The term “usability” is something we experience every day. It can refer to just about anything, including tools, books, software, or even cars. Website Usability refers to the ease with which the average person can interact with any given website.
One of the main reasons website usability testing is so important is because of the amount of websites offering the same services and products. If the user cannot find what they are looking for on one site, they will automatically move on to the next. So even if a site looks awesome and there are lots of bell and whistles, if you can’t figure out how to use it, you will move on. Many companies today count on their website to be their main marketing tool, so if a website is hard to navigate, what does that say about the company?
Imagine if you did a search for “dog beds” on Google. Looking for the best price, you click the result for a company you might not have heard of. Once in the site, you can’t figure out where the dog bed category is, or the site doesn’t list all the information you would have hoped. After a poor experience, you will probably decide to go back to the major retailer site, which is user-friendly and has a trusted web presence. This illustrates how a business can lose money because of poor website usability.
Usability testing should be conducted throughout the different stages of the website development process…not after the site has launched. It’s easier and more cost effective to fix mistakes early in the development process. It may sound costly to run so many tests, but it can actually be done in a very casual way. The easiest way is to find users from your target demographic and either pay them to be part of the testing process, or give them some other form of incentive.
The actual testing part of website usability can happen in a couple of different ways. The most common method used involves creating a list of tasks for the user to perform. For example, you might ask the user to find where to get customer support or where to return a product. The moderator will then track the time and how many clicks it took the user to find the information. During the testing process, the moderator is there to take notes or answer any questions. Other forms of usability testing include questionnaires, asking an expert for their review, remote testing, or good ole fashioned do-it-yourself.
After gathering up all of the results, you should be able to see issues that different users had in common. Then you can fix them as soon as possible, and run the test again later to see if users are still encountering the same issue or any new ones.