The Paying for College (PFC) product was already in its first iteration, attracting partners, college advisors, and family of students alike, and a second major release was in planning–but nothing had been validated, it was understood that the product worked; but not why it worked and what needed to be improved and why a heuristic evaluation followed by usability testing helped us uncover those things.

To achieve this, this were the steps taken:

  • Wrote a research plan to get internal buy in from the Paying for College team as well as leadership within Technology & Innovation
  • Reached out to friends and friends of friends who worked for the federal government; to avoid having to go through the Paperwork Reduction Act office due to a tight deadline
  • Scheduled 16 interviews over a 4 day period at the CFPB offices
  • Assembled into stories the issues that we'd uncovered during our internal evaluation
  • Wrote 4 different guides based on the stories we'd captured from our internal evaluation, so as to have 4 different sets of participants focusing on specific problems that we'd identified on the PFC product
  • A scoring sheet was also provided to all participants so they could assign a value (1-5) to each of the tasks they were asked to perform
  • We collated all the answers and along with the scores for the tasks documented them in a spreadsheet to allow us to visually understand the weight and importance of different tasks/stories
  • The usability testing project was delivered as a report and a presentation to the PFC team, the rest of the Fellows cohort, as well as to T&I leadership.

The Paying for College tool can be found at: