Usability Testing

Usability (user) testing is an invaluable tool for measuring how well people can use your website.

What is usability testing?

Usability testing involves watching people trying to use your website. A scenario is presented to the user and they attempt to perform a list of tasks within that scenario, while observers watch and take notes (or record the test).

Why usability test?

When designing or working on a website it is easy to become overly familiar with it, and therefore make too many assumptions.

By testing your site, with targeted users, you can often uncover obvious problems as well as more subtle issues.

How to usability test your site

Usability testing can be as simple as sitting behind somebody trying to perform a task on your website, or as sophisticated as using eye-tracking software.

The simple steps to setting up a usability test are to:

  • Identify the part of the site you want to test.

  • Write a scenario and list of tasks based around your main target audience for that part of your site.

  • Recruit testers - preferably people from or close to your main target audience, and preferably people with little or no experience of your website.

  • Brief the users on the scenario and the task you wish them to perform.

  • Watch what happens! (without interfering)

It really can be that simple, although with the amount of observations you are likely to make during a single test it is very useful if you can record it to review later. But, it is possible to test your site on a relatively small budget, with a small number of people and in a relatively short space of time.

We plan to develop this section of the website over the next few months but here are some web links to get you started.

Learn About Usability Testing - Usability.gov

Cost of User Testing a Website - useit.com

Why You Only Need to Test With 5 Users - useit.com

Usability testing - Wikipedia entry