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Posts Tagged ‘Usability’


If you’re going to San Francisco (for a startup)…

Posted by Jacob Creech on October 31st, 2011

As some of you may remember, we’ve won a trip to San Francisco and the time is soon approaching that we will be winging on our merry way. Nathan, the founder of IntuitionHQ, and I (Jake) will be heading over for a month from the 15th of November till the 12th of December.

We’ve got a few plans while we are there, but we’d love to take some time to meet our users, potential users and all interested parties while we are in the area. We’d also love your suggestions on what places to go (for business purposes, of course) while we are there. If you run a startup and you’ve done the SF thing before, we’d really love your advice on how to get the most value out of our trip.

We are going to be working out of The Landing Pad located in the SoMa District – you can see the location in the map below:


View Larger Map

While we’re in San Francisco, we are going to be living in the Mission District (and on the lookout for iPhone 5 prototypes), and we’re planning on getting bikes so we should be pretty mobile between home, the Landing Pad, and the rest of San Francisco.

If you are going to be in San Francisco between the 15th of November and 12th of December, we’d love to hear from you, and hopefully meet up while we are there. If you’d like to meet us and talk about usability, user experience, web design and the internet, hit us up. You can leave a comment on this page, email us, send us a Tweet @IntuitionHQ or leave a comment on our Facebook page.

If you’ve got any suggestions for places to go, and great tech/geek hangouts we’d love to hear those as well. Our month over there is going to be all about our business, so we’d love all and any suggestions that you might have.

See you soon in San Francisco.

Jake, Nathan and the team at IntuitionHQ.

 

Usability Interview: Jake Rocheleau

Posted by Jacob Creech on September 27th, 2011

Following on from our Interview with Jon Phillips of JonPhillips.ca, this time around we’ve got an interview with Jake Rocheleau.

Jake is a very prolific blogger (as a quick Google search will show), and his writing has been featured on a number of popular sites, including Speckyboy, WebDesignLedger, FreelanceSwitch and SixRevisions, along with many other great design blogs. If you’d like to hear more of his thoughts, I suggest you also check out his Twitter feed.

Please read on to see his answers, and to learn a little more about Usability in the design community:

An interview with Jake Rocheleau

User experience is truly the most important topic to consider because we build applications for the user. Without anybody to access the Internet our websites would empty scripts idling on a server somewhere. - Jake Rocheleau

Would you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

I’m a freelance writer and web developer out of eastern Massachusetts. I’m currently 20 years old, have been working in web design & development for about 5 years.

How did you get involved with usability/user experience/design?

I took my first class in basic HTML and web design at the age of 15. I quickly moved on to JavaScript/jQuery, CSS, and backend PHP/MySQL. This gave me the skills to build a couple web apps in my free time. This also introduced me to the world of freelancing where I began to work on a laundry list of UI design projects.

Why do you think usability and user experience are important?

User experience is truly the most important topic to consider because we build applications for the user. Without anybody to access the Internet our websites would empty scripts idling on a server somewhere. And it’s always simpler to make a good interface look pretty.

The study of building a productive user experience isn’t very tough, either. Most of the ideas are common sense processes. But it does take some practice to apply these into your own design work, for web or mobile or whatever.

Any words of wisdom to people learning about UX and usability?

Stay true to what you feel is right. You’ll always get scattered feedback from users, so take this with a grain of salt. Usability is always about the easiest and quickest route to completing a task. Keep this in mind when you design interfaces and you can’t go wrong!

Any favorite sites or resources you’d like to share?

Here are a few places I frequently visit:

What do you think?

How does this line up with your experience? Do you have any interesting insights to share? Who do you think we should interview in the future? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, on Twitter @IntuitionHQ, or at Facebook.com/IntuitionHQ.

Thanks again to Jake for answering our questions, and don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed to follow the next in our series of interviews.

Next in our series we have an interview with Des Traynor of Intercom.io – a fantastic web app for managing relationships with people in web apps, Contrast.ie, where he blogs about a lot of things related to design and usability, and on Twitter @DesTraynor. He’s a very interesting fellow, and I suggest you have a look at those two sites – you’ll immediately see how much care they put in to developing a great user experience.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

Usability Interview: Jon Phillips of JonPhillips.ca

Posted by Jacob Creech on September 16th, 2011

One thing we firmly believe in here at IntuitionHQ is learning from experience. We always try to share our views on all things usability, but often there is a lot of value in hearing what others have to offer.

Following along with this idea, we’ve decided to put together a series of interviews with professionals in the usability and user experience design areas so we can all learn from their experiences.

Today we’re featuring the first of those interviews, with Jon Phillips – formerly of Spyre Studios, along with a range of other sites as he explains in the interview below – clearly a very busy man.

Jon is someone I have a lot of respect for, and who always creates, beautiful, usable designs, and writes well written, interesting content as well. You can see some examples of his work on Dribble to get an idea of what he does.

I think he has some very interesting insights into the worlds of design, usability and user experience, and so without further ado:

An interview with Jon Phillips

I think UX and usability are not optional. If you design for the web and have no idea what usability or user experience means, you need to start reading and learning—fast! - Jon Phillips

Would you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

Hi, I’m Jon Phillips, I’m from Montreal, Canada. I design websites, consult and work with companies and online publishers on content creation, website design, UX and usability. I also write a personal blog where I share my thoughts on design, UX, technology and sometimes photography.

I used to run FreelanceFolder, SpyreStudios, Design-Newz and more recently MediaLoot, which I co-founded and helped launch. I now focus mostly on freelance work as well as some other personal projects like CSSFTW and IconsFTW.

How did you get involved with usability/user experience/design?

As far back as I can remember I have always been interested in various creative outlets, from music to typography, design and writing. In fact I’ve been a guitarist for over 17 years now and I guess you could say that designing websites is, in some ways, an extension of this in terms of creativity.

Being in a band is also very similar to running a business, and solving problems is something you need to work on every single day to keep the ship afloat.

I started designing websites about 7 years ago for friends at first until I realized I could do this for a living and started learning more and increased my customer base as well as improved my skills (something you always need to keep on improving).

While I love designing and writing markup & CSS, what I enjoy most is solving problems and figuring out the hows and whys of how things work and how people interact with them. Finding a viable solution to a UX problem is what I enjoy most.

I think UX and usability are not optional. If you design for the web and have no idea what usability or user experience means, you need to start reading and learning—fast!

Why do you think usability and user experience are important?

I think that no matter what your job title is, whether you’re a designer, a developer or whatever else people call themselves these days (ninjas and rockstars?), usability and user experience go hand in hand with everything else you do. Similar to the ‘should web-designers know how to code’ debate that we seem to hear about all the time, I think all designers should have more than just a basic understanding of usability and UX in order to completely fulfill their role.

UX is related to pretty much everything we do. It is what defines a great website from a bad one, it’s what people perceive and feel and how they interact with your interface.

Designers and developers are not the only ones who need to understand what makes a great user experience. Artists, business owners, project managers and even musicians and movie producers, to a certain extent, need at least some basic understanding of usability and UX in order to satisfy the needs, feelings and goals of their clients, fans, shareholders, partners, etc

Any words of wisdom to people learning about UX and usability?

Always keep learning and improving your skills and understand what makes a great user experience (quick tip: don’t take anything for granted). Don’t forget that amazing Photoshop skills won’t help much when faced with a usability problem to solve.

Also, while there’s a ton of design blogs out there with some great tips and tricks about usability and UX, what you want in order to get a deeper understanding is not just tips and tricks, you’ll want to read articles, studies, personal experiences from people in the field, books and even go to conferences and seminars.

I personally really enjoy reading case studies from web-designers on how they solved certain problems—I prefer reading about the reasons behind a design decision rather than the technologies used to make it possible.

Favorite sites or resources you’d like to share.

After reading everything ever written by Jacob Nielsen, Steve Krug and Luke Wroblewski, there’s the obvious sources like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ where you can get a great deal of information about UX, usability and design—granted, not always the best advice, but they’re great tools for finding other resources.

I have some favorite online publications and blogs like UXBooth, UsabilityPost, UXMag, SmashingMagazine, DaringFireball and others which I visit almost everyday. Sure those sites aren’t always about usability and UX, but still they’re very good resources.


We want to thank Jon for his insights, and for being kind enough to share his experiences with the community. If you’d like to read more from him, you can find his blog at blog.jonphillips.ca or follow him on Twitter @JoPhillips.

What do you think?

How does this line up with your experience? What was your favorite part of this interview? Who do you think we should interview in the future? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, on Twitter @IntuitionHQ, or at Facebook.com/IntuitionHQ.

Thanks again to Jon for answering our questions, and don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed to follow the next in our series of interviews. Coming up next? Blogger extraordinaire Jake Rocheleau – whose posts you can find on almost every design blog on the internet – be sure to check it out next week.

Thanks for dropping by!

 

Good news, everybody

Posted by Jacob Creech on August 23rd, 2011

As you all (hopefully) know, we’ve been working hard on making IntuitionHQ the best usability tool around, and we’re really happy with the progress we’re making.

It’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish as small company at the bottom of the world – we’ve had signups from companies and organisations all around the world, ranging from large universities, libraries and multinationals to freelancers and small businesses, and we are incredibly proud of how we have helped all of these people improve the usability of their sites and services.

We’ve written some very popular blog posts, both here on our own blog, and on a range of sites around the web.

We’ve been talked about by sites like Smashing Magazine, Web Designer Depot and UXBooth, and we are grateful to everyone who has helped us along the way.

There are times though when being far away from our largest market (the US) can make things a little difficult, and sometimes you just have to be where the action is. So you can imagine how our interest was piqued when we spotted a fantastic opportunity being offered by Rich Chetwynd and Nicole Fougere of Litmos.com called Booster Seat 2011.

As New Zealand business founders, Rich and Nicole appreciated the unique challenges that face businesses down under. After achieving great success with their own brainchild Litmos.com they wanted to give back to the New Zealand community in a really creative way – a NZ$10,000 prize to send two people from a New Zealand business to spend a month in San Francisco’s vibrant tech and start-up scene.

We duly submitted our entry, and yesterday we had a phone call from Rich to tell us the good news – out of almost 60 strong applications from a range of businesses around New Zealand, they decided that IntuitionHQ would be the lucky recipients of that fantastic prize.

Booster Seat 2011 Announcement

Booster Seat 2011 Announcement

Long story short, two of us here from IntuitionHQ are going to be heading to San Francisco for a month, and we are both incredibly excited about the opportunities that await us, and extraordinarily grateful for the generosity that Nicole, Rich and everyone else involved in the Booster Seat competition has shown. We are honored to have been chosen and are proud to be representing New Zealand small businesses, and showing what even small companies like ours can achieve with some determination and hard work.

We are planning to head over to San Francisco in early November, and we’d love to meet as many people as possible while we’re over there. If you’re going to be in the area, please leave a comment below, on our Facebook page or just send us a message on Twitter @IntuitionHQ.

We look forward to meeting lots of new people in San Francisco (and online too), and to a fantastic future for IntuitionHQ.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Rich and Nicole,

Jacob and the rest of the team at IntuitionHQ

 

Usability iPad App: The Winners

Posted by Jacob Creech on June 20th, 2011

Last week we announced our Usability app for iPad, and a competition for 5 promo codes for the app to go along with it. We’ve had a great response, and had some great ideas on what people would like to test with the app. Thank you all for your comments and Tweets – we really do appreciate it.

If you haven’t seen that app yet, you really should go and check it out. Here are a couple of screenshots to give you an idea:

Usability iPad app - Sign in

Usability iPad app - Sign in

Usability iPad app: TED website test

Usability iPad app: TED website test

The Usability app has a really simple interface for testing so you can get your apps, sites and other ideas out there and collect useful, relevant data from your stakeholders, clients, users, and anyone else you care to test in no time. We’re pretty chuffed with it, and we hope you will be too.

Now, on to the winners of our competition:

The Winners

Today I’m happy to announce the winners of our competition. They will all receive a promo code for the app, as well as a free usability test on the IntuitionHQ site, so they can get testing straight away. Without further ado, the winners are:

Congratulations to all our winners – we’ll be in touch (please DM us if you don’t hear from us within 24 hours), and to those of you that didn’t win this time round, we have a giveaway running over on UXBooth as we speak, and more competitions and giveaways coming up soon. Thanks all for your entries.

Win Smashing Books 1 and 2 with IntuitionHQ

Win the Smashing Books with IntuitionHQ

Win the Smashing Books with IntuitionHQ

For the designers among you, you may also be interested in another giveaway we are running on our Facebook page: You can win the Smashing Books (both 1 and 2) delivered to your door anywhere in the world by simply filling in the form on our Facebook page. No strings (although we’d be much obliged if you liked our page), just a chance to win two really great books.

That’s all folks

That’s all for now, but be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to our RSS feed to keep up with all the latest news and developments in Usability, as well as more chances to win.

Happy testing all, and congratulations again to our winners.

The team at IntuitionHQ.

 

Usability iPad App – 5 Promo Codes to Giveaway

Posted by Jacob Creech on June 16th, 2011

 
To quote Professor Farnsworth: Good news, everybody!

We’ve been working hard behind the scenes here at IntuitionHQ, and one of the things we’ve been working on is an iPad app – which is now available in the app store for $2.99US ($4.19NZ). Needless to say, we are pretty excited.

Imagine taking your tests out on your iPad – to your clients, stakeholders, or even strangers in the street. It takes guerrilla usability testing to a whole new level. We’ve got a whole bunch of exciting features in store for future updates as well.

We’d like to tell you a little more about the app, and of course, give away some promo codes so you can try it out yourself. To be in to win all you need to do is leave a comment on this post, or retweet it for others to see. If you comment and retweet you double your chance of winning. Simple, huh?

Update: We’ve announced the winners of the five promo codes. Congratulations to those who won, and to those who didn’t check out our post for more chances to win.

Now, as for the app:

The Usability iPad App

Usability iPad app - Sign in

Usability iPad app: Sign in

The Usability iPad app works together with IntuitionHQ. You simply log in to your account, and all your published tests will be displayed. It works for A/B tests and preferences tests as well as single tests, and everything is seamless to the users.

Usability iPad app: Published Projects

Published Projects

Once your in your projects screen, you just tap on the project you’d like to test. The images are all cached on your device (they all download once you log in), and the testing process is lightening fast.

Usability iPad app: TED website test

Usability iPad app: TED website test

If you have longer screenshots, you can scroll around like you usually would – the app only records your ‘clicks’ when you tap on the screenshot.

Usability iPad app: TED website test

TED website test

You can test all sorts of things with the app – as well as your iPhone and iPad apps, you can easily test websites, ask questions and more. Our recent user experience and psychology of colour is a great example of this:

Usability iPad app: User Experience of Colour test

User Experience of Colour test

Usability iPad app: User Experience of Colour test

User Experience of Colour test

When one user finishes the test, you can either choose to go back to your projects, or to go on to your next participant. Simple.

Usability iPad app: Completed test

Completed test

Leave your comments and retweet to win

We’ve love you hear your feedback on the Usability iPad app. What would you use it for? How does it look to you? Any features you’d like us to add? Let us know below, and be in to win a promo code for the app. Good luck!

Happy testing all,

The team at IntuitionHQ.

Do you have a blog? Interested in writing a review of our Usability iPad app? Leave a comment below, send us a message on Twitter @IntuitionHQ or on Facebook.com/IntuitionHQ and you could be in for a free copy of the app.

 

Start user testing with a homepage healthcheck

Posted by Courtney Johnston on June 1st, 2011

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

Could you find our 'Pricing' page?

Could you find our 'Pricing' page?

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

What part of this page catches your eye?

What part of this page catches your eye?

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

Test for speed - unsurprisingly, Google is pretty good at this

Test for speed - unsurprisingly, Google is pretty good at this

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).

Follow-up testing

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.

Useful links

If you’re just getting started with user testing, you might find some of these articles helpful

Questions?

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!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with all the latest news on website usability testing. Thanks!

 

What is usability?

Posted by Jacob Creech on May 31st, 2011

 
Every day we talk about website usability testing, what it can do for you, how it can smooth out the design process, and how usability is an ongoing trend that people need to learn to focus on.

All of that said though, every day I get people asking me ‘What is usability, and why should I care?‘. Today I’d like to talk about what usability is, and why it’s so important. I’d love to hear your views on it too, so please feel free to share your opinion in the comments below.

What is usability?

 
So, what is usability? There are a number of good definitions floating around, these are a couple of the ones that really hit the spot:

The state or condition of being usable; The degree to which an object, device, software application, etc. is easy to use with no specific training – Wiktionary

Usability refers to the ease with which a User Interface can be used by its intended audience to achieve defined goals. Usability incorporates many factors: design, functionality, structure, information architecture, and more – Sitepoint

Something easy to learn and easy to understand. Seems simple enough, right? But when you turn your mind to thinking of sites or products that truly meet this goal, how many can you think of? What examples come to mind?

My examples:

Mac OS X

Mac OS X

Mac OS X is well known because ‘it just works’. The simple tasks you would want to achieve are very simple to achieve. The important information is easy to find. Things that say they will work with OS X just work.

Especially if you live inside the Apple ecosystem, everything behaves in a simple and logical way. No blue screens of death, no clippy, no ugly pop up warning bubbles. It just works.


Retail Me Not - save money with coupon codes

Retail Me Not - coupon codes made easy

Retail Me Not is a great website to help you save money on the internet. If you often come to sites that ask if you have a coupon code, then this site will save you money. They have coupon codes for tons of different sites, and the site is designed to make the process of using the coupon codes as simple as possible.

When you find a code you want to use (with the simple, straight forward search function), just click on it and it will be copied to your clipboard. If it’s a referral link it will open up in your browser for you. You can see which codes are working at a glance, and share your own experience with the community. A great way to save money.


Kiwibank is a bit different from regular banking sites. The navigation structure is surprisingly clear and easy to use, and for what should be a content heavy site, none of the pages slap you in the face with too much content.

The important things are easy to find and easy to understand, and you are never more than a couple of layers from the content you are looking for.

They also developed their site without flash (which seems to appear awfully often on banking sites) so it’s extremely accessible as well.


Some more examples:

I’ve actually wrote a post last year over at 1stWebDesigner talking about 9 great examples of well designed, usable sites. Check out the list and see what you think.

Another great site that shows examples of UIs that have had a bit more thought than most is Little Big Details. They have a whole range of examples showing how little details make a big difference to the user experience. Well worth a look.

Why is usability so important?

  1. It gives users a better experience: The more your users enjoy your site, the more likely they are to return, the more likely they are to recommend it to others, and the better your site or product will do in the long run.
  2. It helps you stand out from the competition: Why did the iPod sell so well? It was simple, did what users needed it to do, and not a lot more. It was an extremely usable product in a market where people used to think cramming devices with a million and one different features that barely worked at all was the way to succeed.
  3. It’s what most people want: Well there are a few people who actually like things to be complex and customise things in a million different ways, the mass market wants things that are simple, straight forward and just work.
  4. It means people can spend more time doing, and less time learning: The more usable the interface, the more time people can spend enjoying themselves, making purchases, interacting with your site and achieving goals that are important to you.
  5. You spend less time, money and effort on support: If your site or product is simple and straightforward to use it will require far less support, saving you time, money and energy.

Of course, there is more to usability than this, but these are some really fundamental points about why usability is so important. Regardless of what industry you are in, regardless of the sites or products that you build, good usability will make a big difference.

Your turn

We want your opinion

We want your opinion

So, you’ve seen some examples of what usability is to me and why I think it’s important, and now I’d like to see what usability is to you.

What are your examples of great sites? What products come to mind for you? Or are there any sites or products you can think of that are fail on the usability front?

We’d love to do a usability review of some outstanding sites so people know what is working, and why it works so well, as well as sites that could use some improvement to improve their usability. Be sure to let us know in the comments below.

Interested in learning more about usability and user experience? Curious to see one of our upcoming usability reviews? Subscribe to our RSS feed, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up with all the latest news.

And don’t forget to share your comments on sites you love and hate in the comments below. Thanks for dropping by!

 

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!

 

10 Great Reasons to Usability Test

Posted by Jacob Creech on May 13th, 2011

For all the tips I give on usability testing, explanations of how to get started, the reviews of different services I do, I get a very large number of people asking me why they should actually test in the first place (as if those examples weren’t enough!).

Today I’d like to present (in no particular order) a quick post on 10 reasons that everyone should perform usability testing. Read on to see a few reasons I think you should run usability tests, and be sure to add your own reasons in the comments below.

10 Reasons to Usability Test

Door usability fail

1) Improve usability

It (should) goes without saying, usability testing will improve the usability of your sites, apps, user interface, or whatever else you are designing. Imagine publishing a magazine or newspaper without having an editor read it first; that’s effectively what you are doing by launching a site without usability testing.

Usability testing will show up all those little navigation and ui problems, will help you discover all sorts of tweaks you can make, and will give you a whole new understanding of how users interact with your site or app – extremely valuable information to have at your fingertips.

2) Improve user experience

Following on from improved usability is an improved user experience. If users have to spend too much time looking for your ‘add to cart’ or ‘subscribe by RSS‘ button they simply won’t bother. After implementing the results of your testing, you will remove the vast majority of these issues for the vast majority of your users, and they will enjoy using your site or app so much more because of it.

See what colour blind people see

3) Improve accessibility

I recently wrote a post on the user experience of colour, and was really interested to find in the comments a huge number of people pointed out how colour can have a huge impact on accessibility; roughly 8% of men and .5% of women are colour blind so that is a huge group you have to consider.

There are all sorts of things that can affect usability aside from colour blindness, and the best way to find them is to get out there, test your site or app, and see what you find.

4) Produce more satisfied clients

The better their site works, the happier your clients will be. If users spend more time on the site, and are more likely to recommend it to others, they will be very happy. This is what a usable site with a good user experience can do, and this is what usability testing can do for your site or app.

Of course, the happier your clients are, the more likely they are to use your service again in the future, and the more likely they are to recommend you to others as well. All good things for you.

Use social media for usability testin

5) Make users feel involved

We frequently receive feedback from IntuitionHQ users who are surprised to find how much their users enjoy and appreciate being part of the testing process. It means the users take some ownership of the site, and feel much more attached to it.

Including users in the testing process really helps contribute to a sense of community, and that is something all sites or apps should be looking to build.

6) Save time

It’s much easier and faster to know what needs fixing when you’ve got results in front of you showing just what is wrong in the first place. The sooner you can fix things, the sooner you can move forward with your project, and the better it will be because of it. You really can save a ton of time by usability testing.

Avoid design by committee

7) Avoid design by committee

Ever been to one of those meetings where every man and his dog has an opinion on why this button should be there, that colour should be 2 shades lighter, and why the design expert is wrong in a dozen other ways?

Having results from usability testing can show all the reasons why things are the way they are, or how they should be different. It’s very hard to argue when you’ve got a bunch of results from users showing what the best design or user interface would be.

8) Develop a new skill set

One of the best ways to learn a new skill is by getting out there and doing it. Set up a test on your own site or app, and see what you find. Questions? Get out there on Twitter or Facebook and ask questions, talk about usability testing and user experience and you will learn a heap.

Keep making the most of the resources at your disposal, and you will learn a lot in no time at all. The more testing the do, the more you will understand, and the more impact your testing will have because of it. It’s really a circle of greatness.

Definition of reputation

9) Improve your own reputation

There are a million and one web and app developers out there, and although there is some (read: huge) variation in quality between these different developers, it’s hard to always stand out in a crowded market. Developing a reputation for producing usable, enjoyable websites will help set you apart from others. Happy clients who recommend you to others will help you stand out. Even offering a usability testing service in the first place will help you stand out.

It’s true for business owners too; if your site provides a better, more usable experience than the competition, users will be much more likely to return and spend money or time with your site, and all of these will do wonders for your business.

The more positive ways you stand out from those around you, the better your business will do, and easier life will be for you.

10) Add to your bottom line

Usability testing, and an understanding of usability is something you can really sell people on. Once they can see the benefits of usability testing, they will be pressing you to add this to your service, and it is something people are more than prepared to pay for. For example, setting up a test on IntuitionHQ costs only $9, but where the value lies is you expertise at setting up the test, interpreting the results, and improving usability as a result.


So now what?

Hopefully this post helps you to see the benefits of usability testing. Remember, going out and testing doesn’t have to take much money, and can even help save you time. It makes you stand out from the competition, and it will make users and clients love you.

As Jakob Neilsen said, “A bad website is like a grumpy salesperson”, and the inverse is also a true. A good, usable, enjoyable website is a great salesman; the one that will help you get your foot in the door.

Get out there today, do some testing, and help make the internet a better place, one website at a time. Happy testing!

Are there any other points you’d like to see added to this list? What has your experience taught you? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed to keep up to date with all the latest developments in the usability community.