What is a usability test?

If you have a website you want the users to spend as much time as possible on it and that they end up visiting the most valuable section for your business, don’t you? That depends on how the content is structured, the clarity of the menus and links, and the visual elements you display within every page. Website usability testing is a way to ensure the interaction of the user with your business website is correct because the user does whatever you want them to do there.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”8HAic” via=”no” ]”Usability rules the web. Simply stated, if the customer can’t find a product, then he or she will not buy it.” @Jakob Nielsen[/ctt]

A website usability test is not just about others giving their opinion about your site, but it is a test to check how easy navigating through a site is, detect loading problems, the way that the user understands the content, how visible the brand is, etc. Observe the steps a user takes to go from one point of the site to another.

To perform a good usability test does not require a big budget or more than five people. The process can be as homemade as you want. Take five of your friends and relatives (one is better than nobody) and the more similar to your target audience the better. Sit beside them while they are navigating through your site and take note of what they do.

Another good idea can be to create a Hangout or Skype call, sharing the screen. In this way you will be able to see how exactly they are moving around your site, how they go from one section to another and make questions at the same time. These sessions shouldn’t last less than 15 min, enough time to test how comfortable the user is in your site.

Choose tasks with a clear objective

Before starting the usability test, you should have chosen the task you are going to suggest to your testers. It is pointless to let them navigate without direction as the goal is to detect problems when trying to get the user goes to go to the section of the site that is more interesting for achieving your business objectives.

Basic recommendations on usability

There are some basic things a website has to offer if you don’t want your visitors to go away two minutes after reaching your site.
Your site proposal, what the site is about. It is so frustrating when you are not able to say if you are looking at a company, NGO or a blog!
Keep a balance between information and design. Both elements should work together to make the site friendlier. Too much colors or videos can weaken the power of the content.
Take care of your links. Review if the old links are working because otherwise you can be sending your users away.
Include calls-to-action. It is proven that most of the users don’t read a site, they scan it. Because of that it is convenient to help them with highlighted information and identifiable buttons like “Click here”, “More information”.
Consistent design. The design of the site should be consistent. It is confusing when navigating through a page and then the next page is completely different or it doesn’t follow the standards of the rest of the site.
Readability. Maybe your web designer chose an original and creative font, but the important thing is the users can read it in a comfortable way. Not too small, not too bright. Spaces between lines and paragraphs make the reading easier and nicer, letting the user rest for a second on what they are reading.
Images. Let the user have a break when they are reading, but it must be a smart and appropriate rest. Images help to understand the text and should add value.

Elements of an effective usability test

A guru in website usability, Jackob Nielsen, developed the Heuristic method to identify any problems associated with the design of user interfaces. This system of website usability testing establishes rules to facilitate the use of any person in a website.

      1. Visibility of the system status. This means that the user should be informed about what is happening in a reasonable time.
      2. Relationship between the real world and the system. Don’t use an incomprehensible language for the user and display the information in a natural and logical order.
      3. User control and freedom. Do you remember the last time you spent 15 minutes completing an online purchase process, you press the incorrect button and you had to start over and you eventually didn’t buy anything because you were fed up? That was a site that didn’t pass a user control and freedom test.
      4. Consistency and standards. Web designers usually make the mistake of being so original that nobody understands their sites. For the important things, don’t change the rules and don’t use expressions in a call to action like “Complete the journey” when you mean “Buy a ticket”.
      5. Error prevention. Much better than design, a great accomplishment is designing a site that doesn’t cause errors.
      6. Recognition rather than recall. The instructions for using the site should be visible and accessible. It is important to save the user’s time going back and forth to remember the information displayed in the previous stage of their visit.Elements of user experience
      7. Flexibility and efficiency. Frequent users of a site usually accomplish the same actions. There are accelerations, unseen for a regular user, that make a faster interaction possible for expert users, like shortcuts to the most visited pages or display the last articles the user was interested about in the previous visit.
      8. Minimal design. There is no need to overload the page with irrelevant information. As Jackob says: “Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility”.
      9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors. It means that error messages should be recognizable and expressed in plain language. It shouldn’t be a very technical explanation and It should suggest how to exit out of the situation.

Good error message

    1. Help and documentation. The more intuitive the site is the better. However, sometimes it is necessary to add extra instruction to the user. That information has to be easily accessible and well structured and focused in orientated tasks instead of too many general questions. The point is to prevent the user from reading long explanations until they find the answer that they were looking for. A good example is Facebook; that doesn’t offer a personal user support service, but offers a Help section structured by topics where you can find solutions to the most common problems when using Facebook.

Facebook FQ section

Once a site passes all the tests above, it will be a great website in terms of user experience.

Remember that a good user experience is not just a strategy to make visitors stay longer on your site.. A great user experience can convert a visit into a purchase and earn your business a repeat customer. It is just a matter of applying common sense to web design and thinking as if you were a customer of your own site.

Contact us if you want to review the usability of your site or if you are thinking of creating a new user friendly site for your business.