Sometimes it feels like you only get a chance to do user testing as part of a development project, and you haven’t really managed to make it part of ‘business as usual’.
An easy place to start with making user testing a regular part of your work is with a six-monthly or yearly healthcheck (Steve Krug recommends monthly checks) for the parts of your site that have to do the most work (such as your homepage, important section pages, and your search and search results).
A homepage healthcheck is also a good place to start if you’re using an online usability testing tool like IntuitionHQ for the first time.
You’ll learn how to pose questions to elicit useful answers from testers, and also get information you can use to make both quick tweaks and longer term plans for changes to your homepage.
Test the basics
Ask yourself ‘What are the five most common things people do when they come to my homepage?‘ and then write tests around these tasks. You’re likely to come up with questions around things like:
- Finding contact details
- Going to news or job vacancies section
- Finding event information
- Finding pricing information
- Getting to your most popular products/offering/tools (depending on what kind of website you run).
Now write test questions to uncover how well people can figure out how to start these tasks from your homepage. Remember not to influence your testers by tipping them off with keywords in your questions.
For example, if contact details on your website are available from a link titled ‘Contact Details’, don’t ask ‘Where would you click to to find our contact details?’. Instead, try something like ‘Where would you click to find our phone number?’.
Likewise, if you have job listings under a tab called ‘Vacancies’, don’t ask ‘Where would you click to find out about current vacancies?’. Instead, try putting testers into a scenario like ‘Imagine you’re interested in working at ‘company name’. Where would you click to find out whether there were any jobs available?’.
Test first impressions
Why not try being a bit more creative with your questions? You could start your test by asking people to ‘Click on the first thing that catches your eye on this page’ and get a feeling for what people focus on when they first visit your website.
Ask testers to ‘Click on what you think is the most important piece of information on this page’ to find out if your information hierarchy is working.
Test for speed
Hopefully, the people you’re testing will find your questions pretty easy. That’s a good thing – the whole job of your homepage is to get people to where they want to go as quickly as possible.
So as well as looking at how successfully people accomplish the tasks you set them, look at how quickly they accomplish them. IntuitionHQ records how long it takes people to answer questions on tests, and presents this as an average.
This means you can spot underlying problems. It’s great if 96% of people can successfully find your contact details; it’s not so great if it takes them nearly a minute to do so (imagine how frustrating that is for a person who just wants to call you).
Your first test will tell you one of two things:
- Your homepage is working really well just as it is;
- Or, there are some areas that people have problems with.
Either of these findings are great. The first means you can move on to testing the other parts of your site. The second means you can start thinking about how to make people’s experience on your homepage better.
Before you make changes, you could run another round of testing using the improved homepage and the original questions; that way, you’ll be able to compare previous performance to performance on the new design or wording.
If you’re just getting started with user testing, you might find some of these articles helpful
- Getting started with user testing in 7 easy steps
- An introduction to user testing – why and when
- An introduction to user testing – focused on online tools and how to craft questions
- Usability testing: what to test?
- A/B testing and preference testing – what does it all mean?
Do you have questions about getting started with usability testing? We’d love to help answer any questions you might have, and we’ve got lots of great resources we can direct you to as well.
We’d also love to hear your stories about your own experiences with usability testing, and how your homepage healthcheck worked out, so be sure to let us know in the comments below. Happy testing!