The Essential Basics of Usability Testing
Creating a website has many steps, each one necessary in developing a functional and attractive hub for visitors. The main design is usually the biggest concern, taking up the most time.
But that doesn’t mean it is the only important element to ensuring you have the best, most professional site possible.
Usability testing is a must for any website. It is also the most grueling, detailed and all-together boring part of the entire process. That’s right: It is miserable. However, if you make the mistake of skipping it or doing it without the proper focus and dedication it deserves, it can lead to serious problems with your website. You might be able to save yourself from the miserable process by taking advantage of software like Rapise from Inflectra, which will save you time because it is able to cross-browser test and perform multiple functions of other software.
Worse is when you perform usability tests, but don’t know the fundamentals. This could cause you to miss factors that were important and so make it necessary to perform the usability tests again. This wastes time and money, sometimes in large amounts that can set you back significantly.
Here are a couple of basics to keep in mind when you prepare to conduct your own usability tests.
Tip No. 1: Gather a Good Number of Test Subjects
There is a fine balance between too many testers and too few. Less than five is never enough, as it doesn’t offer enough variety to come to a true conclusion. It could very much be that you are just establishing a fact on the opinion of a few, which isn’t a good average.
Likewise, too many is unnecessary and can actually overthink your results. So those groups that suggest you have as many as you can afford don’t understand the statistics behind usability testing. Most projections state that five subjects will yield around an 85 percent accuracy rate.
Start with five to seven users and go from there. If you don’t feel you have adequately tested the site, you can find a few more to confirm the results.
Tip No. 2: Work With Your Researchers, but Don’t Go Over Their Heads
It is your job to let your research team know about the product service or site you have created. They have to have a real understanding in order to properly conduct testing, so your involvement will be appreciated.
But remember that the research team members are the professionals, and you called them in because they know what they are doing. Don’t try to control the testing, and instead let them do the job they were hired to do.
Tip No. 3: Take Advantage of Test Videos
You probably won’t have a lot to do with watching the videos from your usability tests. But having them is an invaluable resource worth investing in, and there is a reason that firms specializing in this service.
Allow your research team to take over the viewing, but insist on using these videos to get an accurate view of the emotional response of the subjects. Their expressions can tell you a lot.
Tip No. 4: Remember That You Want a User to Figure out the Interface
There are always horror stories passed around by exasperated researcher teams about designers who were too enthusiastic about getting involved. They end up hopping right into the process with the testing group and show them the ins and outs of the site.
While it is admirable that they want to be a part of the process, this eliminates the entire purpose of the testing in the first place. The point behind these measures is to watch as a user figures out the interface on his or her own, without a tutorial. It has to be friendly, engaging and simple for them.
So step back and let them get to it.
Tip No. 5: Establish a Baseline Set on User Behavior
You will have a target group that will serve as those to whom you will market your product. But to find out if you are on the right track with a product, you have to figure out who the average user will be. This fact can be best ascertained using a screener that includes behavior and lifestyle questions.
These include what products they have purchased in the past, how much time they spend online, familiarity of popular social media and networking sites like Facebook and YouTube, and whether or not they play games on a regular basis.
Usability testing is not a difficult part of developing a site or product. But it is a ridiculously long and tedious one. You want to do it right the first time, minimizing the time and money spent on the job.
These tips will act as a simple guideline to getting started. If you use them along with an experienced and knowledgeable research group, the tests should be successful.
Jennifer Moline writes for the PsPrint Blog and has been covering small-business and freelance news for a number of years. Follow PsPrint on Twitter and Facebook. PsPrint is discount printing company.
Image credit: algogenius’ photostream