Picture the scenario – you’ve had your website designed. You like it a lot. But how user friendly is it? Do certain pages have a tendency to repel rather than entice? Is your bounce rate higher than you anticipated? What about that comprehensive contact form: is it a nightmare for users to complete?
Once a design is signed off, or a project is live, this aspect often gets overlooked. OK, so your budget is tight and your launch date is even tighter. We get it – ignorance is bliss. But how much time, money and resources are you wasting backing a website without absolute certainty it does what it’s designed to do?
While User Testing might feel like a luxury add-on you can do without, it can often be a game changer.
Why is User Testing important ?
If your website is more complex than a super simple brochure-style website, user testing is imperative, especially if you rely on online bookings, sales leads, sign-ups and transactions. In fact, in these instances, not carrying one out is pretty much neglectful. Why? User testing reveals issues you could never possibly be aware of. You might think you’ve ticked all the boxes and that your final design is as close to perfect as it’s going to get, but one user test can easily throw a spanner in the works.
Without them, website systems are simply the educated guesses of designers and developers.
While these people are highly knowledgeable, it’s not about what they like, it’s about the preferences of the user.
How does User Testing work in practice?
A test usually involves observing a user as they attempt to complete tasks on the website in question. This can also be done for different interfaces and even different physical products.
It’s not something you usually do once either, it’s typically repeated from early development stages right through to the release date. Sometimes even beyond that.
The earlier you identify user experience problems, the better. That’s why user testing is most often conducted on prototypes.
Here’s what you can expect to happen during a test:
- The moderator gives a participant a series of tasks to perform in relation to the design – each task represents actions an average end-user would undertake once the website goes live.
- The moderator then observes the actions of each participant, recording the session so it can be viewed again later or by others.
- Once the recording has been analysed, the results get compiled. This will cover points of interest such as any aspects that caused problems, the severity of the issue as well as positive responses to certain aspects of the design.
- The design is then amended accordingly and tested again.
Remember – any testing is better than no testing!
One basic and really quick way to test – even on basic brochure websites – is to ask users this question: What do you expect to happen when you click on this?
Understanding a user’s expectations and the level of intuitiveness of a design is massively insightful. If you ask multiple participants the same series of questions, patterns start to emerge and you can ensure your web design gets corrected so it mimics their expectations. When it comes to homepage testing, ask: What do you think this website is about and what do you think you can do on this website? This will help you really get in the mind of the user and will help to improve their overall experience.
Remember, a homepage acts like a shop window – they’ll either come inside or move right along. You need to check they understand the basic premise of what your business offers (and quickly before they lose interest).
A basic example
Q: What do you think this website is about and what do you think you can do on this website?
A: I think this website is about camping equipment. I can read articles, which will give me advice about camping and buying tents as well as other miscellaneous equipment.
When do you carry out User Testing?
While it’s preferable to test prototypes and initial drafts regularly while development of a new website is underway, it is in fact never too late to test your website – even if it has been active for weeks, months or years. It can also be tested at any point on a project.
Got a website up and running? Try it for yourself. It doesn’t take long.