User Research

Warwick University

Aims and Objectives

Like most Universities Warwick University is a registered charity and raises funds for a variety of causes from its work with children in Africa to supporting students through hardship grants. Its main campaign is to raise 50 million pounds by 2015 in time for the Universities 50th anniversary. The main source of financial donations to the University is through its fundraising telephone campaigns which mainly targets alumni.

While telephone campaigns do raise money there was scope to use the website more effectively to achieve for fundraising through a more effective online donation process and awareness raising. This project set out to understand the user needs and identify the opportunities ahead of a full website redesign. 


After talking with the University for some time it became clear that the first problem was that the needed to know more about the Alumni and the other people they were targeting. The research started with a survey which was sent out to everyone on their database which included ex staff, alumni, parents and other parties. The aim of the survey was as follows:

  • To find out about donation habits and motivations (amounts, causes etc)
  • To find out if people were donating to other causes but not the University and if so why
  • To gain insight into peoples attitude to the University and its fundraising activities
  • To find people willing to take part in further research
  • To start audience segmentation

There was a good response to the survey. I analysed the results and produced a report which helped define the next steps in the project.

Competitor Analysis

In order to find out how best to use the website we decided that it would be useful to look at other organisations and see methods they employ and see if there are any patterns for ‘best practice’. It was important that we looked at a wide range of organisations including charities, overseas Universities, cultural organisations and other UK universities. We chose the following:

  • British Library
  • Nottingham University
  • MIT
  • Cancer Research

The findings revealed that the most effective methods included personal connections, emotional hooks and stating achievable goals and targets amongst others.

Usability Testing

A round of usability testing was also conducted with 6 Warwick alumni of various ages and backgrounds on the existing site to see how they completed a series of user journeys on the site.  The results unearthed a few surprises which we noted and fed back to the client along with recommendations on how to resolve them.

Mental Modelling and Interviews

At this stage in the project we had quantative knowledge and also an understanding of some of the techniques we could employ on the new website but to complete the picture we needed to have a qualitative understanding of the users.

Using the results of the survey I selected a number people to conduct a series of telephone interviews with. The people selected were all graduates, had to be regular computer users and also donated to charity. The interviews were unstructured but had to cover the interviewees experience and contact with the University since graduating, their donation motivations and also their attitude to the University and its fund raising activities.

The interviews were recorded and combed through for interesting points and tasks. These were collated from all the interviews, analysed and when a pattern emerged sorted into similar columns. The final stage was to map these columns against touch points in the website and presented back to the client. They can use this chart to ensure that users concerns and desires are addressed in any future comms work and of course on the new website.

Date of Completion:

June 2012

Project Duration:

2 months

Project Type:

User Research

Key Challenges

  • How do you raise awareness of fund raising activities with Alumni to encourage further donations?
  • How do you convince non donors to part with money
  • User Research