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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.

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