What is website usability testing?
Website usability testing is a process where a set of designated, real users test out the design and development of an internet site. Users are asked to interact with the website’s interface in various ways to assess how well they do so, if there are any potential roadblocks, and whether or not the right design decisions were made. Usability website testing gives you a glimpse into how your target audience might use your website in reality. Once you discover what your website is lacking, fixing any design, layout, or coding issues before your website goes live becomes easier.
The benefits of website user testing
In this era of expansive data consumption, most visitors are looking for unique and positive experiences rather than wasting time on websites that are not user-friendly. 32.3% of visitors bounce off a page if the loading time exceeds 7 seconds.
The biggest benefit of website testing is to pre-emptively tackle any usability issues that might arise. Armed with valuable insights into both your website’s potential and its weaknesses, you can then tweak it to provide a premium user-experience.
Let us delve into the various benefits of testing a website for usability:
Improve retention rates
While just having visitors is great, acquiring long-term, repeat users should be the goal of any successful website. Usability testing helps with understanding a website’s retention rate and user behavior, which in turn helps with improving the website in general.
Reduces development and support costs
Being able to identify bugs and issues preemptively gives you the ability to save on additional developmental costs. Once a website goes live, making code or design changes will always cost extra - in terms of both money and time spent by the design team and development team - as well as result in potential customer complaints and downtimes that can eat further into your budget. In fact, it costs up to 100 times more to fix a UX error after the development phase than prior to it.
Understand user behavior
By conducting usability testing, you can observe your end-user’s behavior in real-time. Including them in the decision-making process helps you empathize with their needs and come up with a better UX design that caters to the real needs of actual users, not just to those of an assumed target audience.
Identify lacking aspects of your website
Even carefully crafted websites are bound to have issues. Problems such as broken links, website errors, content issues, or layout discrepancies can all cause setbacks. Website usability testing can help pinpoint any unresponsive areas of a website.
Provide a better user experience and increase sales
It’s a no-brainer that a happier user is more likely to become a repeat customer. By conducting website user testing, you can keep visitors engaged by providing a great user experience and increase sales as a result. In fact, according to a Career Foundry report, over $1.4 trillion is lost yearly by e-commerce companies due to a bad UX on their websites.
Source: The Trillion Dollar UX Problem by Career Foundry
A step-by-step approach to website usability testing
If you are looking for high conversion rates then conducting functionality tests is a must. Let us dig deeper into the various steps involved in this process below.
Step 1. Plan for the test
According to the Usability.gov’s guidelines, the following steps should be used to plan for the test:
Scope of Testing - before the testing phase begins, it is important to decide what design elements of the website will be tested. The different testing areas might include the entire website, parts of it, certain apps or widgets, the navigation structure, content only, or a combination of those elements.
Purpose - identifying the goals of and motivation for testing is imperative. Begin by preparing test scenarios. Is it easy for users to navigate from one page to another? Can they find specific information on certain products or topics? Is the shopping cart experience seamless for end-users?
Schedule and location - it is important to decide whether to conduct website usability testing remotely or in-person.
Participants - a key step is deciding on the number and type of participants. For a global presence, you will need to test the usability of your website based on certain demographics.
Scenarios - you should come up with a number and list of questions and scenarios to hand out to your usability study participants. Tasks like finding a certain product, filling out a form, or ordering a product, etc., are the ideal types of questions to be listed on such tests.
How about recruiting your testers?
It is always best to match test participants with your potential target user persona. If the selected participants understand the scope of your products and offerings, the tests will end up being far more productive.
Step 2. Run the test
There are two major types of usability testing methods for websites, namely moderated and unmoderated testing. Let us delve into both:
Unmoderated usability testing and its benefits – remote testing is similar to traditional methods except for one key difference, that the organizer and test participants are in different geographical locations. Even though in-person testing is recommended by experts, remote testing still has many benefits:
- It is great for businesses that are on tight budgets. No physical equipment or facility procurement is required to conduct testing.
- It is the perfect option when users are in different geographical locations. No travel requirements equates to cost reductions.
- It helps with time constraints. As testing can be done remotely, people from different time zones can be recruited conveniently.
Moderated or over-the-shoulder testing and its benefits – this is a traditional approach to the usability testing process in which both the facilitator and the participant are in the same room or nearby. The participants are given task scenarios to perform, with their user feedback and facial expressions observed. Here are some benefits of moderated testing:
- You have the power to observe users and their facial expressions.
- It is easier to reach task clarity than with remote usability tests, as the participants can ask for guidance on the spot.
- You can receive instant feedback and ask the participants to perform extra tasks if necessary.
Step 3. Analyze your results
Once the tests have been conducted, the following steps should help you with analyzing the results:
- Collect all the data and jot down the main findings.
- Flag any issues that were observed into common categories like “Login issues”, “E-Commerce platform problems”, “About Us page”, or “Other”.
- Add similar issues under the same umbrella. For example, if you notice that three users were incapable of paying via PayPal then it would be wise to log all of these issues under a “Payment Process” category.
- Make a list of all the issues and prioritize them based on their business or UX value.
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Tips for website user testing
The number of participants - the godfather of website usability experts, Jakob Nielsen, recommends not using more than five participants to conduct website testing. Any users added after the first five will essentially run into similar problems repeatedly. This will only waste time and effort.
Do not jump into conclusions - unless you observe a clear pattern of similar usability issues, as a rule of thumb it is not wise to start fixing everything from the ground up. Different users have varying skills that must be considered before implementing drastic changes. For instance, even if two users have issues navigating to certain pages, the same might not be true for all users.
Record your testing session - always record your sessions to keep track of the entire process. Invest in a web analytics software solution with session replay capabilities like LiveSession.
Test early and test often - waiting too long to test or not doing so often enough can have negative consequences. Testing early on in smaller chunks saves you from the costs of implementing hefty changes down the road.
Run a website usability survey - this can help you achieve user satisfaction. The company Survicate provides a great website user testing survey template that you can use.
The key to effective usability testing of websites
There is nothing worse than having an online presence that does not speak well to end-users. Fortunately, with website user testing, you can tweak and optimize even the weakest of pages before they go live. Here are the key findings that were discussed in this article:
- Website usability testing sessions are a way to evaluate how well visitors interact with your website.
- The main benefits of website user testing include improved retention rates, reduced development costs, and identification of weak spots.
- It is a step-by-step approach to testing that involves planning, understanding the different testing models, and analyzing the results.
- Some tips and tricks on how to improve testing include considering the number of participants, not jumping into conclusions, recording your testing sessions, testing early and often, plus conducting website usability surveys.
Now it’s time to put the theory into practice – good luck with your website usability testing.