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Get started with usability testing in 7 simple steps

Posted by Jacob Creech on January 28th, 2011

I recently gave a presentation to a group of communications managers from local non-profit organisations. While they all had a reasonable understanding of what usability is, most were unaware of how to test usability, how to make changes to improve usability, and how to get themselves started with a usability testing process.

I think many people suffer from this problem. They like the idea of making there sites more usable, but they just don’t know how to get themselves started. So with all of this in mind, I put a brief presentation together to try and help people get started with understanding usability testing, what it is, how it works, and how, who and when to test. You can see the presentation below:

Key points:

Make the most of everyone you can
After our discussion there were a few key points that really stuck out. Most people don’t realise you can started with your usability testing simply by asking a friend, family member or colleague for some quick feedback, or even just observing how they interact with your site. Making observations and seeing how people interact with your site can really show you what is or isn’t working properly. Of course, the other beauty of this is that it doesn’t take any time to set up, and testing only takes as long as watching someone play around with your website. You can send out a question or test on your Facebook or Twitter feeds, in your newsletters, through your RSS feed, in forums you frequent, or any other way you can think of. Just ask, and you’ll find a lot of people are willing to share their views.

When doing this kind of testing, you can either sit back and watch how people interact with your site, or try and prompt them towards completing certain tasks – find our contact details, how much does such and such a product cost – let your imagination run wild. People really do interact with sites in a huge number of different ways – some will search for the product, some will look for certain categories, some will go through all the navigation menus looking for the product – and what you can learn from this is how your process stacks up. Was it easy for people using all of these different methods to find a certain product? Do you even have a search feature? What should the user do if they can’t find the information they are after? All of these things need to be considered.

El Card Sorting también resulta divertido para todos

Try card sorting exercises
Card sorting exercises can be really useful for sorting out this kind of categorisation. Make some kinds with different products and categories (or articles, or anything else that relates to your site) and ask how people think things should be structured. Maybe you would have thought everyone would look in category A for product x, but you find most people look in category B instead. This is useful, actionable information that you can use.

Use the web
As well as soliciting feedback from Facebook, Twitter et al, you can also search around for information on whatever specific topic you are interested in. There are tons of great, cheap testing tools (I’d suggest IntuitionHQ of course) that you can check out. There are a range of fantastic communities you can turn to for feedback – the great Stackexchange sites are a great starting point. The point is, the web is full of useful information, helpful people (yes, and some not so helpful ones as well), and more fantastic resources than you could shake a stick at. Make the most of it.


Listen to feedback
Another point is to consider all feedback that you receive. All feedback is useful feedback. The chances are that if one user has take the trouble to write to you about an issue that dozens more are experiencing it. When you receive this kind of feedback, the least you can try and do is try and test it. If you find an issue, make changes. It will improve the usability of your site.

Don’t be afraid to make changes
Once you’ve observed peoples interactions, received their feedback and heard their opinions, don’t be afraid to make changes. You can keep making small changes to improve the usability of your website, rather than letting everything pile up on top of you.

Know your audience
If you are making a knitting website, the experience should be markedly different than if you were making a programming website. Know your audience, try and learn how they interact with the internet. Making profiles or personas can be a very helpful exercise so you can better understand who is using your site, and what kind of experience they would be expecting when they come to your site. You can come up with several different profiles, and try and optimise the site for how each one of them interacts with your site.

Do it now
The worst thing you can do after sitting here and reading this is not doing anything. You should go out now, ask anyone what they think of your site. Think of some key things that anyone should be able to accomplish on your site, and then ask your friend, family member, workmate, Twitter follower or whoever else to try and complete those tasks. Observe their interactions. Use a web tool like IntuitionHQ. Get their feedback on what they think does or doesn’t work. The point is do it, and do it now. And then prioritise and action all that feedback that you receive.

The final point

Everyone experiences the web in different ways. Everyone has a different understanding of how things should work. Think about the way you use the web compared to friends, family, workmates etc. and how different that is from your own experience. I often use ‘the mum test’ – what does my mum think of the site, how does she interact with it, how does she navigate through it, can she complete whatever task is required when she goes to the site… Try doing a mum test of your own, and get started testing your own sites. You’ll be amazed what you find.

I’ll leave you with this video which will hopefully help to explain just how different people see the web, and hopefully it will help you understand just how different everyone is and how different our understandings can be.

Images from Flickr users: mario_carvajal, hikingartist

Questions? Comments? Be sure to let us know in the comments below. And if you want to get a head start on your usability testing, why not head over to IntuitionHQ, sign up for an account, and test your own start. A more usable web starts now.


Usability Tweets of the Week

Posted by Jacob Creech on January 28th, 2011

Lots of interesting information floating around this week, a couple of neat videos, and even a very accurate quote to keep you going for the next week. If you’ve got any other tweets, links or information you’d like to see on this list, be sure to let us know.

And without further ado, our tweets of the week:

A great video on UX design and what it is. Very pretty: http://vimeo.com/19131028 #ux #usability #webdesign #UI

Some really good pointers for improving readability on your website: http://bit.ly/gfYY0Q #usability via @palleman

Get started with usability testing in 7 simple steps: http://ow.ly/3LzXL #usability #UX #usertesting #howto

Ok, this is a post I wrote, but I think it’s well and truly worth a read. Pick up some quick tips so you can get yourself started on a path to a more usable future.

Fixing the AVG interface in just one minute: http://youtu.be/JEHh3grnj0Y #UX #UXTips

The password reset experience http://wfapm.com/e31XpQ #ux #usability #UXTips via @jayphilips

Interesting post on how you can greatly improve the password reset user experience. Check it out if you’re interested in UX.

Great examples: Where have you been all my life Little Big Details? http://j.mp/fDklDx #ux #usability #design #details via @nickdenardis

Fantastic site which points out all the sites that use little details to make sites great. I’ve bookmarked it, and you should too.

Great post: Elevator Logic Applied To Web and Mobile Design http://bit.ly/gbHuOy #UX #Usability #UCD via @ponscreative

Some useful information you could learn from here. I’m not always convinced any logic is applied to some design – hopefully people can learn from this.

And Lastly, our quote of the week:

Quote of the day: “To err is human, but they’ll blame you.” #Usability #FML #UX via @zomgitsmeredith

Have a great weekend everyone, and be sure to check back next time round for some more great tweets on usability.

Any other links, tweets or information you’d like to see here? Send us a tweet @IntuitionHQ and we’ll be sure to add them next time round


Update – all issues resolved

Posted by Jacob Creech on January 21st, 2011

Update: All issues have been resolved, and we’ve made changes to ensure we won’t encounter the same issues in the future. Thanks everyone for you patience while we addressed this issue.

Wish you all a happy weekend.


We’re having issues with our servers at the moment, and are currently working hard to resolve the issues. We’ll keep posting updates here, and on our twitter feed at IntuitionHQ.

If you have any questions or problems, please let us know and we’ll do our best to sort them out for you.

Please accept our apologies, thanks for your understanding.


The team from IntuitionHQ.


Usability tweets of the week

Posted by Jacob Creech on January 14th, 2011

The holidays are over, and the world of usability keeps on ticking over. I hope you all had a good break and are raring to go now.

We’ve got some great tweets this week to help you get back into the swing of things – hopefully you can pick up some useful information and tips to start the new year with.

If you have any news or information you’d like to share, please do let us know – the more good information we can gather here the better

On to the tweets:

Why Organizing Your House is a Lot Like Organizing Your Website by @jmpineda http://ow.ly/3COOh #usability #UX

Simple concept, but I guess a lot of people consider themselves experts when they aren’t. Hey, even if you are an expert, you can still learn new methods and techniques from others.

Saving time with usability testing – good to know for all involved in design: http://ow.ly/3Dqcc #usability #UX

This is a post from our blog – personally I think it’s very useful, and another good post to add to the arsenal when you are telling people about usability testing.

Top 10 Useful Usability articles for 2010 by @ctomlin http://ow.ly/3CaN1 #usability #UX

I always enjoy reading Craigs writing, and this list is good summary of information from him for 2010.

Icon fail: Which icon do you think should stand for ‘read mail’? http://i.imgur.com/rCftZ.png #usabilityfail #funny

Counter intuitive to me. Anyone else have an opinion?

Myspace’s UX-Induced Death http://bit.ly/gQjK3d #UX #Usability #UCD via @ponscreative

Interesting to see the slow demise of Myspace; this lets you see what went wrong from the inside.

How To Make Your Shopping Cart Suck Less http://bit.ly/eEj18y via @aschottmuller #usability #ecommerce #UX #funny

Some colourful language, but really very funny. Definitely worth a look.

60 Questions to Consider When Designing a Website: http://ow.ly/3Bo3T #content #webdesign #UX #usability

I always find it handy to have these kind of lists as a reference. I suppose it’s a good habit to get in to.

Very well said – The Relevance of User Experience: Using Every Opportunity to Impress Users http://ow.ly/3ANUW #usability #UX #marketing

Worth doing right is a mantra I think we can all agree with. Some nice examples here too.

Hopefully that’s enough to keep you going for this week. Be sure to let us know if you find any other good information floating about the net, or hit us up on twitter @IntuitionHQ. We’d love to know what you’ve been up to.

Wishing you a great year ahead,

The team at IntuitionHQ.


Saving time with usability testing

Posted by Jacob Creech on January 13th, 2011

Whenever I get to talking with people about usability testing, one thing that comes up is a fear that it will add both cost and time to your projects.

Many people have the misconception that usability testing is just for companies with huge budgets and long time frames for their work, and well this may have been true in the past, as with a range of other industries, usability has changed and become much more accessible with the advent of the internet.

There are now a wide range of usability testing tools available at the tip of your cursor, so to speak. Different tools offer different functionality, and depending on your project, will be more or less suitable for you. Selecting the right tool for the job makes a big difference, and is probably the hardest part of the whole process.

You can see some nice examples of what IntuitionHQ is great for in our screencast below:

The design process

Personally I like doing testing from the beginning of my design process, testing all the way from the initial sketches to the final designs. The fact is the more testing you do to start with, the less major changes (if any) you will have to make later on. This in itself will save you time; it’s obviously significantly easier to make changes to your initial sketches than it is to your photoshoped, coded design.

Choose a range of designs to upload and test
Choose a range of designs to upload and test

Design by committee

But you can save time in more ways than this as well. A very common complaint from designers is design by committee where a big group of non-designers gets together and tries to make decisions about what would work best for their site. Not only is this process painful, it’s also very time consuming, and often entirely unconstructive. Suppose you had data to back up your designs, and a way to test the alternatives, it would prevent these debates from happening in the first place and save you a whole lot of time in the process.

Colour schemes and wording

Suppose there is some discussion about colour schemes and wording for your particular site: this kind of thing can really be very subjective and can take a long time to sort out. Why not try running a quick test and gathering users preferences? As I said, setting up a test takes a couple of minutes, and then you can use the results to definitely prove one way or another what works best, and take a fraction of the time to do it.

Navigation layout and structure

Navigation layout and structure is another common issue that pops up. Many people will have opinions on what they think is best for each particular site, but the thing is, each site has it’s own specific audience and ways they are used to interacting with a certain site or genre of sites. Basically, everyone is used to interacting with sites in certain ways, based on their own experiences and habits. No matter how experienced you are in UX and usability testing, you can’t always make a judgement about what is best for a certain site. The quickest, easiest and most optimised way to work this out is with a usability test.

Test navigation layout
Test your navigation layout and text to see what works best

For example, in IntuitionHQ you could upload two and more different navigation layouts or navigation layouts and ask users to click on the one they prefer. We are also in the process of introducing a feedback form so that if you choose, users could leave comments about their preferences, or even if they had their own suggestions, which you could also go on and test. This saves you contemplating lots of different options, gives the users a beter experience with the final design, and generally sorts out a lot of issues that are likely to pop up while you are designing and developing your site.

To sum up:

These are just a few of the ways in which you can save time by using usability testing. Everyone has their own situations in which using usability testing can be equally well applied. Why not have a bit of a think about your sites and see if you can’t improve on them a bit as well?

And the last marketing blurb: a test with IntuitionHQ costs you just $9 a test, and that includes unlimited questions/tasks, unlimited screenshots and unlimited responses. All that for $9, and saving you a ton of time and pain too. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Any questions about usability testing or IntuitionHQ? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

Happy testing all.