Why Should You Do Usability Testing?
To create a pain free user experience and optimise conversion it is essential to carry out usability testing research. Sure, you can ask a few people around the office to check out your new site, but it is more important to get feedback from ‘real users’ who do not work in e-commerce and are not connected to your business.
Psychology tells us that as we concentrate on a task or project we are prone to see what we expect to see because our visual cortex unconsciously takes the decision to filter out things that it regards as less important to achieving a task. This is why we often miss the most obvious mistakes if we proof read our own work. Usability testing removes this filter as it does not rely on our own opinions.
We also get too close to our pet projects and as a result we overvalue the things we create, (see the IKEA effect). As a result we are not the best people to evaluate websites that we helped to create. Anyone connected to your business may also suffer from some of the same cognitive biases or may just not want to hurt your feelings. Usability testing avoids these biases by getting the views of ‘real users’, that is people not connected with your organisation.
Usability testing is not about proving or disproving something works or not. It is about informing decisions and giving you insights into how users interact with your website. If you need a definitive answer then you really should be conducting an A/B test. As I pointed out in another post on whether usability research is reflecting real behaviour all research is subject to bias and limitations.
People for instance change their behaviour when they are aware they are being observed. This can be a particular problem for usability testing which is conducted offline. However, it is possible to build procedures into usability testing to minimise this problem. For example you can get the user to complete a few fake tasks to disguise the real test experience.
When Should You test?
The earlier you do some usability testing the better as this will allow you to respond to user feedback at each step in the development and design process. Wire frames, prototypes or even drawings can be tested to give you useful feedback before you move onto finished designs.
Don’t use focus groups as usability research needs to deal with one user at a time. Otherwise people can get distracted by what other people are doing and you also need to give them your full attention. It is important that you observe and listen to users and avoid asking questions as people will over-think their behaviour if asked to explain it.
How Should You Test?
Steve Krug has written an awesome book, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Voices That Matter), which I highly recommend you read. He advocates doing your own usability research if you can. Undoubtedly this is a great idea if you have the time and the equipment. If you have no or very little budget you might as well do this as even one user test is better than none.
However, there are also some affordable online services available, some of which are free. The benefit here is that they can manage all the admin and recruitment for you, plus conduct the usability testing and if required do the analysis. All you have to do is agree the brief. I would still recommend you get videos of your usability tests as you will often learn more from watching people browse your site than from reading a report. A video brings it to life in a way a report cannot.
One other advantage is that such suppliers offer a range of solutions including remote automated usability testing, card sorting for developing your navigation, tree testing to evaluate how easy it is find content on a site and eye-tracking to identify where on page attention is drawn to. Such suppliers can also use their expertise to advise you on how to best design a usability test study.
Who Should You Recruit?
Some usability test solutions, such as Hotjar, offer you the ability to serve pop-ups on your site to recruit your own visitors to complete specific tasks. You can then share screens using Skype or other web meeting tools to observe how successful they are at achieving the set task. Alternatively many suppliers offer the option to recruit testers who match your user demographics.
Don’t get too obsessed though with matching your target audience as usability testing is about understanding how people in general interact with your site. Setting very strict recruitment criteria will just increases the cost and time needed to conduct the testing without adding much value to the outcome.
10 Automated Usability Testing Solutions:
1. Loop11: Online usability testing with your first project free (up to 5 tasks and 2 questions). Covers over 40 languages, provides heatmaps and clickstream analysis, real-time reporting, and you can test on mobile devices.
Pricing: A Free usability test is available for new customers. Pay as you go costs $350 per project. All plans include 1,000 participants per project, unlimited tasks and questions, testing on mobile, real-time results and 24/7 email support.
The Micro plan costs $158 a month and is designed for organisations with between 1 and 10 employees, plus for non-profits and public sector clients. The SMB plan costs $410 per month and is for 11 to 100 employees. The Enterprise plan is priced at $825 per month.
2. Try My UI: Remote usability testing which provides videos of visitors undertaking set tasks on your website. You also get written answers to questions you set. Get your first test for Free – normally costs $35.
Pricing: The Personal plan charges $35 per test credit. A desktop test requires 1 credit, whilst a mobile test costs 2 credits. Includes up to 20 minutes of video and audio feedback, written responses to custom survey questions and the ability to analyse your results with tagged, time stamped annotations.
The Team plan costs $299 per month. This gives you 10 credits per month, testing with your own users for one month, multi-user login, collaborative video annotation, crowd sourced key insights with the UXCrowd, UX diagnostics and the ability to download your video results and test data.
The Enterprise plan is not priced on the website. However, this
includes 100 test credits per month, unlimited testing with your own users, extended 30-minute length for test results and one-click report generation integrated with video playback.
3. UsabilityHub: UsabilityHub have a great selection of simple but effective usability testing solutions. You can obtain first impressions of your mock-ups and designs, see where visitors want to click or discover how easy visitors find it to navigate your website.
Simply upload an image, and select the type of test you’d like
to run. You can choose from:
- Five Second Test to understand people’s first impressions of
- Click Test to find out where they click and how they interact
with your interface
- Navigation flow test to identify how visitors navigate around your
website or applications.
- Question Test – allows you to conduct fast surveys by uploading an image and asking users questions about the design.
You can then decide how many people you want to be in the test or even recruit your own testers. UsabilityHub then create a report showing a detailed breakdown of the interactions each tester had with your design.
Pricing: Responses from testers you recruit are free. Testers recruited by UsabilityHub cost 1 credit each and responses from
testers of specific demographics cost 3 credits each.
The Free Community plan allows you to create unlimited
tests, with responses from your own users being free and buy responses from UsabilityHub from $1 each.
The UsabilityHub Pro plan costs $99 a month and allows you to
buy responses at 50% off all credit purchases, starting at just 50 cents per response. Create unlimited tests, customize the test experience with messaging and redirection after the test, use a single link for multiple tests in a row and target particular demographics.
4. Usability Sciences: Established over 25 years ago Usability Sciences offers a full managed service for usability testing, offering a comprehensive range of solutions including card sorting, rapid iterative testing, mobile & tablet user testing and eye-tracking research.
Pricing: No prices shown on the website.
5. UserBob: Watch videos of real users talking about what they think as they use your website. UserBob recruits people to visit your website. Set a scenario for the user and specify a task for them to attempt to complete. The user then goes to your website and tries to complete your task. During their visit they record their screen and voice as they think out loud about the experience. You then receive a copy of the video to learn about what users say about your site.
You decide how many users you need, what demographics match your visitors, and how long each one should spend on your website. The test is instantly made available for users to participate and you will normally have a video to review within a few hours.
Pricing: Start at just $10 for First Impressions where 10 users
will spend one minute each on your website. Users will discuss their first impressions of your website, who they think it is for and what you can do on the site. Task Completion costs $20 for 5 users who spend 4 minutes attempting to complete your task. The price of the Custom test is variable. This involves between 1 to 10 users each spending up to 8 minutes with a specific scenario and user task to complete. You may also specify user demographics for Custom
6. UserBrain: Get 5 to 15 minute videos of users recording their experience on your site and identify where the pain points are. Hear what users are thinking on their personal devices and in their natural environment.
7. userlytics: Omni-channel usability testing solution. Will supply user testers from their panel or recruit to your specific demographic requirements. Alternatively you can recruit participants using a customisable invitation widget, by posting a link on blogs, websites, twitter, by using TaskRabbit, Mechanical Turk, Craiglist or by using a third party panel provider.
Userlytics allows you to test prototypes, videos, mobile apps, display ads, search and social behaviour, desktop and web applications, smart-phones and tablets and websites.
Pricing: Starts from $49 per user tester and depends upon the
testing features you require, whether you need respondents recruiting, demographic needs, session length and reporting requirements.
8. User Testing: Get videos in an hour of real people speaking their thoughts as they use your website, apps, prototypes and more. Do it yourself or access User Testing’s on-demand panel of over one million users to find an exact match of your target audience.
You can either select your users and write your own tasks or use the expect research team to complete such tasks as creating and managing tests, long term research road-mapping, moderating tests, annotating videos, analysing videos to identify key findings and creating research presentations.
Pricing: Basic plan starts at $49 per video for the first 10 videos, and then rises to $99 per video. This will provide you with video and
audio of your site or app being used across a full range of devices, 15 minute maximum video length and a storage limit of 25 videos.
The Pro plan offers a Free trial and quote on request. This allows for a maximum video length of 60 minutes, unlimited video storage, screening and video demographic filters, moderated usability testing, competitive benchmarking, user testing with your own customers, highlight reels, customer experience customer experience analytics and for the research team to summarise key findings.
10. UserZoom: An all-in-one integrated SasS customer and usability testing research and analytical solution. They provide a suite of services including recruiting participants for user tests, and research software for mobile and desktop devices, voice of the customer studies, remote usability testing, UX design tools (e.g. card sorting & tree testing) and an online survey tool. In addition they provide support services from defining a study to analysing the data for you.
Pricing: Annual software subscription starts at £19,000 per year.
All quotes are customised according your individual requirements and dependent upon the number of user accounts and use of premium features (e.g. UserZoom Recorder and mobile testing capabilities).
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- About the author: Neal (@northresearch) provides web analytics and CRO consultancy services and has worked in many sectors including financial services, online gaming and retail. He has helped brands such Hastings Direct, Manchester Airport Group Online and Assurant Inc to improve their digital marketing measurement and performance.
- Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on CXL and Usabilla.com. As an ex-market research and insight manager he also had posts published on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact us please send an email to email@example.com. You can follow us on Twitter @conversionupl, see Neal’s LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.