Users Know Best: 6 Simple Steps to User Testing

Six Simple Steps to User Testing

Users Know Best: 6 Simple Steps to User Testing

You think you know what’s best for your customers. It’s your business.

I think I know what’s best for your customers. I’m a marketing professional.

But until we ask your customers what they want, neither of us knows for certain. We can only make educated guesses. That’s why it’s critical to conduct user testing before redesigning your website (as we've mentioned before).

User testing helps determine the ease with which visitors are able to use your website – and your competitors’. You learn what works well (keep it) and what doesn’t (dump it). You also learn what works well on competitor websites (borrow it) and what doesn’t (avoid it).

Most importantly, user testing always results in an “a-ha moment,” a key insight that neither you nor I could have anticipated. This invaluable information can be used to transform the usability of your new website – and that gives you an advantage.

You can conduct user testing in person or over the phone. Programs like GoToMeeting make it easy to speak with users and view their computer screen remotely, in real-time.

Here are six simple steps for conducting thorough user testing:

1. Identify your audiences

In addition to current customers, you may want to speak with other key stakeholders who might use your website, such as potential customers, employees, job seekers, vendors and the media.

2. Choose websites to compare

Test a minimum of three websites – yours and those of two competitors. You may include websites for competitors you want to compete with, but don’t right now.

3. Write questions and tasks for each audience

In addition to asking for their overall impression of the design, content and navigation, ask users to complete specific tasks that relate to how they might use the websites (for example: researching or purchasing a product).

4. Recruit testers

We suggest testing a minimum of three users per audience. That lets you look for trends rather than assume one opinion represents an entire group. We find it takes user testing with at least six people for the “a-ha moment” to reveal itself. If that’s not possible, however, some feedback is better than no feedback at all.

5. Conduct the tests

Ask users to give you a play-by-play of what they’re thinking as they answer questions and complete tasks. Take notes about what they say and do – especially when the user finds a task particularly hard. Respect the user’s time by keeping the test to an hour or less. It’s ideal to have one person from your organization run the session and ask questions, and another to take notes.

6. Analyze the results and write a report

Include key findings, as well as areas of opportunity and recommendations for your new website.

If you conduct user testing, you’re sure to get an “a-ha moment.” The results can impact every aspect of your website – from the architecture to the design to the content. If you don’t conduct user testing, prepare for a different kind of “a-ha moment” – your competitors laughing as they gain the upper hand.