As designers, developers and business owners, we’re often too close to our website to spot issues that are blindingly obvious to others or fail to notice small changes that can lead to big wins.
To avoid this from happening, we need to bring users into the design process and test our assumptions on actual people instead of making decisions based on hunches.
By testing our websites with users, we can dramatically enhance users experiences and create websites that people love to use and more importantly, help you meet your business goals.
Why Test Your Website With Users?
Testing your website before you launch it or even after it’s live can have some outstanding results. Testing can help you:
Receive feedback on what can be improved
Identify tasks that are hard to complete
Gain further insights about your customers
Discover ways people use your website that you hadn’t anticipated
6 Steps To Testing Your Website
Step 1: Set Your Goals
What do you want to get out of your user testing? Is there a part of your website that you know is confusing to people or do you just want to make sure users can navigate around your site with ease?
Where many user tests go wrong is when you simply put someone in front of your website and let them run amuck without any structure in place. Setting your goals up front gives your testing focus and helps you get the most out the short time you have with your testers.
Common testing goals may include:
Can people find what they’re looking for?
Are your key selling points obvious?
Is your site easy to navigate?
Is the checkout process intuitive?
Step 2: Find Participants To Test
It’s an obvious point, but without actual people, we won’t get far with our user testing. The good news is that you don’t need many people to test before you start seeing patterns and trends emerge. Testing between 5 and 10 people is often the sweet spot. Testing more can have its advantages but you’ll soon start seeing diminishing returns from each subsequent test.
When recruiting, find people that are as close as possible to your target customer and also make sure a range of demographics are represented. You can find users to test by reaching out to your friends, social media networks or if you have the budget, going through a recruitment agency.
One pitfall when testing is using the people who have been part of the website development process. Often, the people involved in the project will have already formed opinions or may not represent your target audience.
Step 3: Create Your List Of Questions And Tasks
For each test you run, you should be going through the same questions and tasks with each and every user. Much like a scientific test, you need to make your testing is as consistent as possible in order to gather reliable data.
When forming your questions, there’s a number of different types of questions you can ask, these include:
First Impressions – “Have a look at this page and tell me what you think”
Exploratory Task – “Find a Shirt you like”
Directed Task – “Find the company’s address”
When deciding what to ask, always fall back on your original goals and determine what needs to be asked to determine if your hypnosis is right or not.
Step 4: Setting The Scene
Before carrying out your test, it’s important that you brief the users on the process you’ll be going through and what’s expected of them. Tell them to be honest, critical and to not hold anything back.
Building some initial rapport also helps the person you’re testing to open up and be more willing to speak their mind. After all, user testing should be an enjoyable process and not a high pressured examination.
Step 5: Carrying Out The Test
During the test, get your users to speak out loud and share any thoughts they may have, however trivial they might be. The true value of testing comes from hearing someone’s thought process behind their decisions, not just watching them click a mouse.
Be sure to stick to the questions you developed earlier. While your tests should be free-flowing and open, don’t let the user stray too far off topic and start freely roaming around the website. If they do simply reign them in and get them back on track. Remember, it’s you who need to be in charge and facilitate the test.
Having someone with you taking notes can help you focus more on asking questions and observing users rather than having your head buried in a notepad while the action is happening on screen.
Finally, don’t lead the user into how to complete a task or complete it for them, that won’t give you any usable data and you might as well have done the test yourself.
Step 6: Analysing Your Results
Now’s the time to sit down and go over the notes you or your note taker took during the tests. If done right, you should have pages and pages of them.
Ask yourself, what are the consistent trends that have emerged? Were the majority of your tester getting stuck on a single task? Was one part of your website confusing to them?
Once you have uncovered your pain points, now it’s time to come up with a plan of action to fix them. Determine what can be done differently in the sections your users had trouble with or assess which areas need to be revised completely.
Summing It All Up
Your website should be treated as a living, breathing entity. You need to constantly pay attention to it and don’t be afraid to continually make changes, improvements and refine it.
After testing your website and making changes based on your tests, don’t forget to go back and test it again to make sure it’s an improvement from the last iteration. Good luck and get testing.