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Usability testing: What to test

Posted by Jacob Creech on May 24th, 2011

 
When you have decided that you want to usability test, one of the first things you have to consider is what you are going to usability test. Although this may sound like a very straightforward question, there are a number of facets you need to consider to make your test successful and to ensure you are testing the right things.

Of course, what you are trying to test can vary a lot depending on the product or service you are working on, but there are some simple rules that you can follow to ensure you get the best, most effective results you can from your testing process.

What to consider when usability testing:

What do users do on your site/service?

Do you know what your users do when they come to your site or are using your service? How do they get from place to place? What sort of information are they trying to find? Do they follow the path that you’d imagine?

There a number of different ways you can work this out, but one of the easiest is looking at your analytics data. Not using analytics? Check out Clicky (which has free and premium options) for a great, user friendly analytics experience.

Clicky analytics - what are users looking for?

Use your analytics data to see what's popular.

From your analytics data you can get an idea of where users are going, how they are getting there, and how long they spend in each place. If you discover all of your users are looking for your contact information, then you might want to make your contact information more prominent. If you find everyone is using your search box in order to find a certain your blog or your about page, you might consider making those areas more prominent.

Try this on for an exercise: ask a friend or family member to use your site or service, and see if they can complete some common tasks. If they can complete the tasks, did they use the method that you would have thought? If they didn’t complete it, what tripped them up? You’d be surprised at the huge array of different ways people complete seemingly simple or obvious tasks.

Chrome - searching for google

Google-ing for Google. Yes, it happens.

To this day, I never cease to be astounded by the amount of people who type ‘Google’ into the Chrome address bar, or even into the Firefox ‘Search’ bar. You will find the same astounding things by testing on your own site.

Once you’ve seen how your users really use your site, and the sort of information that they are looking for, you can then think of testing questions that will cover these points, and using your test results, you can streamline the process to make it as efficient and enjoyable as possible. You will be surprised how large a difference even a few small changes can make to your users.

What do you want users to achieve?

What are you goals for your site or service? What do you want users to do when they arrive? What do you want them to achieve?

Goal: sign up for IntuitionHQ

We want users to sign up to IntuitionHQ. Hint.

Write down a list of goals, and think of all the things that are really important for your site or service. It might be subscribing to your RSS feed, it might be finding your blog content, it might be a link to your LinkedIn profile. Whatever it is, however many points there are, write them all down and then go ahead and test them.

If your users can manage to do all these simple tasks in good time, then you don’t need to worry, but in my experience 99.9% of sites and have some sort of tweaks they could make that would improve the overall experience of using the site.

Google vs Bing Usability Test

Look at the average click time and the location of clicks. A clear win for Google.

In our recent comparison of the Google and Bing search engines (the UI, not the actual search results) we found a number of small tweaks that even major search engines like these could make. It may not sound like much, but each second you shave off, or each time you make a small tweak that makes things easier to find or understand, a user is that much more likely to return to your site, or to use your app.

Of course, the more that users can achieve your goals, that happier you should be as well, so it’s definitely worth testing to ensure that this is happening.

What are the important features of the site/app?

As well as the important goals that you’d like people achieve, there are also probably a number of things you’d like users to notice on your site. Can they even tell what the site is about when the arrive there? Can they find your pricing page? Can they find the sign up or sign in button?

Easy website usability testing - IntuitionHQ

We want people to remember our tagline, and to have easy access to important pages

You know best what are the most important features, that along with your previously mentioned goals that you would like users to notice. If even a small percentage of people can’t find the pricing page, this might prevent them from signing up and have an impact on your bottom line. There are many apps and services that I’ve come across that seem to be lacking a pricing page, or the link to it is impossible to find – it’s enough to prevent me signing up, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. A quick test will show just how visible your pricing page is.

What about the message you want users to take away after viewing your site? Why not ask them what element of your site stands out the most? When users come to the IntuitionHQ site, we want them to remember that we are a quick, easy usability testing service. What do you want your users to remember? Do a test to make sure the message they are taking away is what you want it to be.

What next?

 
Once you’ve considered all the important points of your site, what the users are looking for, and what you’d like them to achieve, make a list and think of questions you can use to test each point. If you’ve got a couple of different ideas you’d like to test against each other, why not run an A/B test? Want to see what your users prefer? A preference test will help you out there.

Our experience shows that tests with 15 or less questions are much more effective and less likely to have a drop off in respondents. Any more than 15 questions and users start to get distracted. Think of the most important points and try and fit them all into one test. If you have many more than 15 points, run a second test.

Think carefully about the wording of your questions, and keep an eye out for our upcoming post on writing great questions for usability tests. Try not to lead your users in a certain direction with the way in which you word your questions, or your results will lose some validity.

Hopefully this post gives you some ideas about what you should be testing and why it’s important. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help you out. Happy testing.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed for more great usability testing tips and advice, as well as our upcoming article on how to write great questions for usability testing. Thanks for dropping by!

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  • http://speckyboy.com/designnews/usability-testing-what-to-test/ Usability testing: What to test | Speckyboy Design Magazine

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  • Renske

    If you are an Android user and using Google Analytics, I can really recommend the Analytix app:  http://www.dibbus.com/archives/821 It’s great in both design and usability.

  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    Thanks very much for sharing, Renske. It looks like a great tool.

  • http://twitter.com/usabiliTEST Sergey S, CUA

    To help with Information Architecture (AI) — ask your users how they would arrange and group your information. It may make your site a lot more usable. One of the common practices is Card Sorting. You can do it in person or online: http://www.usabilitest.com/

  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    Hi Sergey,

    Thanks for sharing. Card sorting is really a very useful exercise – great to see some new online tools in that space. We’ll keep an eye on your site for sure. Cheers.

  • http://freehouseinteriordesignideas.com/ interior designing

    I was curious on the heat maps and getting clicks since I wouldn’t see this in ordinary analytics. I wonder if the website usability also includes heat maps like I have seen above. In comparing Bing and Google, I thought Google has an advantage but then many people who couldn’t access Google might have been relying on Bing searches.