How can you conduct a Simple Usability Test?


By Shavin Peiries

In the previous article, you learned about what usability testing is and why it is important. Now how can you go about conducting a usability test on your own?


For a small or medium sized website or application, a test with about 5 people is more than enough to get useful data, to find out common usability problems. If you had a more ambitious or larger project, then you could invest a little more for a larger audience to conduct a deeper analysis. For the purpose of simplicity, we will only be considering a group of 5 people in our analysis.


Okay, where do I go from there?

To begin, look for a group of acquaintances and sit next to them to take notes while they navigate your page trying to perform a series of predefined tasks. You can also make a Skype call and ask them to share their screen so you can follow along remotely if needed.


Spend at least 15 minutes on each individual until all your questions are answered.


When you’re carrying out a test make sure you pick out the right candidates that belong to your target audience/customers (whether by age, interest or any other criteria). For example, if you’re running an online coffee store, your candidates will need to be people who drink coffee.


Although its a basic rule in usability testing to conduct a test with 5 people, it isn’t necessarily compulsory to do so because a usability test done with one person is a 100% better than a test done with none.



Choose the tasks and perform the appropriate tests


Each test you do must have a goal. It does not help to have candidates hanging around your website by clicking randomly. Focus on a few priorities:

  • Immediate objectives: ask the candidates to do anything that a user would like to do immediately on your website, for example, check your opening hours or contact information. If there are problems here it can cause a bad impression on your brand and make customers want to leave.


  • Crucial objectives: ask them to fulfill the main objective of your web page. For example, if you have an online coffee store as mentioned before, ask the candidates to place an order for some coffee beans. Similarly, if you’re a wedding photographer it is important that your clients see your portfolio, ask them to find examples of your work on your website.


  • Objectives of converting users into customers: ask them to take actions that would convince a visitor to buy. For example, when customers need to check for the price of the coffee beans or when they try to register for your newsletter. If someone gets stuck at this key moment in the sales funnel, it does not matter how wonderful your website is, since it will not fulfill its objective.


It is also very important not to give clues about how to complete the task. Try to include practical cases, for example, instead of asking them to “use the navigation menu to access contact information,” ask them “if you would like to contact us, what would you do”.


Test fast and test often!


It does not take a lot of people, time or money to do a simple usability test. In fact, experts advise many small-scale tests. Performing these test throughout the process of creating your website or application will save you a lot of headaches later on.


The best thing about usability tests is that they can be as simple or complex as you want. In any case, most likely you will find a lot of valuable information related to the operation of your website. The number of participants, the questions you ask them and the number of tests you performed depend on you and can change depending on the time you have available.


But, the most important thing is that you start doing it.

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