User Testing

Do first-time visitors to your website find it easy to use?
Can they find the information they are looking for, so they can convert to a sale? Unfortunately, as the owner of your website you are over-familiar with it, so existing problems may be invisible to you. So how do you tackle this? The most effective method is one-to-one user testing. Here’s how it works:

The Process
Step 1: Designing the Test
Five to eight participants are carefully sourced, that match your target audience. This number of participants will expose most of your site’s problems, while keeping your costs down.

A series of real-world tasks are carefully designed, that the participants must complete on your site. for example, tasks for a footwear ecommerce site might involve finding out whether certain shoes are available in a size 10, finding contact details, and of course, purchasing a pair of shoes.

Step 2: Test Day
Participants’ screen movements are captured using special recording software, as well as their verbal expressions non-verbal body language. This provides compelling footage – words and actions speak volumes, but so do eyebrow movements, frowns and sighs.

The test participants' verbal comments and body language usually speak volumes.

During the test, great care is taken not to influence the participants in any way. The aim is to recreate a ‘natural’ web browsing situation, similar to if they  were browsing your site at home and in a relaxed state of mind. In real terms this means:

– Delivering instructions using written scripts, so you don’t give slightly different instructions to different people.
– Being hyper-aware of your own body language, ensuring you put them at ease by adopting a neutral and friendly stance.
– Not helping them, either verbally or non-verbally (that body language again). This is harder than it sounds, and requires practice.
– In my opinion – not using a big, scary two way mirror! Do you want your test subjects to feel like human beings, or laboratory rats?

After the test is complete, participants are debriefed. We ask lots of questions – why they performed a certain action, what they assumed to be behind a certain link, what they generally felt about the site, and so on. This stage is usually when the truth comes out – so it is also captured on camera.

Step 3: The Results
After all participants have been tested, the video recordings are replayed and salient points extracted, and the ratio of task success/failure is measured. The result is a compelling mixture of quantitative and qualitative results that speaks volumes about your users’ experience on-site.
Costs and timings
User testing doesn’t have to be eye-poppingly expensive. A 5-person test will take around four days, consisting of 2 planning days, 1 test day and 1 analysis day.

If you would like to discuss running a user test, my initial consultation is free and with no obligation, so give me a call on 07929 613717.