There are a variety of ways to perform usability testing on web sites and online applications. In fact, our access to tools and testing software seems to grow month by month. However, nothing beats human testing.
Of course, when you don’t have access or the budget to sit your customers down in front of a computer to watch them use your web site, there are decent substitutes or alternative ways to get good data. Someone asked me, “Can’t we get user data from Google Analytics?” Sure, you can. But the numbers don’t have little voices that explain why the left a page or where they got confused. We can get clues from logs and data tracking but its cold, emotionless and voiceless.
Grin and Bear It
My first choice will always be a user lab. But the reality is that small and medium businesses can’t afford this type of testing. Or they think they can’t. In truth, all you ever need to do is sit people down in front of a monitor, give them a task and be silent as they attempt to finish it. Offer someone a coupon, free dinner, gift card or some other incentive to bring them in for a few hours.
Remember these points:
- Find someone unfamiliar with your business and/or web site. After a few passes (and accidental suggestions from you or others nearby), they’re no objective or brand new.
- Assign one task at a time and make it one step and simple. “Find”, “Buy”, “Look for”, “Register”, “Show me where” and “Sign up” are common tasks.
- Be quiet. Expensive labs have video cameras and software inside the computer that follow eye movements and mouse clicks. In light of investing in all of that, just sit nearby and watch. Take into consideration that people get nervous. They’re not used to your keyboard. They may not have slept well or were late getting there. In truth, these are all the tiny extras human factors love to incorporate into their testing (our emotional state and environment.) Do what you can to put your person at ease. You only want to watch. It’s not a contest. You’re not judging them. Give them chocolate or tea.
- Listen. You not only want to watch someone use your web site, but you want to encourage them to tell you what they’re thinking as they go along. Encourage them to explain, AFTER the task, why they felt frustrated (if they don’t other swear at the screen). Why did the pick a certain product? Did they get lost? Could they read the pages? Were they distracted?