User Testing

Why test with users?

Usability testing is simply taking a target audience to evaluate a product whilst performing specific tasks. This can be then used to identify opportunities for improvement.

The process of watching and listening to real people carry out these tasks provides a great insight into what works and what don’t.

We can use different methods to understand how users behave, but not why; usability testing can start to help understand the whys.

Test, fail, learn

There are a number of different methods for performing usability testing, typically the most common methods are:

Guerrilla User Testing is a low cost method of user testing. The term ‘guerrilla’ refers to its ‘out in the wild’ style. This method of user testing can be conducted anywhere e.g. cafe, library, train station etc. essentially anywhere where there is significant footfall.

Lab-based User Testing is a ‘qualitative’ research method; used to gauge how easy and intuitive a product is to use and to determine what your users actually do, rather than what they say they do.

As part of this method there are many in-depth tools, which can be used to collect information about the participants. Heat map tracking and eye tracking are two of the most commonly used. These will provide information of where the users eyes are focusing and where a user has clicked.

Focus Groups involve unstructured interviews or group discussions. Interviews and group discussions are both facilitated by a trained moderator using a specially designed topic guide in order to ensure the discussion is focused and keeps on topic..

When to test

Test designs as early as possible, even in the wireframing stage. Testing early in the design process will ensure ideas/concepts are logical and easy to understand. Receiving feedback in this early stage allows for changes to be made quickly - there is also the opportunity to test a variety of ideas in a short period of time.

Testing early in the design process will help avoid pitfalls further down the line. This is one of the most valuable parts of usability testing; determining and resolving issues early in the design process is quicker and cheaper than redesigning work that has already been built.

That said, always test! No website is perfect, every website should be evolving.