Earlier in our UX series, we looked at why we conduct usability studies, who to include, and when they can be useful (answer: nearly always). Here, we take a closer look at some usability testing techniques you can apply to make sure your project achieves its goals and delivers maximum benefit to your organization.
Start by creating wireframes and/or clickable prototypes you can use to show users the look and feel of the new design. Once you are confident these are fully developed and in line with your project goals, you are ready to begin. Some things to think about as you begin the process:
User Stories can help define and clarify exactly who you need to talk to, and what you need to produce to test their experience. A user story might include a profile of the user or actor involved, a short description of the problem to be solved, and the potential benefit to the business and/or user.
Screening and Recruiting
Having the right participants makes the information gathered in your usability study significantly more valuable. Making certain that your test group actually uses the system might seem like an obvious prerequisite, but often there is a disconnect between users willing to participate in a study and those who actually use the system. This is also an opportunity to think about internal stakeholders and their goals. You may have to conduct multiple studies with different user types to satisfy everyone involved without overwhelming yourself or your participants.
Moderated vs. Unmoderated
There are pros and cons to both moderated and unmoderated user studies. Having users fend for themselves with little guidance or instruction can tell you a lot about the learnability and efficiency of the design. The problem with unmoderated studies is that the user might spend all of their time floundering, instead of completing other important tasks that follow. Retaining a moderator gives you the flexibility to assist, move the study along, and ensure that testers touch upon the most important aspects of the redesign. As an added bonus, using a moderator allows you to gather real-time feedback on the utility and user appeal of your redesign.
When conducting usability studies, the proper order of business is: complete a study, adjust the design based on that feedback, test again, repeat as needed with each iteration until the new design is ready to be rolled out live. Deviate from this and you might find yourself wasting serious amounts of time and money focusing on only the tip of the iceberg, leaving more serious flaws left to be uncovered later (and in need of yet another redesign).
User Knows Best
Put your assumptions aside and allow the study results to direct your path to an improved user experience. Let go of a ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ mentality, and really listen to what your users are telling you. If there is a restriction within your back-end systems that prohibits creating a more intuitive experience, that might be something to work on first before jumping into a full-on redesign.
If you are still considering bypassing a usability study for your site, think again. Don’t get stuck doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The core of what your users want is pretty simple: a system with the features they need to complete the tasks they’re visiting your site to perform – that is also intuitive and easy to use. Use these rules to prepare for your testing, to make sure you gather all the information you need to make the most of your redesign. If not, you run the risk of starting again at square one, but with less time and money this time around.