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What Is Website Usability Testing and Why Is It Important

By Abhay V

Website-Usability-Testing

There are millions of websites that are available on the internet but only a handful of them are really famous. The major factor that differentiates these websites and the plenty of others that are available is usability. Usability plays a major role in making or breaking a website because in the end, it is the visitor’s experience that matters. Websites that have glitches are often put aside and not to be visited again. Suffice to say that a website works if, and only if the users think it works.

This is where website usability testing comes into play. A developer might not look at a website in a way that the normal user often does. Because the developer is so accustomed to the website, he or she may not be able to find much fault as compared with a first time user. For example, navigating through a website that has multiple layers of pages is a lot easier when you are a developer of the website. This is simply because you know where the pages are. However, a normal user will not be able to do the same. This means that the website is not as usable.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is a technique that many websites today apply. It focuses on the user to evaluate a certain product. This is so that the product will be catered more to what the user actually needs and not what the company assumes the user need. The good thing about this technique is that it gives high quality input when a real user makes use of the system. This is different from usability inspection where experts make use of certain methods to gauge the usability of the system.

Most of the time, usability testing is made on products that are meant to be used by the consumers directly. Some of the types of products that have benefited greatly from usability testing include foods, websites, computer interfaces and many others. It is a testing that gives out high quality response that can significantly help how the company manufactures and market its product to make it user-centric.

Why Usability Testing is essential for a great User Experience?

The internet can be a rough place for webmasters and a website usability test is important for its survival. Imagine yourself as a user, going to a website only to find yourself lost an unable to find the right information. What will you do? The answer is to leave the website and to check others that have better navigation instead. Website usability test caters to this important problem and as we mentioned before, it can make or break a website. It lowers the chances of the people leaving the website and this is ultimately what any webmasters want from their users: to stay.

Website usability test is important not only for users of the internet but also in the local intranets as well. This is a company that has an intranet website that is complex will ultimately find their employees pondering around, trying to find their way through the website. As a result, it will also be counter-productive for the business in the long run as well.

What most people recommend is to spend at least 10% of the budget of making the website for usability. This is to ensure that the quality of the website is on par with the good ones and not below average. The same goes to software and physical products although the changes will not be as drastic as a website.

Factors Affecting Usability Testing

Website usability testing often encompasses various things but it mostly revolves on five different components: learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors and satisfaction.

1.Learnability: Learnability refers to the level of difficulty of the user while performing basic tasks on the website. For a blog, this may not be so much of a problem. However, websites that are custom made may not be as easy to use. Some good examples are eCommerce websites. Some of them are built in such a way that it can be a tedious job for a customer to get to the checkout page. Good ones on the other hand often have one-page checkout for better turnover rate. Suffice to say that if a website fails on learnability, it easily fails the usability test.

2.Efficiency: Efficiency on the other hand, refers to how fast the user can accomplish the task once they know how to do it. If it takes a long time to finish a certain task, then chances are that your website is not efficient. Take a look at big websites such as Amazon and Google. What do they have in common? Google is the simplest website on the Internet and it gets the job done. Amazon also does the same with its quick checkout. Efficiency is another important element that you should prioritize in your website.

3.Memorability: If a user stops using the website for a prolonged period of time, how fast will he be accustomed to it again? This question refers to the memorability of the user while using the website. The user should be able to navigate easily from a website and this means no complex pages.

4.Errors: No one is perfect and thus a user may have errors while browsing a website. How many errors were made and how easy was it to correct the error? A lot of websites today have AJAX built into it. This means that in a long check out page, users can go from one section to the other without needing to refresh the screen. This also means that errors on any of the sections can be corrected easily. In addition to that, having a summary at the end of the page also helps as it allows the user to double-check his or her submission to ensure that no mistakes were made.

5.Satisfaction: Last but not least is satisfaction. Is the design satisfactory for the user? Is the website easy to navigate and is it pleasant to look at as well? Satisfaction can only be achieved when the four aforementioned factors have been taken into consideration. If you have covered most if not all of it, chances are that your users will also be satisfied with the website. Only then will the website pass the website usability test.

The Right Way to do Usability Testing

During the development of the website, it may be best to get in touch with a few potential users of the website to try and test it. These may be potential customers to an ecommerce website or employees outside of the department. Get their input as to where the problem lies and the pages that can be hard to navigate to. In addition to that, do get their input as to the major pages that they need to have easy access to. These pages should be the main focus while developing the website. It is not to say that other pages are not important but there are a select few that needs prioritization.

In addition to that, you may also observe the users while they are using the website. Find out the things that they succeeded in doing as well as things that they find it difficult to work. Most of all, do not defend your work but instead, allow them to give their input and to criticize the layout of the website. Only then will you be able to create a user-centric website.

 

There are also plenty of usability tools that are available on the Internet. While most of the tools work similarly between one and another, there are also some differences that makes one better than the other.

One of the things that need to be tested is readability. There are many tools present to do this. Tools such as WordsCount and the Juicy Studio’s Readability Test work wonders. The tools allow you to give text input and in return, it will give you the readability score of the content. Besides that, there are also site navigability tools. These are web apps that gives the user a scenario on which they will have to achieve through your website. There will be certain criteria that you can choose and this can be a basis as to how well the user can navigate through your website. Examples of site navigability tools include Treejack, WriteMaps, Optimal Sort and many others.

Website speed is also important because not all of your users make use of high speed broadband. As such, you will need to optimize your website for speed and this can only be achieved through website speed tools. Pingdom Tool is one of the most famous on the internet. Besides that, there is also Page Speed Online that gives a simpler overview of your website’s speed.

Last but not least, there is the feedback tool. Feedback Army is certainly a good one but it can also be expensive. It allows you to purchase responses to your website. It costs $15 for 10 responses but you can be sure that the responses you received will make it worth your time.

Conclusion

The advantages of doing website usability testing far outweigh its disadvantages. A proper testing will ensure that the visitor’s retention rate for the website will be high. This is because a working website will not cause the visitors to leave but instead to look around for information.

In addition to that, it will also improve the brand experience of the customers. This means that the customer will leave the website knowing that the company has taken time to ensure that everything in the website works. Common problems or annoyance usually involve broken links, site errors, misspellings, poor grammar and a few other small, yet significant problems. So, regardless of how small you think the problem can be, fix it. All of this will then relate to an increase in sales as well as profits in the long run.

Web usability testing hasn’t been highlighted much until today. This is most probably because competition amongst websites has increased and thus requires the webmaster to focus more on the user instead of themselves. Websites that have the potential to succeed are websites that work. Thus, focusing on usability testing is a no-brainer.

About the Author
Abhay V
Abhay Vohra has over ten years of experience in the IT industry. Abhay started out with us a Quality Analyst and moved onto the Business Analysis team where he discovered his passion for information architecture, wireframes and user experience. He also has solid experience in Business Analysis and is now a day researching rapid prototyping methods. Abhay is bit of a “Culture Vulture” and takes a lot of interest in world cinema and literature.

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