Try to imagine if your target user did not fully understand the functionality of your website; can you predict how long it would take them to stop using it or leave the page? The faster a user gets to learn how to properly use the website, the higher the chances that they will stay on it. So how do you know if your website can easily be understood and that users will be able to enjoy all of its features? The most definitive answer is through user-testing or usability testing (UX testing).
Creating a website is a fun but lengthy process. You go through content development, planning, and the exciting stage of designing prototypes prior to the actual launching of the website. These layers of crucial steps will not be complete unless you test it for efficacy and functionality. The best way to do it is by putting yourself in the end-user’s shoes.
This article will show you what user-testing is, what its benefits are, and how you can get started with it for your website.
What is Usability Testing?
The usability of an app or a website is the user-friendliness of the product and the extent to which users are able to explore without facing obstacles, questions, or doubts. A user-friendly product, therefore, is one that allows end-users to have a smooth-sailing experience without any frustrations.
User-testing is the process of gathering related data from real users of an app, website, or prototype. Researchers carefully observe and record the comments of the respondents while using the product. The goal is to identify areas that are confusing and clarify why some functions don’t work. This would be an opportunity to improve the customer experience by listing down action points or uncovering solutions.
Usability testing is one of the processes of design thinking or a human-centered problem-solving methodology. It involves empathizing with the end-user in order to have a deeper understanding of their needs and behavior. It focuses on the experience of the end-users while using the product by following their interactions with the website or the app. By having first-hand experience of installing, onboarding, and navigating, you can gain important insights about what works and what needs improvement.
Basically, it is a type of user research that will uncover a better view of whether users are:
- Confused or easily get lost in the website or app navigation process.
- Able to complete actions that you intend them to do, like make a purchase.
- Not having usability issues or encountering bugs.
- Having an efficient and purposeful experience.
- Experiencing other problems while using the product.
The key point in doing a user-testing is that you are able to acknowledge that there might be problems that you or the design team understands but the end-users will not. It is crucial to see the possible problems from their point of view because it is the only way that you can improve a product that they will appreciate.
What are the Benefits of User-Testing?
Usability testing, in a nutshell, is making participants interact with the product so that you can assess the functionality and features while having the opportunity to see design loopholes. It gives a glimpse of how the audience will actually use the website in real life.
More than finding out any issues that may arise in using the product, let us delve into the benefits of UX testing in your goal of enhancing the design:
1. Validate the design of the prototype.
As the sample version of the final product, the goal of a prototype is to test the whole process or concept of the design. You are basically finding out if it works or not. User testing becomes a valuable tool because it will show not only if the fundamental features work but also gives you an idea about the actual experience of using them.
2. See if it meets product expectations.
A design is something that is created to solve a specific problem. With usability testing, you can find out if the product is indeed the solution. If so, it will also determine if such a solution can be accessed in a seamless manner. The process will also reveal key areas that might be missing such as functionalities or interface elements.
3. Recognize flaws in complex flows.
Some websites require multiple steps to complete transactions, like when purchasing and checking out items. If this is the case, you need to test if the process is still intuitive and straightforward. A UX testing will show whether the process will be frustrating to customers or not.
4. Identify both minor and major errors.
User testing can catch not only major but also minor errors in the design, like grammatical issues, broken links, etc. These may be minor issues but will pile up and hurt your trustworthiness and sense of professionalism if left as is.
5. Corroborate data points.
One factor why you can’t always explain the why’s of a problem is that real users are going to be using the product across different devices. Users also do not interact with the product the same way so there will always be issues at bay. UX testing allows you to see where users encounter any problems in the design and get stuck. While some of the issues are easily solved, some may also remain a mystery why they happen. A user testing will help collect related data that will explain why the navigation is confusing or if there are problems during signing up.
6. Create an unbiased perspective.
What matters to you might not be the same as what matters to the users. UX testing allows you to develop empathy and truly understand how the users feel when using the website. This will be difficult because it might be impossible to look at your design without bias. With user testing, you can focus on the data derived to see where you can make improvements so that the users will really be able to gain from it.
7. Gain competitive advantage.
The competition is tough and the customers will always find something better than your product. User testing findings will help persuade the team to apply improvements or changes within the organization in order to keep up and even advance in the competition. A radically improved user experience is what will keep your users and not simply by providing a product that meets their expectations.
8. Ensure an overall improved user experience.
The success of your product is greatly measured by a great user experience. Always remember that a happy customer is a repeat customer. You will be able to increase retention rates if you are able to keep the customers engaged with a delightful user experience. UX testing will help verify that all functions and features are working and that all flaws are resolved. Incorporating user inputs during the design and prototyping process allows you to offer a pleasant experience upon launching the product.
With user testing, you avoid having actual users exposing the design flaws after you have invested so much time and resources in the product development process. Aside from being expensive, it will be more difficult to fix issues after launch. The biggest downside is that you risk frustrating users and losing them altogether. User testing early on will help identify factors that make the customers discouraged so you can make quick changes and afford to test again until you perfect the design.
When is It Necessary to Do UX Testing?
While most would suggest doing user testing right before launching, it is quite wiser to perform earlier. Usability tests during the first stages of the design process let you see problems a lot sooner. This would allow you to troubleshoot such problems early on as it would be quite difficult and more costly to wait longer. A problem tends to soak deep into the design so it will be more challenging to eliminate it or would require plenty of resources to fix.
For an online retail shop, for example, the most common problem usually happens during the transaction process. Conducting usability testing would help identify problems, like low conversion rates and user activity. With user testing, you can actually pinpoint the reasons why some areas of the website get ignored or can’t be understood. You can further conclude that maybe the steps are either too complicated or the process is incomprehensible. While you are at it, you can start devising solutions to solve such problems.
In case you are developing an app, it is essential to get good reviews from the users. A great user experience can only be achieved if the user fully understands what is being offered. User testing would allow you to know how people are actually using the app. You can address all the flaws of the design if you really use the app just like a normal user.
In both scenarios, time and resources might be limited. Early-stage user testing gives you the chance to revise the design before you ran out of resources developing broken features. At the end of the day, user testing lets you invest your resources more effectively since there is a higher probability that you are launching a successful product.
Why Perform User-Testing?
Aside from ensuring that the product works as promised, website usability testing also gives plenty of advantages to the company as a whole, including:
Having a pleasant interface and an easy to navigate website will have repeat visitors. Successful websites have a goal of having long-term repeat visitors and you can only understand what is affecting the retention rates if you are able to understand the user behavior.
Reduces support costs.
Bugs and issues are additional developmental costs, especially when they have blown up. Customer complaints and downtimes are extra costs that can be avoided if you are able to identify the issues early on. It could also help reduce the costs spent on backend customer support. Your team will find a dramatically decreased customer support log and spend less time fielding questions if you are able to test on the issues and identify solutions during UX testing.
Improve Customer Advocacy.
Aside from not coming back on the website, irate customers might also create remarks that could tarnish your brand’s reputation. With user testing, it is more likely that you will offer a product that more than meets their expectations. Happy customers can become loyal brand advocates who will praise your product to other people.
Get Started with User-Testing with These Steps
You can validate the strengths of your design and the final product with in-depth and candid feedback from real users. While user testing provides plenty of benefits both for the company and the actual product, some people are apprehensive about it because of the assumption that it is a difficult process.
It is, however, not too complicated to craft the perfect UX testing methodology. In fact, you only need three major steps to start with usability testing:
1. Make a plan.
Before the actual testing phase begins, you have to decide on salient points like the scope of testing, purpose, schedule, participants, and scenarios.
Scope of testing - identify which areas of the website of what functions and features are to be tested. Will it be the whole website or just parts of it? Are you looking to improve the navigation structure of the app or see if the content fits? Knowing the scope of your UX testing will help narrow down the process and let you focus on the areas that really need attention.
Purpose - you must set goals or reasons why you are conducting such a test. Is it mainly to improve the design for ease of use? Will it be to improve the product’s appeal? Or will it be for the purpose of ensuring accurate and relevant data? This will make it easy for you to find specific information that will be of help once you try to improve the product based on your goals.
Schedule - you need to set and follow a schedule for the testing if you want to come up with a final product before the actual launch. This would encourage you to hustle in making your improvements so that you can finally present the website to the rest of the target users.
Participants - decide on who and how many participants you are going to have for the UX testing. Base your participants on demographics that fit your ideal customer criteria so. They must be willing and enthusiastic in giving direct feedback. This will allow you to gather relevant information that will be essential in fine-tuning your product. You also have the choice to have participants who are not too familiar with your product have an unbiased reaction. This will be useful if you are trying to see if the users will be able to enjoy the product still even with limited technical capabilities.
Scenarios - one way to see how features and functions work during usability testing is by handing out scenarios or questions that participants will use. You can try asking them to fill out forms, find specific products, or make a purchase. This is also a way to standardize the test procedure so that you can have complete data that are essential when you analyze the results later on.
2. Run the Test.
You can begin the testing phase with either unmoderated or moderated testing. With unmoderated or remote testing, the test organizer and participants are coming from different locations. This is great for those who have no physical facility to conduct user testing. It is also a favorable option if travel requirements and time constraints are an issue.
With moderated or over-the-shoulder testing, on the other hand, the facilitator and participants are in the same room. You can observe the users on how they use the product and see live expressions. This method makes it easier to have instant feedback and guides the participants in doing the tasks.
3. Analyze the Results.
Upon finishing the test, you can analyze the results by collecting all relevant data. Start flagging down issues that you observed, such as problems in logging in or issues with carting out. Group the issues together so that it will be easier for you to tackle them in one go. You must also prioritize the issues so that you can start working on them according to its value on the business or the whole user experience.
Sounds uncomplicated right? These steps basically tell you to make a solid UX testing plan, perform the test, and take action based on the results. It is like trying to connect the dots between the gathered data and finding viable solutions to improve the product. It is an opportunity to fill the gaps in the design that needs attention using insightful information. At the end of the day, usability testing lets you uncover issues that would aid you in formulating recommendations for overall product improvement.
User testing is an indispensable part of the website and app development process. It is only by your diligence to see how the critical functions of the product perform will you be able to reduce or totally eradicate chances of frustrating the end-users. What you must remember, though, is that user testing is an ongoing process. You need to perform it again after changes are made in order to see if the issues are resolved. While it may sound like an expensive and complicated process, performing UX testing on a regular basis may be the only way that you can achieve your business goals effectively and in a faster manner.
Are you interested in finding out more about user testing and how you can improve the user experience of your website? Let us know about your questions in the comments and we will gladly tell you more about it.