Free Friday: Improving your Website with Optimal Workshop

Nowadays users are demanding more and more out of their online experiences. They develop certain expectations of what they can be d̶o̶ online based on their use of commercial websites and search engines. These experiences and expectations from users are a driving force behind library’s assessing and improving their websites and online tools. Users are our bread and butter in library land. Even if your library hasn’t dipped its toe in the user experience (UX) waters yet, you should be thinking about it.

But how do you get started?

Collecting input directly from your users whether through in-person interviews, online surveys, or usability testing is the best option for getting started. While the first method for interviewing users in-person can be difficult to organize when you’re first getting started, the next 2 methods are easily accomplished using Optimal Workshop.

While not 100% free, this suite of tools is too good to pass up when it comes to quick and easy online usability testing. There is a free plan available that provides access to the tools with some limitations. You are limited to 10 responses per study, which still provides you with enough feedback from users to be able to tell where their pain points are and why.

Optimal Workshop provides “a suite of usability tools that help improve your website navigation, define information architecture, understand first-clicks, and more” according to their website. There are 3 main tools that I want to highlight: Treejack, OptimalSort, and Chalkmark.


Treejack will help you identify where your users are getting lost on your site and why using tree testing. Tree testing helps assess the findability of content on your site by removing all visual queues. After using this tool, you will easily improve the information architecture of your site, which will allow users to navigate your content much easier.

The next tool is one of my personal favorites because it saves so much time and effort. OptimalSort is an online card sorting tool that shows you how your users would group different types of content on your website. Results can be reported in a similarity matrix providing a visual look into how users grouped your content.

Chalkmark provides insight into where your users are looking on a particular webpage using first click testing. Using a screenshot of the page, you can ask users where they would click to perform a specific task. This tool generates heat maps and density grids to illustrate how many users clicked on certain areas of the screenshot.

In addition to using these robust tools, you are able to create short surveys before and after that allow you to gather demographic and related information from your users. These results give you greater insight into what different sections of your users are doing on your site and what they think about it.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, we have been using Optimal Workshop’s premium version for a couple of years now and have no complaints. We’re able to quickly assess different parts of our site and even used these tools to update our top navigation and assess it after going live. Overall, the reports and information gathered from Optimal Workshop allow you to create a fuller picture of how users interact with your website, which can aid you when meeting with stakeholders or making decisions on updates to your site.

-Sarah Arnold, Director, TNT Roundtable

Come back Friday, July 15 for our next installment of Free Fridays!

Leave a Reply