How good is your website? That depends entirely on how well it works for the people who use it and the best way to make sure yours does the job it’s designed for is to carry out a usability test. Although usability tests are best done before a website is launched, it is possible to do them at any time as they will help you find ways to make your site even better. In this post, we’ll look at ten ways to make your usability test more effective.
1. Choose participants carefully
Your website will have been created to target a specific type of visitor, so when undertaking the usability test, it is always better to get participants who represent your user groups. At the same time, you will also want to ensure that you have an inclusive website, so it is worth testing how your website works for people that may have accessibility issues. Finally, you also want participants that are going to give you valuable feedback rather than leaving those key questions blank.
2. Number of participants
Research in the past has indicated that when it comes to usability testing, you only need a small number of participants, around three to five, to discover most of the problems your website has. Any more people and you often find diminishing returns.
3. Be clear about your aims
To get the most from your usability test, you need to let the participants know exactly what the test is trying to discover, what things you want them to do and what things you want the test to achieve in the long run. This way, they will be guided in how they approach the test and will be able to give feedback that better serves your aims.
4. Check both mobile and desktop versions of your website
The significant increase in the number of people using mobile devices to access the internet means it is imperative that you run two separate versions of your usability tests, one for the mobile version of your site and one for the desktop version. You will often find that some responsive themes that work flawlessly on desktop aren’t quite as user-friendly on smartphones. Running tests on both will help uncover these issues.
5. Create the right tests
What should you be testing? Rather than think up random tests, the best route today is to make use of all the analytics data you already have about your website to look for potential problems. Where are people leaving your website? Where are the cart abandonments taking place? Why do certain groups of people do things in different ways? Why do you get lots of foreign visitors but few foreign purchases?
By carefully looking at your analytics data, you will be able to see where some of the potential usability issues lie and, importantly, will be able to prioritise the ones you want to look at. These areas can then be built into the test.
If the website is new and you don’t have this analytics data, then the key priorities should be things like ease of finding and buying products, navigating through the site, contacting the business and so forth.
6. Don’t lead participants
While you may have your concerns about the way your website works for your users, you should avoid trying to lead them in how they undertake the test. This could create biases in the way they perceive the site, resulting in them simply corroborating your theories and in other problems not being discovered. Let the participants find their own issues with the site without your influence. This way, what you discover will be genuine.
7. Have a facilitator and note taker
Ideally, you should have two people watching the test. One should be the facilitator, someone who ensures that the test is taking place effectively and going to plan, the other focusing on the test and taking notes. At the end, the facilitator can write down their notes too and combine these with the notes already taken and the responses of the participants.
The notes are useful as there may be valuable things that the participants say or do during the test that they forget about at the end. Having them allows testers to remind the participants and ask questions.
8. Try to get quantitative and qualitative results
While small scale usability tests like these are great for providing detailed and valuable qualitative data, it can help a great deal when you try to turn some of this into quantitive data too – especially when you want to formulate actionable improvements to your website. Rather than simply asking for yes and no answers for some of your questions, the best way to deliver more accurate and informative qualitative results is to ask for responses on a scale – either using numbers 1 to 5 or by listing scalable options (e.g., very easy, easy, neither easy nor hard, hard, very hard). For example, on a scale of 1 to 5, how easy would you say it was to check out from our website?
9. Prioritising answers
While you may have questions you want to ask, one way to get a more detailed understanding of the issues your website has is to ask your participants to look at the list of questions and to rank them in order of priority. Doing this will point out straight away which of the issues on your site are the ones they see as needing to be addressed first in any website redevelopment.
10. A series of short tests
Studies have shown that usability tests that last longer than 25 minutes have higher incidents of participant drop-off. This is because most humans can only concentrate fully for about 25 minutes without being distracted. Ideally, therefore, instead of doing one long test where the participants lose interest and will be unable to provide high-quality feedback, do more shorter tests.
Anyone with a website will want to know that it works well for the people for whom it is intended, even more so in an age where user experience is so important to acquiring and retaining customers. One of the best ways to do this is to conduct usability tests of your website that can point out areas where improvements are needed. Hopefully, this post will have shown you some of the ways to make your usability tests more effective.
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