Usability testing

October 29th, 2019 Posted by Vikee Rayner

Get real user feedback about your platform

“If you want a great site, you’ve got to test. After you’ve worked on a site for even a few weeks, you can’t see it freshly anymore. You know too much. The only way to find out if it really works is to test it.” – Steve Krug

Improve the user journey through usability testing

Design thinking is a cyclical process that includes regularly testing and refining your offering. You can get a clear understanding of how well your platform, product or service is meeting people’s needs by conducting usability testing. This means having a user go through a series of tasks related to the platform, product or service and getting their feedback about that experience – their challenges, questions, joys, expectations and behaviour. You can do usability testing in person or remotely through software, and it can be moderated or unmoderated.

For the rest of this article, I’ll refer to the offering as a platform, but usability testing can also apply to a human-facing product, service or experience.

Conduct usability testing whenever you make changes

Usability testing is the right choice when you have a platform that is either fully developed and ready for market or has already been launched and is in use. It must be ready for use because you are looking for feedback on the actual version that people will interact with. Ideally, you should conduct usability testing whenever you make changes to your platform, however small those changes are.

Remain competitive; test with real or potential users 

As Steve Krug says, we cannot be a good judge of our own platform when we’ve been working on it ourselves. We need input from someone who uses or might use the platform – a user is coming to the platform to fulfill a need, so they are in the perfect position to comment on what works and what doesn’t. Engaging with typical users gives you a fresh and real perspective on areas people are struggling with. These problem areas might be scaring potential customers into the arms of the competition.

Things to consider when conducting usability testing

  • Always keep testing sessions to one on one. You’re looking for unbiased feedback, and people can’t help but be influenced by others’ opinions in a group. 
  • Keep quiet. As a moderator, limit your input to clear instructions, necessary guidance and questions. Don’t offer your opinion.
  • If you’re testing a digital platform, like a website or app, set tasks that help you find out about content, navigation and visual aspects. This will help you understand how easy it is to find and understand information, as well as how aesthetics affect the experience.
  • Ask the user to think aloud throughout the test – they may say something you hadn’t thought to ask about.
  • If you’re conducting unmoderated usability testing, make sure your directions are completely clear and unambiguous, and make sure you test your test with someone other than you before you start the real testing. Unclear instructions can botch the whole project.
  • Try testing with a mixture of actual users and people who fit the user profile but haven’t seen the platform before, unless you are trying to find out about the first interaction in particular, in which case, choose only people who haven’t seen the platform before. 
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