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Managing Director

4 min read

When did you last test the usability of your website?

In this article we explain what usability testing is, how it benefits you, what you can expect to learn from it, how long it takes and what it costs.

Most of the clients we talk to haven’t done any usability testing on their website in over 12 months, sometimes never. Equally common is the confusion people have about what their analytics are really telling them. Which is strange, because usability testing doesn’t cost much, it’s relatively quick to do and it gives you insight into what is really happening on your site.

What is usability testing?

The insights gained from speaking with and observing users is invaluable. Some of the setup depends on what we are trying to test (on mobile, in the user’s environment, in a lab, with a live video feed etc) but typically it involves recruiting users who represent your customers, designing carefully crafted tasks then sitting down in a one-to-one setting for 45 minutes or so, and observing them using your website.

Here’s what the clever folk at gov.uk say;

“Moderated usability testing is where you watch participants try to complete specific tasks using your service.

Asking them to ‘think aloud’ as they move through the service helps you understand what they are doing, thinking and feeling.”

Source: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/user-research/using-moderated-usability-testing

A photo of an example usability test

Testing the goals of the website

Website goals usually fit into one or more of these six helpful categories:

  1. Generate leads - I need to make it easier for customers to get in touch
  2. Improve trust - I need to make my customers happier
  3. Increase revenue - I need to make it easier for customers to buy more of what they want
  4. Provide information - I need to make finding content easy
  5. Reduce costs - I need to make it easier for customers to self serve
  6. Reduce risk - I want to avoid doing things that my customers don’t need

You can see that each business goal is related to how it benefits your users. Usability testing will tell you if the site is meeting those goals.

What will usability testing tell us?

It really depends on what your website is supposed to do but there are some of the more common insights:

  • How does the website match with the expectations of users?
  • Which aspects of the website do users struggle with?
  • How well do users comprehend the content and instructions?
  • Which aspects are most likely to cause a user to drop-out?
  • Where are users most likely to benefit from support/help?

These insights tell us where users have needs that are currently not being met. The insights help you to invest in the areas that most need it and to make confident and bold decisions about the design and functionality of your site.

How long does it take and what does it cost?

Typically we’ll need about a week to recruit users, book the venue or rooms (we have a live stream between two rooms, so you can observe the testing sessions first hand), and create a bespoke testing script to run the tasks.

Creating the tasks takes the most time, it’s not a simple process and requires a lot of thought and experience to get it right. The worst thing that you could do is to waste the benefits of doing usability testing by getting the tasks and facilitation wrong.

We’ll usually spend one day facilitating the testing, and you’ll be learning insights first-hand. We’ll then spend a day pulling together an edited video, if needed, so that you’ve got something to show the rest of your business.

Costs include our professional research time, setup of our mobile usability testing lab, recruiting up to five participants plus their incentives, lunch and refreshments on the day. We want to show you how accessible research is, so you’re very welcome to bring your team with you too.

Mark making some final checks to the testing kit

Travel costs are additional, but we’re centrally located in Sheffield and it’s easy to get to most places in the UK. If you don’t have access to two rooms close to each other, then we’ll likely need to hire a venue which is extra.

Typically it takes 2-3 weeks and about £3,000 + VAT to do usability testing on a website. You may want to do more, or even try out some new ideas and test those. The beauty of this approach is that you can do a bit and make an informed choice about what to do next.

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