solutions when user participation and feedback was scarce, plus there wasn’t enough time before the deadline was up.

In this case study, I will share how I developed evidence-based guidelines for redesigning the client’s website supported by usability testing of their current website and a competitive/comparative analysis.

The Client: Exemplar Global

My client, an NFP (Not-For-Profit) organisation in the Conformance Assessment Industry, provides certification to the auditing industry, from personnel certification, credential management for individuals to independent certification for registered training providers (RTP).

Basically, this means that when a business wants to or needs to adopt specified standards (conformance) set by the standards organisation, they will seek external auditors to assess their product/s, service/s or business system/s against the criteria to identify shortfalls and opportunities for improvement.

Or maybe a business decided it’s prudent to have an internal auditor, someone who is already an employee. They would accomplish this by sending that employee to an RTP to receive training.

Regardless of whether a business is looking for auditors, RTP’s, or auditors & RTP’s looking for a specific certification, their first touchpoint would be Exemplar Global’s website. Here they would find an extensive database on certificates available along with auditors and RTP’s certified with them.

My Role and Responsibilities

I worked in a team of four (Darcy Meehan, Shelley Chan, Yuna Miyoshi and myself) where I focused on the following as a UX Designer & UX Writer:

  • Desktop Research
  • Usability Testing
  • Market Research
  • Competitive/Comparative Analysis
  • Copy


Two and a half weeks to conduct research and usability testing to hypothesise the right solution and present deliverables to the client.

The Problem

Exemplar Global was aware of a severe disconnect with their users and believed it was due to an outdated website that hadn’t seen much change in about 7 years. Despite launching a membership platform (Exemplar Link), this disconnect had not improved. They requested an assessment to:

  • Improve usability of the main website
  • Encourage registration at Exemplar Link

The Process

First off, I did desktop research to understand:

  • What is auditing,
  • How it is done,
  • Why it is done, and
  • Who engages with or utilises auditors.

Next, through usability testing of the current website, my goal was to:

  • Understand the purpose for the users visit
  • Understand what their pain points were while on the website
  • Understand what were their pain points when performing a task
  • Discover if they could complete their task promptly
  • Find out what were their feelings when on the website
  • Uncover what worked well and what didn’t work well on the website

Lastly, I carried out a competitive/comparative analysis focusing on areas or rather the pain points uncovered through the usability testing to:

  • Determine how the competitors deliver their information on their website
  • Determine whether or not it provides clear and concise information
  • Determine the level of writing they use; Is it simple or filled with jargon and technical terms
  • Discover what works well and doesn’t work well
  • Determine what isn’t considered best practice

What did the client get?

A high-fidelity mock-up of the website, showcasing research inspired design.

They also received a detailed 22-page report providing fundamental discoveries, insights, uncovered problems with suggested solutions, the reasoning behind the design, and the competitive/comparative analysis findings, along with resources for them to refer to.

Doing the research — Website Usability Test

Before the usability test commenced, users were asked to perform a card sorting exercise to demonstrate how they would make sense of the navigation and its options.

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

This was done over zoom, so I would sit back and watch them through my monitor fail time and time again to completely sort the certification category as they found it to be too much, and often they would end with:

If I could see this from a birdseye view, that would be better

I’ll just put all these certifications aside on its own. It makes the navigation hard

It should be on a page on its own where I can view everything

Moving onto the website usability test, users were asked to provide 3 words that would describe their first impression of the Exemplar Global website and why those words. And while on the main landing page, could they determine what service/s Exemplar Global provides and for who?

For first impressions, users answered, unorganised, confusing, wordy, impersonal, and the hero image takes up too much space and keeps moving.

The users could not definitively answer what service Exemplar Global provides as they could not find or pinpoint the information. Often they were annoyed with the carousel and found the information and layout on the page hard to scan. Users would click on the “About” button to investigate but often found themselves frustrated and confused. They commented on the use of language within the main page and about page as too complex, filled with jargon and technical terms.

One of the primary tasks users were given was to find a specific certification and apply for it. Users could not complete this task quickly and failed to discover how to do so even after browsing through the certification menu, training certification, FAQs and Find an Auditor/Training. It was not clear that they had to click on a link to be redirected to Exemplar Link the external website to the main website to complete this task.

Being involved in this part of the research helped me empathise with the users and understand their emotions, hopes, and goals.

Photo by Jorge Salvador on Unsplash

What was uncovered?

The research informed that users had difficulty and confusion primarily around the value/purpose of Exemplar Global as the design and layout were hard to scan. And they were met with complex language and jargon, leaving them frustrated and uninterested in finding out.

Some of the insights from users

Users found navigating through the website unintuitive and were overwhelmed by the length of the navigation. In particular, the Certification tab would drop down vertically to reveal a long list that cut off below the screen and also had flyout horizontally options to show it had more.

Certification drop-down requires users to scroll down

The help feature isn’t helping users as they would find themselves redirected to a different website where the help bot (Emma) resides. Users found Emma slow, frustrating and unable to solve their problem. They also felt that Emma made the experience impersonal.

Help bot Emma on a different website to guide users around the main website

Another confusing and frustrating factor was that users would often find themselves redirected to other websites whilst performing a task on the main website. The main issue here was that this redirecting was not communicated to the user. They were unaware that these other websites belonged to Exemplar Global as there was no brand consistency.

Exemplar Global resources are on other websites

Doing the research — Competitive/Comparative Analysis

I carried out market research to identify direct and indirect competitors. I discovered that our client has:

  • One direct competitor, and
  • Several indirect competitors

This would enable me to carry out a more detailed and comprehensive Competitive/Comparative analysis to highlight/determine industry standards while focusing on areas uncovered during usability testing.

Here’s what that analysis looks like.

Birdseye view of the competitor/comparative analysis

I compared designs to provide detailed information on why, where, when, and the purpose behind these design decisions. What works well, what doesn’t work well and what isn’t considered best practice, so to speak.

The areas I focused on are:

Navigation & a Catchy Tagline

Here I provided two examples of best practices when designing for navigation. The navigation is clearly labelled, informs the user on where they are and where they could go.

Coincidently the design presented taglines, logos and branding all within sight of the navigation. These taglines informed who this content belonged to and provided a clear indication of who they are and what they offer.

Content & Layout

Keep layout direct and straightforward and bring the users attention to areas we want them to focus on. Increase the visibility of the information being displayed to users. Also, replace carousels with still images.

The design requires clear Call-To-Action buttons and links that would draw the eye and encourage users to take actions we would like them to take.

Incorporate adequate whitespace, borders or lines to inform users where one section of information ends and where another begins.

Click-counting Exercise

This exercise was done to determine how many extra interactions a user must perform to complete their task compared to a competitor’s website.

Now, this in and of itself is not a completely meaningful metric to measure usability as it does not include other factors such as the complexity and design of the website.

In this instance, this counting method highlights that Exemplar Global users have to interact 2–4 times more to complete their tasks.

Writing Digital Copy

When writing digital copy for a website, a general rule here is to write with simple language, familiar words and short sentences.

Having long text with complex words could result in the user having to overthink things and spend more time than necessary. Limit the use of jargon or technical terms unless essential due to the nature of the information and audience.

Help Bots

On this matter, we need to:

  • Give users the ability to minimise & expand as needed
  • Interacting with the bot keeps the user on the current website/page
  • Provide the user with a list of options to choose from

The Design, how did it happen?

The research and findings provided guidelines on how to redesign the website with the user in mind. It also helped me create a tagline that represented the client, who they are, and what they have to offer, along with a clear and easy-to-understand copy.

Our UI Designer was able to create a high-fidelity mock-up that represented what the research inferred and had certain visual design elements taken from and inspired by the existing Exemplar Link website to develop and promote brand consistency.

The Results

Here’s the mock-up of the website that we provided to the client.

Mock-up of Home page
Mock-up of Auditors page

Learnings & thoughts

I learnt that you won’t always be able to go through the whole Double Diamond design process in a client project. For example, in this project, user recruitment was sourced from the client’s customer base and the general public on LinkedIn, Facebook and Reddit. It was challenging to find willing participants from the client’s customer base to spend an hour in the usability test and provide feedback.

As for the general public, many assumed auditing related to finance and were not willing to participate without some level of industry knowledge. Acquiring 6 users from the customer base for usability testing was a blessing, but there wasn’t enough time to validate the design with users due to time constraints and timezone differences.

This was when I understood that research is vital, as you may not have a chance to validate and test your design with users. I also realised had I not done the competitive/comparative analysis the way I did, I wouldn’t have been able to assist my team the way I did or provide the client with something they could utilise. Building it to provide great detail, insight, reasoning, and validation from website design industry standards allowed us to confidently suggest our design solutions.

I thank you for your time spent reading my case study.

I recognise the full worth of good and bad feedback, so I would love to read your comments if you have any.

Or, if you would like to DM me, you can add me on LinkedIn to chat there.

I hope you have a ridiculously amazing day!