Commonly said to be the UX mantra, one might say that usability testing is a way of life among those in the field of UX, however, for those who are not, testing is largely an ignored process often bypassed in the pursuit of optimisation. There are many various methods used to test aspects of designs, however I want to focus on the where, when and why I would implore everyone to Test, Tweak and Test again.
What is usability testing?
In its most simple form, usability testing is about evaluating a products design by testing it on users to measure how ‘usable’ or ‘intuitive’ it is with respect to how easy it is for users to ultimately reach their goals. As I mentioned, there are lots of various forms of testing such as quick guerrilla/corridor testing (where you utilise fellow office members for quick questions), to eye-tracking (monitoring what part of a screen people’s eyes focus on), and A/B or Multivariate testing (where alternative variations of a website are shown to users and performance is measured) to name but a few.
Despite the numerous options available, testing is still not as popular as it should be.
What can you learn from testing?
Every time we make any recommendations we highlight the importance of testing and the value it can bring. Not only can usability testing shine a light on potential issues within your site or help in understanding what is or isn’t working, it can allow a much broader understanding of what your users are doing and how they interact with your site.
By understanding your customers and how they think, you are then able to make changes that can ultimately improve the brand experience increase visitor retention rates, decrease shopping cart leakage, and increase subsequent conversion rates all through small tweaks and testing. This is exactly how one major e-commerce site increased conversions 45%, by simply testing a different call to action.
When should you test?
Whether you are at the initial design stage planning a new website, preparing to redesign or developing an existing site, usability testing can help you identify any issues within your design to help you improve the performance and user experience of your site:
Initial design phase – running tests on initial designs can help eliminate potential obstacles to performance and ensure that ideas are logical and understandable prior to launch. Changes at this stage are also less costly.
Redesign phase – Pinpointing the obstacles within a site that are causing problems can sometimes be hard to identify. Testing the old design can help identify what needs changing and what to keep the same.
Development/optimisation phase – iterative testing can be carried out throughout the lifecycle of a site not only ensuring all areas of the site reach their optimal performance levels and in turn provide the best user experience possible but also ensuring you gather fresh information, and keep up to pace with the ever evolving web. Steve Krug even states that websites should test at least once a month.
To us, testing is not a onetime effort, but an iterative process that should be part of every websites development cycle. No matter how perfect your site may be things can always be improved and Testing, Tweaking and Testing again will help identify how.