Website Usability Testing: Guide with Expert Tips

Illustration by Agente via Dribbble

Great website usability can double your conversion rate, establish a strong online presence, and stabilize a steady revenue. You can do more with less.

That’s because you no longer spend on coming up with bulks of unique ideas to stand out. Instead, you direct all your resources to what the users want.

Enhancing website usability is equivalent to working for your potential customers instead of fighting your competitors. How so? Well, that’s because you listen and implement the suggestions of users in this process instead of checking the user experience against the competitors.

Let’s have a more detailed look into this process. In this website usability testing guide, we’ll go through it step-by-step along with some tips about how to do it better.

What is website usability testing?

Website usability testing refers to the assessment of a website in terms of user experience. Creators of the website conduct this test to determine the flow of users around the web.

If you’re wondering why such a basic thing is necessary, it’s because oftentimes, designers and developers consider the functionality and operation simple. They conclude that common sense would be enough to help the user navigate around the website. Or, at times, they incorporate features that they think will make the experience smoother for the audience.

However, on the users’ end, a lot of things are not that simple. They don’t understand the things designs and developers consider easy. Plus, navigation and understanding the use of certain features might be an issue.

Hence, a website usability test is conducted for three reasons:

  • Detecting errors
  • Checking user-friendliness
  • Checking user satisfaction

The entire process involves a series of tests and steps, which we will cover below.

Testing Usability

Testing Usability
Illustration by Hui Lin via Dribbble

Before we dive into the steps, know that website usability testing is a demanding, lengthy process. If you’re well aware of that, you might want to switch to this usability testing guide.

But if you’re completely new, know that it involves a lot of back-and-forth processes. You might find yourself being redirected to step one from step three.

But, at the same time, know that it’s all worth it.

Foraker improved the user experience of a non-profit organization, i.e., It increased the traffic by 117 percent, and their forum received 41% memberships. There was a 53 percent reduction in the time taken to register as well.

Similarly, IBM’s employees never used the company’s intranet because it was too complicated. But once IBM improved, it became a go-to information source for all the employees and also resulted in massive profits.

For Unibet, a leading name in the sports industry, improvised web design experience meant a rise from 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

As it’s evident from these examples, enhanced web usability is game-changing. So, all the effort involved is worth it. Let’s get to it!

Step 1: Determine Metrics to Assess

As mentioned earlier, there are three key aspects that the website usability tests assess. These include:

  • Errors
  • User satisfaction
  • User-friendliness

When we talk about errors, we refer to:

  • Error in text
  • Error in direction & navigation
  • Error in colors
  • Error in device adaptation (such as incompatibility with mobile devices)
  • Error in functionality (such as a button doesn’t function)

Testing this web metric is easy. That’s because it’s something you can do on your own. Just take a break from your website and come back to it with a fresh mind. Look for the wrongs, and you’ll be able to detect errors in visuals and performance.

Next comes user-friendliness and user satisfaction. Technically, they’re both branching terms of usability, which defines the ease of operation.

But it’s best if websites deal with the two mentioned terms separately. That’s because when we analyze each in-depth, they lead to the next set of questions and concerns (specific to each business).

So, in general, you can understand user-friendliness as the quality of a website which makes it welcoming and easy to navigate through. If a user immediately understands what to do when he lands on a website, it’s a user-friendly website. But if a user has to spend time to figure out where to go next, it’s not a user-friendly website.

User satisfaction refers to the delight your website brings to the user. If a user comes back again, spends a long time on your website, or reaches out to you, he had a great time with your product. If a user felt delighted upon using your website, you’ve got a satisfying website.

So, when setting out to test your website’s usability, determine which of the three metrics you wish to test. Do not opt for all three at once, it will get messed up, and you won’t be able to achieve much.

Step 2: Settle for a Test Type

Determining the metric to test is easy. You can even linearly test one after another. However, choosing the right test type is a bit tricky because different types of tests work for different types of websites. You will have to settle for one since running all of them can take a lot of time and monetary investment.

Below we have distributed test types into the nature and developmental status of websites. Determine the properties of your website and choose a test accordingly.

I. Developmental Status

For a website in planning, you can choose a test from any of the following:

  • Card Sorts
  • Survey
  • A/B testing

All of these work for all three metrics. But we’d recommend surveys they’re easier and cheaper to conduct. You can also use them as a marketing strategy.

However, the results obtained from surveys are more opinionated than fact-based. So, always balance your results with A/B testing as well.

Card sorts work best for the very first stages of planning a website structure and user’s navigation route. But it may not be the best option for a website with several pages.

On the contrary, for a launched website, you can consider:

  • Real-life user feedback
  • Eye-tracking

Amongst these, real-life user feedback is more advisable. That’s because it can bring you super-specific and accurate feedback.

II. Nature of Website

There are two types of websites, i.e., static websites and dynamic websites.

A static website is easier to build, while a dynamic website has better functionality. This key difference often leaves several website owners stuck in a static vs dynamic website debate.

On one hand, they can enjoy owning a super-comprehensive and informational website that demands little share in the marketing budget. And at the other, they can have an expensive but super interactive website.

Before you fall into the same debate, have a look at static VS dynamic website usability testing needs.

Static website

When testing static websites, you should assess:

  • Accuracy of GUI design (including content & visuals)
  • Page links
  • Page alignments

Check your web page against the planned design in your PSD files.

Dynamic website

When testing a dynamic website, check all the elements you checked for static kind. And also evaluate tooltip, field validation, functionality (email functionality, document uploading functionality, etc.), and database testing.

Step 3: Recruit Suitable Candidates

After deciding your test type, settle for at least 5-10 people who will test the website. You can hire people for the job or ask people to volunteer.

However, note that you cannot pick any random person. You’ll have to ask people that resemble your ideal customer’s profile. Or, if you’re revising your website, ask existing customers to help you out with that.

If you’re conducting the usability test in person, that’s great. There’s nothing better than witnessing how the user performs. But if you’re conducting a remote usability test, we recommend using Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom.

Step 4: Make Changes!

And here comes the most difficult step: study and assess the collected data.

Assess the variations of suggestions received and sort which ones are worth implementing. Make some changes now and keep the remaining ones for later. As you upgrade, you’ll receive newer feedback, and you’ll have to revise again.

Note: User experience depends on user needs and preferences. Since preferences keep changing with time, this is an ongoing process.

Tips from Experts

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Now that you’ve learned about the entire procedure, let’s look into some of the best practices suggested by experts:

  • Test your website in the early stages: Most website designers and developers keep the testing for later. The approach behind this is that the product isn’t ready. Experts suggest that you should keep testing as the second stage of website development, so you can make instant changes. Later on, changes in the website can be costly and complicated.
  • Incorporate brand feel: Often website developers and designers get too indulged in establishing a user-friendly and super functional website that they forget about the brand personality. So, once the navigation route and pages have been finalized review the website from a branding point of view.
  • Be the audience when taking user feedback: Experts advise website creators to take the audience’s seat when asking for feedback. Do not dominate, explain, or interrupt. Let your user guide you on how the website works. And request them to voice their thinking process. If possible, record the session so you can refer to it now and then.
  • Set goals but not limits: Experienced individuals suggest new website creators schedule breaks for stamina building. The need for enhancing user experience will increase as the business expands. It’s a never-ending job. So, set up improvement goals for every quarter but never set a deadline. You might want to change any of your goals altogether before you’ve even completed it. It’s an ongoing and exhausting job. Be prepared to deal with it. If possible, hire someone else for the actual web development and designing while you can supervise and look into financial matters.

Final Thoughts

Summing up, website usability testing is essential to improving the user experience. Whether you run a SaaS business, ecommerce business, or have a service-based business, you need an impressive and engaging website to thrive in today’s world. Your business may not ever see the light of the day if you’ve got a website that doesn’t vibe with people. So, invest in web designing and improvisation as much as you can!

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