In Praise of Usability Testing

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post with an urgent message – you MUST do usability testing on your website.

Although it might sound daunting—and expensive—usability testing is nothing more than a fancy term for getting an objective opinion. As the wonderful Steve Krug (who has a PhD in Awesome) has pointed out, usability testing doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. And it always gives you insight into how you can improve your site.

Last week at Innate, we conducted formal usability testing sessions with a client who’s redesigning a site for a very specific audience. In testing just seven users over the course of two days, we found—happily—that users had a quite positive reaction to the site. Much more importantly, however, we identified several, crucial, forehead-slap inducing changes that we need to make. These changes aren’t huge, and they won’t be difficult to fix, but without getting objective opinions from the target audience, we wouldn’t have known that there was a problem to fix (at least, not until the redesigned site was launched—and that’s too late).

At Innate, we regularly do formal testing sessions on behalf of clients, but we also do informal testing as well — and it’s always revealing and useful

So, how can you get the benefits of usability testing? Easy.

  • Round up five people who aren’t familiar with your site. Ideally, they’ll be somewhat representative of your target audience.
  • Ask them to look at your site and give some general impressions
  • See if they can perform two or three key tasks (buying a product, finding a contact form, etc.)
  • Take some notes

That’s it.

I guarantee that if you get five people to give you an objective opinion about your site, you’ll come away with ways to improve it. Maybe your site just needs few tweaks, or maybe it needs some bigger fixes. Either way, knowledge is power.

If you want to learn more about usability testing, check out Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.

Need more help? Contact us — we’re always happy to help.

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