Dos And Don’ts Of Usability Testing

Written by Duncan Heath - 22 Sep 2016

Usability testing is a great option to gain insight into the precise behaviours of your website visitors and find out why they are or are not converting. As with all research methods, there are ways you can optimise your testing strategy to ensure that time and money is well-spent. In the infographic below, we give you 14 dos and don’ts to help kick-start your usability testing.

Dos and don’ts of usability testing


Run tests on multiple user groups

There will always be more than one group of users who visit your site. These groups may vary in age, culture, devices and desires. After defining these groups, run a usability study and compare the differences.


Run large scale tests all in one go

A common mistake in unmoderated usability testing is running a large scale study without testing if the scripted directions are understood correctly. Always start the test with a single user to gain an idea of whether your set tasks are clear enough.


Set a goal

Always take time to define what you want to achieve – e.g. more online sales or a more fluid user experience – so that you can mark off how well users match up to your expectations.


Test fellow colleagues, friends or family

Asking those close to you to participate will reduce the reliability of the study due to them having prior knowledge and experience of the product or website. Always start a usability test with a randomised selection from a pool of people.


Use screeners to filter irrelevant users

Not everyone will be suitable for your study. Set some open-ended questions to filter out those with unsuitable qualities. For example, you may not want to include single women in a usability test for a website which sells packages for honeymooners.


Test just the end product

If you are building a product from scratch, run usability tests at each stage of development to allow concepts to transform and evolve. It is more efficient to adjust a concept than to adjust a finalised product.


Make recordings

When observing a usability test, it is easy to miss important details while you’re taking notes or because you have a certain goal in mind. Re-watching and/or sharing recorded sessions will prevent details being missed and allow input from multiple observers.


Use leading questions

Asking questions which prompt or encourage a certain answer will lead to false information. For example, asking ‘do you think this site is trustful?’ is asking for an opinion on something that the participant may not necessarily have been looking out for. Keep your questions open and allow the participant to speak their mind.


Be aware of the Hawthorne Effect

Participants know they are being observed. Therefore, they may be more vigilant and determined to complete the tasks in order to impress you as the moderator. Keep an eye out for these behaviours by comparing the findings between multiple participants to see if any answers are unnaturally skewed due to wanting to impress you.


Test and forget

Preferences change over time as the styles of the web develop. Consistently running usability tests will give you fresh insight so you can continuously refine your website.


Include different types of tasks

You want to assess key actions by creating scenarios that actual users would follow. Creating different types of tasks gives more insight into different browsing behaviours. There should be a specific task (such as finding a very specific object), a broad task (such as browsing a site until they find something they like) and a funnel-related task (such as completion of a sale).


Write notes down in front of your participant

If a participant sees you write something down during a user test, they may think their most recent action was significant, influencing their behaviour by making them feel more self-conscious. Take a video recording instead and take notes from the video.


Prompt them to share thoughts

It is not natural for a person to verbalise their thoughts, especially if the tests are conducted in unmoderated settings. When you set the task, ending it with an open-ended statement such as ‘… and explain how you find the process’ will prompt them to share their thoughts with you.


Overcomplicate things

A typical web user will browse on your website only for a short period of time. Therefore, do not try to fit too many tasks into one session. If you have many ideas to explore, create multiple sessions to collect fresh data.

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