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The Girl's Day School Trust UX Research Discovery.

Hive IT was commissioned by the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) to carry out a UX research project. The GDST recognised that they were driving a number of their target audience to their site, but were not focusing on specific user needs. We produced a written evidence-based research report that included future recommendations for the GDST to consider in order to continue improving their online presence to better serve their users.

GDST Website
The Girls’ Day School Trust
Who they are
The GDST is the UK’s leading family of 25 independent girls’ schools, including two academies.
What they do
From the ages of 3 to 18, the GDST delivers innovative learning in an environment where every student thrives, focusing on developing character beyond the curriculum.
Undertake a number of UX research activities to better understand the GDST’s users, their needs and their goals, so that in the future they can adapt their online presence to better serve their users.


The GDST wanted to undertake a number of UX research activities to better understand their users, their needs and their goals so that they could adapt their online presence to better serve their users’ specific needs.


We conducted a number of UX research activities, such as Persona Creation and User Journey Mapping workshops, to help develop a better understanding of the GDST’s users. We were then able to test our assumptions by facilitating individual usability tests with the GDST’s prioritised representative users. With the findings from the usability sessions combined with the expert analysis activities, we were able to produce an evidence-based research report that provided the GDST with clear recommendations as to how they can continue to improve their online presence for their target audiences.

“I described it as like a therapy session at the end of the meeting yesterday and it really does feel like that as it is helping us to think about wider aspects of our work than just the website. I am astounded at how they guide us through the different tasks they have planned and manage to get such interesting insights out of us.”
Amy Bouchier, Director of Marketing, Communications and Philanthropy at the GDST

Persona and User Journey Mapping

We kicked off the project with a collaborative Persona workshop to help identify and prioritise the GDST’s users. User Personas help a product team find the answer to one of their most important questions, “Who are we designing for?”. By understanding the expectations, frustrations and motivations of users, it’s possible to design a service or product that will support users’ needs.

After creating the personas of their prioritised users, user journeys were mapped out to visualise the process an individual user goes through in order to accomplish a goal, including their key motivations, actions and interaction points across the GDST’s digital platforms. This activity enabled us to understand where the GDST may be able to provide a better service for their users, identify existing pain points and capture how users may be feeling at all stages of the journey - allowing us to drive forward recommendations.

Snippet from a persona
A snippet from a persona for a prospective parent

Heuristic Evaluations and competitor analysis

The GDST website underwent a heuristic evaluation which involved reviewing the site’s interface against a set of usability principles to identify where improvement could be made. The analysis consisted of reviewing the usability, structure and content of their competitor’s websites.

Usability Testing

Whilst the expert analysis activities took place, we began the recruitment of participants to take part in individual usability testing sessions. The recruitment focused on seeking individuals that matched the GDST’s key users which consisted of: Prospective Parents, Alumnae, Trust and Corporate Partners and New Talent. A total of 19 participants were recruited, unfortunately we were unable to speak to an international parent due to recruitment issues and time zone differences.

Scenarios were created for each user type we tested with to observe how they would interact with the website. During the session we encouraged participants to ‘think aloud’, an effective method of capturing qualitative data to help inform recommendations from a user’s perspective. As all the usability sessions were conducted remotely over video conferencing software, we invited the GDST to silently observe some of the sessions so that they could hear immediate feedback from participants.

Miro, an online whiteboard and visual collaboration tool was used to analyse each of the individual usability sessions. The findings were grouped into themes which helped formulate key recommendations to feedback to the GDST. At this point in the project, we presented the high level findings from the usability sessions to GDST to keep them updated and to answer any questions.

Usability Testing illustration

Website Vision and Impact Mapping

Following the usability sessions, another workshop was conducted focusing on creating a vision for the GDST’s website. Using this vision and in collaboration with the GDST, we put together a website impact map which provided an efficient method for understanding desired user behaviour and how this relates to GDST’s business goals.

The impact map focused on

  • GDST’s website goals
  • What users can help achieve these goals
  • How they can be encouraged to reach these goals
  • What current content helps achieve the goals

UX Report

The project ended with a written report that included the key deliverables: Personas, User Journey Mapping, Heuristic Evaluation and Competitor Analysis. The findings from the Usability sessions were also detailed and broken down into key themes under the different user types we tested with so that the GDST could share this evidence-based research with their existing web development agency. The report concluded with recommendations for the GDST to consider grouped into quick wins as well as both medium and long term recommendations.