Practical tips for Web and mobile usability tests
While most usability testing methods described in The Guide to Usability Testingapply to Web and mobile, we want to describe some of the nuances specific to each medium. Actually, most usability testing methods can be run any product from cloud payment systems to next-generation gaming consoles.
In this piece, we want to narrow our focus a little so you can best understand how the fundamental differences between how Web and mobile are used require different tactics.
User tests are mandatory for website success since Murphy’s Laws of Technologyalways seem to strike at the worst times. While many of the usability testing methods can adapt for Web purposes, we thought it best to showcase a few pointers specific to website protocols and testing criteria.
Source: Template MonsterThe principles for Web usability are the same as with other products, except they are even more important considering that there are over a billion websites as of September 2014.
The bottom line is that there are so many similar websites that visitors will simply move onto the next site if the first one they visit isn’t usable.
Damian Rees, Co-founder of Experience Solutions, helps explain how he adapted website usability testing for the most optimized experience. Because anyone can use the Internet, one of his core principles is setting criteria and expectations up front so that your tests proceed with the right level of technical proficiency.Here are four tips to keep in mind:1. Encourage users to behave naturally. Websites must support multiple modes of use and edge cases, and those might only surface when users feel comfortable.By starting with open-ended tasks, you’ll get a sneak peek into how they use the Web outside of a testing environment. For example, if you’re testing an e-commerce site, first ask users to find a gift under $50, then get out of the way and observe them directly or remotely.2. Let users complete the task how they want. If you feel your user has misunderstood the task or is going off track, just wait. The goal is to learn how a user interacts with your website, period.
In the real world, you won’t be there to reign them back in, so observe why they got sidetracked — those may be your best insights.
3. Test competitors or peer websites. Only testing your own site robs you of context. Including other websites will help you see “the forests and the trees.”
Try asking the participant to show you a site they use on their own, and have them show you how they use it. It’s not just about how users interact with your website — it’s about tailoring your website based on how they use the Web.
4. Hide which site you’re testing. Users tend to be less honest when they know they’re talking to an employee of the company under scrutiny. Do your best to not reveal you’re testing your site.
The user may figure it out by the end of the session, but the longer you delay it, the more accurate your first impressions. Try asking them to assess competitor or peer websites first — this puts them in the right critical mindset.
As a guiding principle, try not being too rigid. Keeping an open mind and a loose attitude will put your test-taker at ease and yield better, more natural results.
When conducting a usability test for a website, there are specific criteria you should check for that might not be relevant to other products. Jacob Gube, founder of Six Revisions, believes that qualitative feedback alone is not enough for websites — especially considering how simple technical tweaks to things like site speed can drastically affect the experience.As explained in The Guide to Usability Testing, there are six criteria that must be tested for all websites, whether it’s a personal blog or a corporate site:1. Task Success — One of the most important measures of usability is how easily a user can complete a target task, such as finding an older post or creating an account. You’ll want to examine learnability, intuitiveness, efficiency, recovery from errors, and memorability for future use.You can assign direct and open tasks to analyze the task success rate, then follow up with the single ease question.
Source: User-Centered Design2. Navigability — Site search is never a crutch for bad navigation. Do you have enough site features (like calls to action, links, etc.)? How fast and in how many clicks does it take users to get where they want? Card sorting and tree testing are perfect for answering these questions.
3. UX Design — User satisfaction can get lost in the mix when focusing on more quantitative factors, but it’s just as important (if not more).
Interviews, field studies, diary studies, and the tests listed in the previous hybrid chapter all get feedback on the user’s emotional responses. Remember: being usable isn’t enough, aim to be delightful.
4. Readability — As discussed in Web UI Best Practices, content is the heart of any website. Pay attention to your site’s legibility, comprehension, language, and the enjoyability of the content. Read-Able, WordsCount, and CheckMyColours are great usability tools for assessing your site’s readability.
5. Accessibility — Is your site experience consistent across every major browser? Is your HTML compatible for various assistance tools for users with disabilities? Here’s a great list of accessibility testing tools to show you how accessible your site is.6. Speed — No one likes to wait. A website’s speed will impact the UX, functionality, and even SEO performance. Check your file sizes and code quality to reduce unnecessary lag. Follow these best practices, then test your site speed with a tool like Pingdom or Google PageSpeedWith a few simple tweaks, you can adapt any of the previous usability tests to better analyze the usability of a website. Find out where your site’s lacking, then view the tests through the sharp lens of Web usability.To see a live example of different ways of evaluating some of these criteria, check out the e-book User Testing & Design.