What is usability testing?

Steve Krug the man behind the classic web usability testing book ‘Don’t make me think’ has published a fantasic usability book “Rocket Surgery Made EasyThe Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

twoguystestingUsability involves making a website’s design easier to use and simpler to understand, so that the user’s experience is as enjoyable as possible. The most valuable thing you can do to improve a website or app is to have the people who are building it, paying for it or marketing it watch some people trying to use it. While it’s good to have some people from your target audience, it’s not vital at this stage. What you’re looking for first are the problems in the design that anybody is going to encounter, like a confusing interface.

There are many kinds of usability testing—qualitative, quantitative, summative, formative, formal, informal, large sample, small sample, comparative tests, hallway user testing, regression testing, benchmarking tests, and on and on—and they’re all valuable for different purposes. If you have a budget consult the usability experts!

How to carry out Usability Testing

  • Get a room with a PC
  • Start testing at the very beginning of your web design project, to quickly uncover
    any problems. Schedule in tests throughout the project.
  • Schedule usability testing once a month and recruit only three test participants.
  • Each session normally takes an hour. Participants are given a few tasks and think aloud while they test various sections of your site. These can be clickable wireframes, paper prototypes or html pages.
  • It’s useful to test competitor’s sites that are in the same line of business or that use the same kind of functionality.
  • It’s crucial that anybody who’s involved with the production of the site observes the tests.
  • At the end of each session get people to write down the three most significant usability issues they’ve observed
  • Then ask them to decide on their overall top three and make a list of the most serious problems in descending order.
  • Next, work your way down the list and write down what resources are required to fix each problem. Fix the most serious problems immediately.

Remote testing

Remote user testing can be useful. You can use screen sharing and Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol but do a few tests in person first. You can’t tell straight away when somebody is stuck if you’re not there sitting with them.

Free & paid usability testing tools

Using one of the many existing tools and services for user testing is easier than creating your own. Free and premium are available with options to suit most budgets. The important thing is to find a tool or service that works for your website and team.

Usability testing software – Screen capture

Recording what users do is a key aspect of usability testing. One of the most useful recordings you can make is a video of screen activity, recording everything on the screen, much like a VCR: the mouse moving, pages scrolling, clicking links, typing in the search terms. There are many free tools you can use to do this….

Web Usability resources

Have you come across any good usability resources to add to this list? Add them in the comments below….

 

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