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Students help local companies with their digital products

15th September 2017

Solent University joined forces with the Ocean Village Innovation Centre (OVIC) in Southampton to help bring the X-Factor to commercial websites.

Websites were examined by experts at the University, alongside postgraduate and undergraduate students, using state-of-the-art digital usability equipment.

A temporary test centre was set up at OVIC, which is home to nearly 40 different businesses, where the team used software which indicates gaze spots through tracking eye movements. Further reports also assessed the usability of desktop and mobile interfaces, focusing on conversion rate effectiveness, optimised presence and content strategy.

Dr Mohammed Alhusban, senior lecturer at Solent and a user experience design (UX) researcher and usability expert, led the project with eight postgraduate and undergraduate students.

He says: “The aim is to help firms who build websites identify user experience issues at an earlier stage – it is more cost-effective to change then when a website is near to going live.

“We make sense of the world through our eyes, yet too many websites and other digital products don’t take into account how we scan the visuals and words in front of us.

“Talking generally, our laboratory testing at Solent repeatedly highlights two main problems with websites – the lack of mobile responsiveness and the absence of a content strategy.

“Both issues detract from the user’s experience, with industry research citing figures that 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

“We’re very much about insights and enhancing user satisfaction. In turn, that improves conversion rates for businesses, bringing returns on investment.”

Dr Mohammed Alhusban, Katie Hornby and Richard May

Richard May, the Innovation Director for OVIC and two other centres in south Hampshire, Portsmouth Technopole and Fareham Innovation Centre, facilitated the initiative with Katie Hornby, Knowledge Exchange and Business Development Manager at Solent.

Richard said: “A key objective for Oxford Innovation is to develop sector specific clusters in Hampshire and over time have them co-habitat or be affiliated in one of our three, and soon to be four, innovation hubs in the county.

“This initiative is geared toward developing a digital business community in Southampton and the surrounding area.

“It builds on a naturally formed cluster of digital businesses here at OVIC and within our ecosystem.

"The report-back event had more than 40 seasoned experts - PhD researchers and Masters students gathered to discuss test results, best practice and innovation wisdoms to create the ‘X’ factor for their clients’ digital products.

“It’s very encouraging to see real-time knowledge transfer partnership in action between the talent of the University and businesses in the OVIC. The network has become lively, with many follow up actions, and our hope is to grow this community further.

“The higher education institutions in Southampton are a spur to economic growth and we’ve been able to help academic and vocational students understand the challenges in developing products and services with commercial applications.”

The team included undergraduate students Jamie Davey, Justin Han, Liam Charmer, Luke St James Boyde, Sam Spencer and Theidor-James Fitih, along with masters' student Nelson de Jesus Coelho and PhD candidate Oksana Razina. 

You can find out more information on the OVIC website.

Katie and Dr Alhusban with some of the students involved in the project