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Day in and day out, you look over your business website and its web analytics and ask the question:
"Why are people leaving from a particular page of your website?"
Perhaps you have started to strategise and brainstorm ideas within the team on how to fix this issue by raising discussions which results in suggestions like these:
And using these suggestions, changes are made on the website, but something just doesn't seem right and no results can be seen. And so the process turns into a loop of endless suggestions, headaches and no results.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Most businesses are also in the same boat and do not know about usability testing. Owners and designers often get too caught up in the idea of "What do I think my customers want?" but have never thought of asking current or potential customers about their thoughts. This is what usability testing is all about.
Usability testing, is a method in user centric design to evaluate the effectiveness of a product by observing the interactions of selected user-groups and using observations to make strategic decisions for aspects of change.
When usability testing is applied to a business website, insight can be gained into:
The main benefit of usability testing is to take the guess work out of what you think your users think and instead see it for yourself. This is especially beneficial because as owners or designers of a website, it is difficult to experience a website like a first-time user would. Results of a successful, well planned usability test, you will have many 'ah ha' moments when you watch your user stumble and be confused with an aspect that is assumed to be very obvious.
The secondary benefit is that usability testing can also be run on prototypes – to gain insight into an idea before it is launched – this enables a more efficient means to making changes to ensure that the product is better optimised upon launch.
A well planned and prepared usability test, is key to optimising the key benefits.
Defining target user groups determines the types of users who will and will not participate in the study. For every website, there are different types of users who may become potential customers – these people will have different occupations, cultures, age, employment status and needs. Defining and giving priority levels to each of these groups provides more clarity, direction and a more controlled setting of which to collect data from.
A basic documentation of any user group may be split up into the following segments:
There is an infinite number of segmenting that can be used, the key is to determine which groups are most important to the business. Information for each of the segments should be obtained from real user surveys instead of assumptions. Be aware of cultural differences if one’s website is focused on the mass market, which will impact question wording due to possible misunderstandings – may be worthwhile to do several different tests tailored to each cultural group.
It is important to create strong filter rules to determine the type of user to participate in your usability test. Reason being, the test may not be genuine and reflective of a real customer, therefore, considerations need to be made for the types of questions asked.
Document common paths that each user group will take. This will determine the type of questions or tasks that you ask a user to undertake in your bid to optimise the process. For example, a user journey for an e-commerce site may look like the below:
Review the user paths based on data collected from web analytics by documenting the common pages a user will follow from the entry page to the exit page. Highlight the pages where your web analytics data show a drop-out – doing so will allow you to focus your analysis to these specific problem areas.
Now that you have determined who and where the user-tests are to be studied, the next stage is to set the stage to find out 'why' people are not following the ideal path.
Assigning 'tasks' or 'actions' to user journey will provide a more controlled environment from which you can make observations. Tasks should be kept open-ended to encourage exploration and freedom for a user to explore.
Examples of tasks may include:
Be aware of own bias – often we set up a test to look for a specific problem (such as focusing on how easy it is to make a purchase on a website) and therefore by doing so, may miss out on other factors such as the credibility of the website that is created, the general “personality” that a website creates – therefore it is important to keep an open mind and think critically of an usability test that is studied.
The CRO Team at Fresh Egg has over 15 years of combined experience in the area of user experience. We have helped many companies create a solid usability testing plan, analysed their results and turned observations into actionable items to help business improve the customer experience online and hence resulting in higher conversions.
If you would like to improve your website, then get in touch with our CRO team and check out our proven work.