5 Tips For Constructing the Perfect Usability Test

Published by Designzillas on August 29, 2013

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Hooray! That wonderful day comes where the design and development of your new website has come to an end. Everything looks beautiful to you and you can’t wait to launch it out to the public so they can bask in the glory with you.

But wait! Is your website really as user friendly as you think it is? You have been working on the site for months; you know all of the ins and outs and you can complete any and every task possible. But the website might be completely foreign to your users. It’s extremely important to conduct thorough and well constructed usability tests before the official launch of your website. Below, I’ve listed some quick tips to keep in mind when doing so.

1. KNOW YOUR SAMPLE

Remember in high school when you learned about the scientific method and representative samples? The same thing applies here. It is important to choose participants who are representative of the population that your website will target when it is launched. If you have created a website aimed at early retirees, it wouldn’t make much sense to test a bunch of 19 year olds. This will give you skewed results that won’t really help you create the best experience possible for your demographic.

2. USE THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

Ah, the good ‘ol scientific method. You probably learned about it in every science class, from grade school to college. The scientific method can actually help you when it comes to usability testing. It’s a great idea to speak with your developers and designers and pinpoint any specific questions they might want answered. Pinpoint potential problem areas and figure out what the main goal of your site will be. Do you want users to find a certain page and send you their information? Do you want them to purchase a product? Sign up for a newsletter or subscription? This is the information you need to know before constructing your test. After you know, mold your questions and tasks around your hypotheses. After you’ve reviewed the results, then you will be adequately informed as to whether you need to change your website around or not.

3. ELIMINATE BIAS

There are plenty of ways that bias can creep into your usability test. One way to eliminate it is to relinquish control a bit. It may be tempting to watch over your participant’s shoulder and guide them through the task, but this is not a natural environment and this will skew your results. Give them a task, and let them go about it naturally. It may even be helpful to step out of the room in order to create the most natural environment possible. Don’t interrupt your participant with countless questions, either. The best option is to administer a task and leave them to complete it how they would in their own environment.

Another way bias might creep into your usability test is through too much awareness. They may react differently to the test if they know exactly which website is the target site — OR if they know that an employee of that company is in the room with them. A way to eliminate this is to show them multiple websites at the beginning to get their honest reactions and opinions. Show them some competitor/peer websites alongside yours. See which features they gravitate towards and which they ignore. This will give you an idea of what draws in users and what repels them. By the end of the test, they will obviously have an idea of which website is the test site, but in the beginning, you will have that honest information.

4. AVOID LEADING QUESTIONS

When constructing your questions and tasks, don’t make them too obvious. It isn’t a good test if problem-solving skills aren’t included. For example, if you are testing the UX of your social media icons, do not word the task like this: “Please navigate to the Facebook icon.” This is so obvious. They know what they are looking for and they know that it is located somewhere on the page. Instead, word the task like this: “If you wanted to maintain contact with this company, how might you do this?” This is a natural desire from users and will send them looking for a “contact” section and accompanying social media buttons.

5. REVIEW YOUR RESULTS

In the end, the most important thing about a website is the user experience. You didn’t create the website for yourself, you created it for your clients and potential customers. If they cannot navigate your website or are missing essential features, you have a problem. This is why usability testing is extremely important to any website launch. Hardly anybody gets it perfect the first time around. Chances are, if you’ve created the website or left it to a company to do it for you (Hey, do you need one? Designzillas is pretty great…), you or they are experts in web development in design. This means you know how to do everything — you probably put it there in the first place. But your users don’t. The only way to create the best user experience is to test your product on your users themselves. So become a Web Scientist! Test, test, test!

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