Whether your website is a B2B or an internal app, an easy-to-use site can go a long way to improving operational efficiency. Usability testing is designed to discover the real user experience - something that just can't be done by people who are intimately involved with the site.
Everyone agrees that usability is important. Of course! No one sets out to create an unusable web site. Here are the specific advantages that a highly usable web site will confer:
- A better user experience. When customers come away from your site with a feeling of "well, that was easy," they have a positive impression of your business as a whole.
- Improved conversion rate. You want to remove the barriers that keep your customers from dealing with you. A hard-to-use site is a barrier.
- It gives you an edge over the competition. When your site gives your customers a positive impression of your company, they are more likely to come back to you instead of going to a competitor.
- Lower costs. Fewer calls to support means you can spend that energy elsewhere.
- More efficient site usage means the real work gets done. Whether your site is a B2B app or an internal app, your goal is to make your users more efficient. An easy-to-use site can go a long way to improving operational efficiency.
Usability "rules" aren't something that are set in stone. What works for one site and its customers may not work for your site and your customers. That's why usability testing needs to be done with actual web site, using real people. Here is how we do it:
- Recruit some testers. For an internal app or B2B app, these testers may be your own staff or people from a trusted customer. For a B2C site we may recruit some testers from the general public. Either way, the goal is find testers who are similar to your customers, and have not yet had any involvement with the system under development.
- Construct some tasks for them to perform. These will be the typical tasks that users of your site will want to do. For example, if your application is an online shopping cart, we'll want to create some scenarios around for adding items to a cart and checking it out.
- Watch and facilitate their attempts to perform these tasks. Our skilled facilitators know how to see the subtle cues that users may give when they aren't sure what to do.
- Review the recordings. Our experienced developers will view the recordings and decide where the real problems lie.
- Present recommendations. No matter how good your site is, you'll always be able to find some usability problems. Even the best sites have many problems. Not all of those problems need to be fixed, though. We know how to assess a site's issues and recommend the things worth fixing.
How does it fit into the development process?
In a perfect world, usability testing is an iterative process that occurs several times throughout the development of an application.
Test early. It is a well-known maxim that finding and fixing problems early in the process is much cheaper than doing so later on.
Test often. It doesn't need to happen continuously, but if you have a multi-stage project on the go, we encourage you to budget for a round or two of testing for each stage.
Having said that, we also recognize that sometimes your budgetary constraints preclude multiple rounds of usability testing. But even one round of testing is likely to uncover some things that can be improved, so we really advise you to budget for at least one round.
For the love of usability, do it at least once! It's a small investment, and it's guaranteed to pay off.
Why should you want us to do this?
Even the best programmers will write the occasional bug, which is why all code must be reviewed and tested. Similarly, even the best designers can't always predict what customers will really do on a web site.
- No one has a crystal ball. Despite our best efforts to provide an intuitive and easy to use site, sometimes customers will do (or think) something nobody expects.
- Find out what users really do. Usability testing is designed to discover the real user experience - something that just can't be done by people who are intimately involved with the site. Without usability testing, you won't know the problems with your site until customers start complaining. Or worse, go away and never come back.