Archives For usability

I’ve written about usability testing a couple of times here because if you’re developing a digital footprint, it is important to test test test.  And it doesn’t take as much you think to do it properly.  As Wikipedia puts it:

Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users…in contrast with usability inspection methods where experts use different methods to evaluate a user interface without involving users.

Usability testing focuses on measuring a human-made product’s capacity to meet its intended purpose…[it] involves watching people trying to use something for its intended purpose

Today, I interviewed Tony Albanese, product marketer over at ZURB.  They offer a suite of website development apps including SolidifyApp.com, VerifyApp.com and Notableapp.com.

I have been using VerifyApp.com recently on live site development projects I’m leading currently and it has been a great tool to validate what we’ve intended to build as well as identify some things from the users’ perspective that we never would have thought about without user testing input.

Useability testing allows you to address navigation, content presentation, and other items to improve the user experience which in turn increases the likelihood of the site to deliver on the original objectives for user engagement.

Here’s the interview video below.  Watch it and I’ll join you afterwards below:

Here’s an real-life example of what Verifyapp.com was able to uncover regarding a client’s website recently.  Although there were 3 different ways to sign-up for a newsletter or email list on the home page of a website, over 40% of the users didn’t know where to click when prompted to sign-up for free content, email lists or newsletters from the site.  That tells you that there is a communication issue going on.  Either the site is too busy and has distracting elements, or the calls to action are not clear, or placement of the sign-up forms are not visible enough given the current layout.  This is prompting a look at how to narrow the user experience so that sign-up for permission based email list relationships is one of the core pieces of the homepage offerings.  Of course, we’ll test out sample layouts along the way to ensure we’re improving the success rate.  That is what user testing can do for your website.

If you are a nonprofit, does your site clearly allow visitors to find and use the donation forms on your site?

If you are a church, does your site make it easy for prospective visitors to find the appropriate information they need in order to decide and plan on a visit?

If you are a cause-related organization, are the volunteer opportunities being promoted on your pages presented in a way so that the most urgent yet relevant positions can be seen?

Those are just some of the initial questions we can begin to address with user testing.

So what are you curious about with your own website?  What *assumed* function can you test to see if you really should be concerned enough to do something about it?

In the last post, I shared a useability testing secret everybody who has a website should know about.

The quick answer to the question of how much testing you should do is . . . “5 is the magic number.”

The inevitable question now is – how do you go about actually testing the 5 users you can easily round up in a flash?

There are a couple of options, but one of the services I know about and have used is www.openhallway.com — in short, it’s a site that lets you assign a task to a user, who then goes through your site and narrates what they are thinking and doing the entire time so that OpenHallway.com can record the screen, mouse movements and the users’ narration for later review.

(TryMyUI.com is another service that does similar kinds of screen-recording of user sessions with your site.)

OpenHallway.com was birthed from the same idea as what Jakob Nielsen is promoting:

A hallway usability test is where you grab the next person that passes by in the hallway and force them to try to use the code you just wrote. If you do this to five people, you will learn 95% of what there is to learn about usability problems in your code.

Basically, all you have to do is go out and recruit 5 people to test your website.  This should be a no brainer — get on Facebook, Twitter, Email, or literally, go down the hallway and ask the next 5 people you see.

The next part is the fun part. . . Continue Reading…

Whenever an organization sets out to tinker with the website to improve it, or even go for the complete revamping of the site, it’s based on some feedback that the site isn’t doing what is intending to do.  This can be based on internal feedback, implicit or explicit comments from site visitors, a gut feeling that the site can communicate better, or the plain facts that your site conversion goals aren’t happening.

So what happens next?  Most often than not, a group of people go into meetings and set about reconfiguring the site structure, improve navigation, updating the aesthetics to reflect current Web 2.0 and beyond trends, and revising the content.   Hopefully they do it in a way that is strategic in nature or bring in someone that can help with that.

But whatever the process, when you finally flip the switch, only the actual usage by site visitors can tell you whether you succeeded or not.

Here’s the part where most groups drop the ball.  One of the most critical milestones in site development happens right here — not before when you’re whiteboarding the site and its contents.  This is where you need to do some usability testing.   Qualitative and quantitative research will guide you on what works and what doesn’t.

But because focus groups and user testing seems so sophisticated and enigmatic, most site owners don’t ever go through with the steps that can radically impact how your message is received by the visitors coming to your site.  The superficial pushback on this area seems to be in two immediate areas beyond the lack of comfort / knowledge for how to preceed:

(1) We don’t have money for that!  Testing dozens and dozens of people would cost more than we can afford.

(2) We don’t have the time for rounds of user testing.  That would delay our website project too much, or we have so much other stuff to do now that we’ve finished the website revamping.

But here’s the kicker, it doesn’t have to be expensive nor time-consuming to get the critical feedback you need to communicate better with your visitors.

And here is why 5 is the magic number in useability testing:

According to Jakob Neilson, the usability guru (seriously, you should check out his site, www.useit.com), the ideal scenario usually warrants 76 users for comprehensive quantitative testing that addresses the typical outliers that come through.  And a more manageable 15 users need to be tested in order to get at all the qualitative usability issues in the design of a site.

But in reality, the magic number is really 5.  That’s it.  FIVE people. . . Continue Reading…