Usability Testing: The Key To Improving Your Website

How well a visitor to your website is able to move around it and accomplish the tasks it was designed for will not only increase their likelihood of completing a purchase, but it will also determine how often they return, and increase the number of people they tell about your website.   The best way to make sure that your site is working properly and effectively is to conduct usability testing throughout the entire design process, and beyond.  If you have never done usability testing, you probably have some questions.  Hopefully by the end of this post I will have answered those and helped you to see how usability testing is the key to improving your website.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing can be simply defined as observing people using your website. It helps you identify issues by watching people complete common tasks.  Then you simply fix the issues.

Why is Usability Testing Important?

  • It helps you make your website more useful for people
  • It helps you make your website  more easy to use by people
  • Most importantly, it makes people want to visit your website

Is Usability Testing Expensive?

It doesn’t have to be.  All that is required is at least one computer with access to your site, time for observation, and 5-8 volunteers that you will recruit.  Your biggest expense will likely be your own time and gifts/incentives for the participants.

How Do I Do It?

I will provide a detailed step-by-step for conducting a usability test in a future blog, but here is a brief outline:

  1. Gather your stakeholders and figure out what tasks you want the testers to attempt to accomplish.  Alternatively, you could conduct a survey with users to develop this task list.
  2. Recruit your volunteers.  This can be the most difficult task.  Offer them an opportunity to help you.  Make sure they know it is your site that is being tested and not themselves.  The key is that these people have to be selected from within your customer demographic.
  3. Conduct the testing session.
  4. Brainstorm ideas for improvement based on the results of the testing session.
  5. Implement improvement ideas as quickly as possible.

When Should I Test?

You should conduct usability testing as early in the design process as possible.  It should continue throughout every phase of design and roll-out.  You should also conduct periodic tests once the site is up and running to address any issues that may arise.

I hope that I have answered most of your basic questions about usability testing.  If you haven’t done a test in awhile, or perhaps not at all, make sure you do it.  It is the best way to provide the most functional, and enjoyable experience for the visitors to your site.

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