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Alion | Usability Testing: why, how and when?

Usability testing: why, how and when?

Alion blog author

Pascale Versteeg

08 November 2018

min read

Alion blog intro image

You have probably heard of usability testing, but that is not necessary for your website. After all, you know who your target group is and what they want. Right?

Assumptions

We invest a lot of time and attention in order to achieve a good design, everyone is enthusiastic. Before the launch, of course, testing is done. No bugs? Great! Does the website run smoothly? Great! Does the website have everything our users need? We assume it has. A design was made with great attention to detail by experienced designers, so that must be a good enough. Right?

The method described here often occurs in practice. This can also lead to an acceptable result. But it is not without risk: the end user has not yet been able to find anything. And if there is one thing that practice always proves: no, you can not predict how your typical website visitor will behave. Do people have to think or search too much? Then they leave your site.

If you want your users to browse smoothly through your website, you have to put in the process as early as possible. The sooner, the better (and the cheaper). Please welcome ... the usability test!

Usability testing

Making assumptions: of course the designer makes assumptions. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. The essence of a usability test is to then to confirm or reject those assumptions. If the visitor can carry out the desired tasks on your website without having to think about it too much, then that's okay. It can be that simple.

Whether a usability test succeeds is determined by a number of factors that all have to be right: relevance, accessibility, effectiveness and experience.

"Design is not just how something looks or feels, design is how something works"
Steve Jobs

Do the triple

At Alion, we test at three crucial moments in the process. The first test takes place after the strategic phase, in which we turn objectives and target group insights into a vision and a concept design. In this strategic first phase, the relevance of the product is already guaranteed.

At the end of that phase, we test the result by, for example, presenting sketches or wire-frames to users. We test the accessibility and comprehensibility of the interaction, because there are no 'beautiful pictures' yet.

The insights are processed in the next phase. The beautiful pictures are also discussed now. We make a testable prototype and explain this to the users. This prototype not only provides insight into the sites' effectiveness (do visitors reach their goal?), but also provides feedback on the experience of the design.

A well-structured test

In order to be able to carry out a test quickly and pragmatically, it is important to work in a structured manner. There are many ways to test the usefulness of a sketch, prototype or a 'soon to be launched' website. The process is more or less the same. Whether you are doing a high-level eye-tracking study, or just asking your grandmother to interact with a prototype while you watch (provided she falls within the target group, of course). This general process is described below. We perform this consistently in every test round. For example, given a limited time, we pay attention to the aspects that contribute the most to the end result.

A website, app or any interactive product must always work intuitively.

You always come across something

The nice thing about testing is that the product will ALWAYS be better. It quickly shows what is 'wrong' or what can be improved. During the project the test results become increasingly sophisticated. Through the triple-test, structural problems (eg. information-hierarchy and navigation structure) are tackled at the earliest possible stage. In later tests, you will encounter increasingly sophisticated insights, from missing small 'use cues' to inconsistencies in copy.

Time, costs

Does testing seem like an extra expense? That depends on how you look at it. The time a test takes depends on the testing method you use and on which phase of the process you conduct the research. Most tests can be done in a period of a few hours. We can not make it more efficient than that! You do not have to be a mathematician to calculate that this investment is quickly recouped. Really, what does it cost not to test? 😊

Do you want to get more from your website or app? Then it may be worthwhile to test it's usability. We are happy to do it for you! Please contact us, we can then discuss the possibilities!

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