Usability Testing — why do we need it?

Before we go into great detail to why we need usability testing — I’m going to explain a little bit of what usability testing is…I can feel some of you reading the title saying, Huh?, What?.

Usability testing is a process of seeing how easy or difficult a task is to complete by a real user — a real user being a person who would use your site on a regular basis e.g. a customer for an eCommerce site. Users (or people) are asked to complete set tasks which are typically observed by an analyst or a researcher. 
Remote usability testing allows companies to remove the process of having to be present whilst the test takes places. Remote usability testing allows companies to receive recordings of how their users/customers interact with their website/product. We can gain invaluable insight to how users/customers interact with your website/product — not only are we able to see where they’re moving their mouse to and what they’re clicking; we also receive their verbal feedback. We know what they like & dislike, what their frustrations and joyous moments are when completing a task, what they’d like to see change and most importantly, how they feel whilst interacting with your website/product.

So, why do we need Usability Testing?

Sorry guys

Usability Testing in the long run makes the world wide web a better place. There are several key factors that need to be addressed with user experience an usability testing helps to address those factors.

Factors including:
*Useful — The content in which you use should be original and fulfill a neeed — ideally your users
*Usable — Your site needs to be easy to use — how can you know this if only you are using it? Usability testing allows you to see exactly how a user interacts with your website
*Desirable — Are your images, identity, brand and other design elements used to evoke emotion and appreciation? Usability testing allows you to gain the knowledge by setting your users the set tasks and question in relation to your branding, imagery an identity.
*Findable — Content needs to be navigatable and locatable. By setting up tasks for users to complete, they can give you feedback as to how easy it is to navigate your site, what they like and dislike etc.
*Accessible — Content that is easily accessbile for every skill set. Not everyone is as computer literate as the next. Content needs to be able to found my those who are just using a computer to those who are extremely proficient 
*Credible — Users must trust and believe what is being displayed on the website. Trust is a huge issue on websites — it’s something that is very easily distilled and very hard to regain.

Like any undertaking, you must go in with a plan. Define your usability goals before setting any form of test. You need to know what you’re looking for , or even why you’re looking. 
The first step in usability testing, should always be knowing what you are trying to find out — however, that’s a lot easier than it sounds. There’s 2 fairly easy steps to remember, that can be broken down into sections.

Step 1: Defining/Categorising Your Goals

It definitely helps to break out your different objectives into categories. One of the best ways to start determining your objectives and ultimately determining your categories, is knowing the right questions to ask.

One of the best places to start drawing up what questions to ask is starting with the people who work with your website — your developer, content marketer, manager etc. How much do they know the product ?— features, users, competitors etc. Do they know of any constraints of the product? — development problems. 
Once you gain that knowledge, you start asking a set of questions to help focus the team on research questions — “Why do people sign-up but not do x,y,z?” ←this is better than →”We need to do focus groups now!”

Relevant Product Information — Do you know the history of your product? Do you know what’s in store for the future? Now would be a good time to find out.
Users — Who uses your product? Who do you want to use your product? Be as specific as possible: demographics, location, usage patterns — whatever you can find out.
Success — What is your idea of success for this product? It it sales, downloads, pageviews, engagement or some other measure? Make sure the entire team is on the same page.
Competitors — Who will be your biggest competition? How do you compare? What will your users be expecting based on your competition?
Research — This might seems like a no-brainer when planning your research, but what do you want to know? What data would help your team best? Is that research already available to you so that you’re not wasting your time?
Timing and Scope — What time frame are you working with for collecting your data? When is it due?
Be cool…

Do I still have you? Trust me — completing the above will save you a lot hassle in the long run.

Now that you’ve addressed benchmark questions — you can have your team brainstorm questions. From completing the above and having your team write down their own questions — you can identify what they know and what they’d like to know. 
A great exercise to have your team participate in — hand out sticky notes to your team, have them write their questions down on the sticky notes, collect all the notes and stick them to a board for everyone to see. Finally, organise the questions based on similarity. From there, you’re able to see what the top questions are. You’ll be able to see there’s more of one question being asked for the same thing — you can derive your testing objectives and ultimately your priority.

Reminder; objectives should be simple like: ‘Can visitors find the information they need’?

2. Knowing What to Measure from your objectives

Now we know our objectives and what questions to ask, it’s time to figure how to apply usability testing to receive results. 
To ensure to gather the most insight, you must first know and understand what type of feedback would be most helpful for your results. Rating scales or graphs? Number of sign-ups or number of visits? Written responses or videos recorded? 
The picture below should guide of how the types of data affects the type of testing.

Now that you know your goals and type of data you’re looking for — we can get into planning the actual tests.

Some tips:
Metrics — metrics are the stats measuring a user’s performance on a given set of tasks. Here are some of the top metrics to gather:

Success Rate — In a given scenario, was the user able to complete the assigned task?
Error Rate — Which errors tripped up users most? These can be divided into two types: critical and noncritical. Critical errors will prevent a user from completing a task, while noncritical errors will simply lower the efficiency with which they complete it.
Time to Completion — How much time did it take the user to complete the task? This can be particularly useful when determining how your product compares with your competitors (if you’re testing both).
Subjective Measures — Numerically rank a user’s self-determined satisfaction, ease-of-use, availability of information, etc.

Tools to use for your usability testing: — free, remote and easy usability testing. You can check them out at: have a multitude of qualified website reviewers who will follow your set tasks and give you invaluable insight to how a day-to-day users interacts with your product.
HotJar — gain insight by knowing where users are clicking, where they spend most their time with heatmaps etc. You can also setup polls and surveys to gain additional feedback an insight.
Inspectlet — record every user’s session and see how they’re interacting with you site.