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4 years ago 5 min read

Usability Testing – 10 Tips For Getting It Right

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Usability testing is an essential part of any product development process. After all, it’s the users we have in mind while developing the product. We want them to love it, use it and spread the word. Gathering customer experience metrics is the best way to reassess the basic principles of our business and create a great customer experience at the same time.

1. Set goals

First and foremost, set your goals. Don’t overlook the preparation before you start to measure customer experience metrics. Remember why you built (developed) the product. Take a step back and decide what the problem was you wanted to solve. Form a hypothesis and then test it. Don’t confuse hypothesis with assumption. Don’t try to squeeze in too many subjects on your usability testing checklist – there may not be enough time later on to tick all the boxes. Prioritize and focus your research.

2. Choose the right audience

Know your customers, respect your users. The biggest mistake one can make while choosing the audience is to target research at the wrong group.

If your tool is meant to be used by project managers, search for people who are project managers. Don’t test it on a randomly chosen bunch of people. They don’t know the basic problems of your core clients and you might get caught up in gathering customer experience metrics that are not useful at all.

Hiring friends and family to do the testing is also a big no-no. Their judgment will be distorted because they know you.

3. Prepare the room and tools

Basic user testing sessions require the right equipment and the right space. Clear out the room and get rid of all possible distractions but don’t make it too clinical either. You want users to feel comfortable, not intimidated. Make sure that the computer, camera and recording equipment is working. Test it. Making sure your tools are working properly gives you confidence in knowing that you are well prepared and won’t be distracted while the test is in progress. If you don’t have the opportunity of conducting the test in person, do it online. All you need is a good usability testing tool that can be used remotely.

4. Prepare clear instructions and tasks

Testers need to know what to do. Make it easy. Users tend to become discouraged when instructions are unclear. It’s better to give a few short tasks than one massive assignment. Break your tasks down into small parts because people have a short (8-second)* attention span and might abandon it sooner than you’d anticipated. Make sure that your instructions are not too long-winded and never include the answer within your task or question.

5. Three-plus is a crowd

While conducting your usability study, bear in mind that the ideal scenario has you and the user in it. Period. Additional people in the room are a distraction. The tester might become intimidated if there are many people observing him. The biggest mistake is putting developers or product owners in the room where testing takes place. They are too close to the product and may, involuntarily, influence the testing process by gesticulating, whispering or facial expression and you don’t want customer experience metrics to be influenced by that. A great way to avoid this is to conduct a remote usability test.

6. Be neutral

People search for social proof of behavior and tend to alter answers while being affected by the opinions of others. Be neutral in your actions: don’t nod or shake your head so indicating your opinions. Don’t distract your subjects by lots of talk, never comment on their use of a website or any of its features. Never pass judgment like: “You are using it wrong!”. The number one rule – stay quiet.

The core of your test is to observe and conduct research to develop a better product and thus improve customer experience. Your testers should never feel like THEY are being tested as this will trigger a defense reaction and responses won’t be accurate. While asking to expand, do not include the answers in your questions – always leave room for interpretation.

7. Set the time frame

Remember that the customer development process takes time so factor it into your research. Individual computer assisted user experience testing takes time. Bear in mind that if the test takes too long, the user might get bored and will give short answers just to get through the process faster. Make the test as time efficient as you can.

Testing many people is time consuming – consider this when setting the session time. Will you be able to stay fresh and observant after 8 hours of user testing? Breaks are a good idea. Factor them in. If you would like to avoid the monotonous, time consuming task of doing this on your own, you can hire professionals to do the testing for you or use usability testing tool that track visitor mouse movement or trigger remote usability testing for you.

8. Always ask for feedback

Apart from the task you set, UX best practice dictates that you should always ask users for more feedback. Even if testers complete the tasks successfully, it doesn’t mean that they think other aspects of your tool or website are OK, or that they don’t have anything to add. Customer experience enhancement is a complex process and should be viewed and conducted as such. Stick to your hypothesis but always use your instincts when users express unusual or surprising feedback. Be prepared for surprises. Check how Click Tracking revealed an interesting fact about visitors of the Great Orchestra Of Christmas Charity website.

9. Draw conclusions and improve

The reason for doing user testing is to develop a better product. The knowledge of how real users use the tools you provide and where they need more help is beneficial only if you draw conclusions and refine your product accordingly. After you go through the usability testing checklist, be prepared to act fast, prioritize and improve your product. And then.. do some more usability testing.

10. Ask for help

The Internet is a great place to find tons of useful info on how to conduct usability testing and measure customer enhancement. When you are a novice in the user experience field it is easy to make simple mistakes. If you want to conduct testing the right way or learn how to do it in the future, you can always ask for professional help and assistance.

For one, you will get a ton of expert advice which is specific to your business. Secondly, learning how professionals conduct testing to gather maximum customer experience metrics can only be a plus for your future customer development process. Conducting studies on your own won’t seem like a tedious and complicated task.

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