Website Usability Testing

Mar 31, 2016

Usability testing can be time-consuming, but not difficult. In the past, the Genuine UX team had done traditional, in-person-moderated usability testing. However, with the industry shift to Lean UX and quick prototyping and testing process, we have been taking a faster approach to testing without sacrificing quality by using an online testing service. Here are a few things we have learned along the way.

Before the test

Understand your timeline

It takes about a week to write your tasks, create a screener, and prep your prototype. If you use one of the testing tools for recruitment, you can get users in less than 24 hours to complete the test. If you are recruiting outside of the tool, you may need to build in another week to get an email sent out or pop-up on the website with the link to your test.

Know your budget

Online tools can have a range of different costs. We have found that it costs anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 to recruit. Define your budget and explore your testing options.

Choose the tool works for you

There are quite a few tools out there. Select the one that meets your needs and budget. Here at Genuine, we’re fond of, but here is a list of some other options: Notable (Zurb), FiveSecondTest, Sprint (by dscout), Usersthink, UsabilityProvider, UsabilityHub, Userbrain, Userbob, Userzoom, 99Tests, UXeria, Validately, Userfeel, TrymyUI, Userlytics, Whatusersdo.

Prepping for the test

Writing the tasks

Make sure the the tasks/questions avoid leading the test-taker as much as possible. Be sure to craft open-ended questions that guide the tester to a decision-making process you would most likely see in the wild with “real” users (eg: DO: “You are interested in learning more about who this company is and what they do. So where do you go?” DON’T: “Go to the About Us section of the site and tell us what this company is and what they do.”)
Don’t jump around in your tasks. Users get frustrated when they can’t find the information that they’re looking for, so structure your tasks in a linear fashion that people would actually use to look through your website. Write the tasks as if you’re crafting a story.

Creating a screener

If possible, create a screener based on your target personas or audiences for the site. We are always skeptical of having testers who have not been honest about who they are. Creating a screener helps to weed out any unsavory characters that just looking to make a buck. We like to ask questions like, “How would you describe your day-to-day Internet usage in your job?” to make sure we have users who would interact with the website.  

Preparing the prototype

Making sure that the prototype is fully clickable and has a logical flow can be time consuming. We find that it is important to make sure everything is clickable within our prototypes. If an element links to a page that is not built out, direct users to a reset page thanking them for their selection and instructing them to return to the homepage to resume the test. This helps to minimize the testers’ confusion and frustration when they look for answers to the question in parts of the prototype that may not be built out.

Focus on microinteractions — using hover-states on buttons and slide-out animations for menus go a long way in conveying the functionality.

Preparing the tester

Prepare user for what they are and are not testing. (e.g. Please note, you will be testing a prototype of wireframes for a website that has not yet been developed, so there may be placeholder content (e.g. there may be a grey box with the word “Image” on it where an image will eventually be). We are most interested in feedback related the structure and overall ability of this site to be able answer its users’ basic set of questions. Please keep this in mind when giving feedback.) We think it might even help to have disclaimer text somewhere subtly on wireframes to remind users as they test. It is best to be clear and upfront to try to eliminate any confusion or bias from the user.

This is especially important for websites that are marketing products. It’s important to remind users to focus on what’s on the website rather than commenting on the features of the products.

After the test

Take breaks

When watching the results, take breaks. If you find yourself saying: “come OOOONNN – pleeeeeease just press that GIANT BUTTON that’s right in front of yoouuuuuu” – it may be time to take a break.

Don’t take the feedback personally

By the user-testing phase, the wireframes have become your baby. You have put countless hours of blood, sweat and tears into those wireframes. Think of the user feedback less like losing a loved one and more like giving your baby everything it needs to succeed out in the world. As Richard Branson said, “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” When watching the results, keep an open mind; and as best you can, try and separate yourself from the work the testers are giving feedback on.

Quantity not quality

Feedback quality can vary, but you’d be surprised, even if 90% of a tester’s feedback is low-quality or non-applicable, 10% may be golden, or even just contribute to the larger pool of data points you might find a compelling insight from. It is important to look for clusters of themes or trends from your users. Don’t focus on one particular user, but see if there are commonalities that are emerging.

Create a findings document or highlights reel

Are you seeing that users are getting tripped up over not having hover-states on links? Do certain elements not look clickable to users? If you have video clips to support this, all the better! Make sure you create a finding like, “Improve visibility of system status and micro-interactions.” Be clear where you are going to make changes to the prototype based on your findings.

Hopefully this helped improve your confidence with creating a fast, quality test, and gave you the tools you need to crush your next usability test. Good luck testing!

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