Usability testing: Our seven key areas of attention.

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Geschreven door Andrée Lange

Usability testing (also called user testing) is a great way to find out whether your (new) website works intuitively. If you’ve defined your research goals in advance, using test subjects will help you undercover if these goals are accomplished or not. This is the ultimate moment to test assumptions. And to track down and solve issues. Usability tests are most commonly used to test the user-friendliness, accessibility, effectiveness, efficiency and the overall user experience of a website. 

In a previous blog, we have explained the value of a usability test. You may already know that usability testing can be of great value to the (ongoing) development of your website. Which is why we’ll elaborate more on the points we take into account when performing a usability test: our seven key points.

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Our seven key areas of attention

1. It’s never too early to test

On the contrary: the earlier the better. Imagine you’re considering to add certain functionalities or improvements. You’re not sure, though, whether it ties into the needs of your target market. And whether it’s worth investing in. In that case, It’s probably better to know that early on. By investing a bit of time and research in the early stages, you’ll still have enough time and funds left to do a course correction.

You can even start testing before you have started designing. In that case, your goal won’t be to find out how user-friendly a particular design is. You could test whether a particular concept resonates with your target audience, though. By performing interviews before diving into the design process, we’ll make sure we’re creating a concept that ties into the key needs of your target market.

It’s important to test in the design stage, too. Don’t wait until the design has been approved. One of the main advantages of testing during the design process is that we can implement the conclusions into your designs right away.

2. It’s important to draw up a clear scenario.

When creating a test plan, it’s important to define your goals first. There often will be assumptions about usage that could be worthwhile to test. Apart from the goals you’d like to accomplish with testing, you may want to set specific goals for your test subjects. We prefer to present our test subjects with real-life scenarios. This helps participants to identify with the situation and the related task. It is also good to state when the test subject has completed a task. That way, both the starting point and the destination are clear.

So, for instance, don’t use: place a product in the shopping basket. Instead, elaborate a bit more: “Recently, you have become more aware of the benefits of a healthy breakfast. You love chocolate, and you’d like to order a granola product. Find a granola product that suits you and order this product. When you’ve reached the page that asks for your personal details, you have completed this task.”

3. Use real users and a testing environment that feels natural

When we’re setting out to test, we define some important characteristics of test subjects first. When you’re not specific enough, you risk that your subjects don’t reflect the target market well enough. If you’re too specific, however, you may not find a single candidate. That’s why it’s important to carefully consider what characteristics are the ones that really matter.

Despite what you may be thinking, age doesn’t really matter when you’re tracking down usability issues. You may need participants with a minimum level of knowledge of a certain topic, or someone who’s comfortable using the internet, though. In cases like that, those are vital characteristics.

You may also want to gain insight into the use of certain devices among your target market. Checking out your analytics data will give you a decent first impression about that. Maybe your target market primarily visits your website from a phone. If that’s the case, it makes sense to use a phone while testing, too. We gladly collaborate on creating a list of characteristics. That way, we’ll make sure we’re using the right test subjects. 

4. Recruiting the (right) people

Did you know that recruiting participants doesn’t need to be all that complicated? That you could literally pick people off the street for a user test? One of our previous research interns, Bert, has recently proven that concept. For his graduation, he researched the topic of: “How can employees independently perform usability tests in a way that is quick to arrange and fun to do?” He came up with a “Test Truck”: a mobile test unit with a few basic facilities (like coffee and tea), two persons to reach out with people who were passing by and a suitable device for testing instantly. It was so cool to perform a user-test for our client Oot this way!! With minimal effort (two people and a truck) we gained valuable insights in just half a day. Did you know this type of testing is called “guerrilla testing”? Yes, we said it right, guerrilla, not gorilla.

One of our graduation interns performed guerrila usability testing using a mobile testing unit.
Our graduation intern used a test truck to perform guerrilla usability testing.

Just by approaching people who pass by, you’ll gain valuable feedback on a product or service. You could do this outdoors, but also by using a coffee place or the communal entrance of a large office building. Since guerrilla testing is quick and inexpensive, you’ll discover the most common usability issues with minimal effort. 

Guerrilla testing does have some disadvantages, though. Your test results will likely be fairly superficial. Because the approach is a bit basic, you probably won’t have the opportunity to dig deeper with your questions. Also, recruiting test subjects may prove to be challenging. Both the time you have available and the area you’re gathering participants from will be limited. Because of that, your participants may not optimally reflect the characteristics of your target market. The other option may be sticking to just working with people who meet the criteria you have set. In that case, you risk not finding enough suitable participants.

If it turns out to be complicated to get in touch with your target market, we can collaboratively decide to hire a specialized agency. They will recruit test subjects on behalf of you.

5. We’re no robots repeating a script

As much as you can be, and should be prepared for usability testing, you may find yourself in a situation that you couldn’t have prepared for. That is when the human factor comes into play. 

In our opinion, it’s important to be flexible while testing. You may need to adjust a script to uncover a particular need or frustration. You may want to ask additional questions when it’s obvious that someone is struggling with a part of a test.

We’ll also keep our eyes out for physical signs of stress, such as frowning or biting on a lip. Subjects do not always vocalize their struggling. The added benefit of adjusting accordingly? You’ll make your subjects feel more comfortable. That way, they’ll hopefully feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings freely.

6. Really long reports – ain’t nobody got time for that!

Once we have completed performing all testing, you’ll have tons of information. To help you keep the overview, we’ll report back concisely. By using an Excel sheet, that we already prepared, you’ll receive the results quickly. It also forces us to get to the point of the research. Generally, we’ll include:

  • Key results: a summary of our most important findings. 
  • Test target audience: Who participated in this test. We’ll describe the characteristics of the target audience.
  • Tasks: what tasks or goals did we present to our participants. We may have asked them to accomplish a particular goal, or we may have wanted to find out how long it would take them to accomplish a certain goal. 
  • Results: We’ll describe every finding as a result. Our focus will be on the most commonly encountered bottlenecks.
  • Potential subsequent questions: A usability test could lead to additional questions. We’ll document these so that you can refer to them easily when planning subsequent tests.

7. Prioritizing the results.

Ultimately, you’ll end up with an overview of all test results. In most cases, it will be impossible to come up with solutions or improvements for all issues at once. Which is why we gladly meet to go over the results together. So that we can help you prioritize. Makes all the difference!

But what IS important? There are several ways to make this clear. We could, for instance, keep track of how many subjects struggled with certain tasks. That way, you could give priority to tasks that proved to be more complicated than others. 

An impact/effort matrix helps prioritize

We could also create an impact/effort matrix for you. You’ll then be able to prioritize based on

  • The impact of an optimization: how many people struggled with a particular task and how much of an impact will a solution have. 
  • The effort an optimization requires: how much time will designing & developing the solution for this particular issue take.

That way, we’ll end up with a backlog of optimizations that we can tackle one by one. The result? A website that keeps improving. Both in the way it resonates with your target group and how it helps you accomplish your online ambition!

An impact/effort matrix can help prioritize the outcomes of usability testing

Getting excited about usability testing? 

Have these tips gotten you all excited and can’t you wait to get started to test your website? We like! We would be thrilled to tackle this with you. Reach out to us and let’s discuss the possibilities. Some basic usability can already be realized within one day!!.

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