Perhaps you are like me and get little notes from your friends like this, “Could you read over this paper and tell me what you think?”. As a student, I asked and answered that question all the time.
As a web builder, I do the same thing with the small sites I create for friends and family. I send an email to a few choice folks and ask them something like, “Hey, please look over this website I’m building and let know what you think.”
User-testing is a step in the design and construction process. I’m guilty of treating it like a small step. A very small step. It was the equivalent of proofreading. Do all the links work? Are there any obvious misspellings? I feel there were two reasons for this:
- The evaluation phase of the design process is listed at the end. Because of this we treat it like the end of a linear process and it’s generally rushed.
- We – designers, site-owners, and builders – don’t treat the designing and building of sites as an iterative process. We start and we stop.
But what if you don’t have a small site for a family member or friend? What if this site is a business and the stakes are much higher?
I have to tell you that I feel a bit ashamed of my PAST flippant attitude towards testing and revision for business sites (Sorry former Clients!). But, now that I’ve turned my laser-like focus on user-testing and the evaluation phase of the design process, I’ve changed.
Which brings into sharp relief, the Facebook status update I saw this morning from a fellow web builder:
Now that I’m on the path of web user-testing expertise, I was really shocked by this. I’ll go into why I was shocked briefly – The question, “need opinions” is too general, the testers (his facebook friends) are not serious , and the results won’t improve the page.
However, It was more the shock that I’ve made this a part of my site evaluations in the past, too.
I spoke with Tom later in the day. He knew he needed actually user-testing. He said, “I’m 95% sure of the site. It will work. It’s that 5% of doubt that I’d like to erase with user testing.”
So I asked “What are you looking for in a user test?” He answered simply:
- actionable suggestions that improve conversions
- define confusing areas and ambiguities
- how to make the site as simple as possible, but no simpler
- how to make the site as easy to use as possible
We talked about options available on the web. Like
None of these seemed to be a perfect match. Either they were too expensive – $40 a test for a random tester we agreed seems high -, or they seem to give too much data and not enough ”actionable suggestions”.
I hope to follow this thread and work with Tom more in future blog posts. He is actively looking for User-testing services now. So, if you can recommend or give reviews, please do. Perhaps he can serve as a case study and enlighten the process for all of us.
(In order to keep myself on task and away from Google, I wrote the questions I wanted to answer here at the bottom of the page. I would delete them, but I figure they may be interesting to you, my dear reader.)
- What’s the difference between Quality assurance and User-testing?
- What is the bare minimum you should do for a user-test… or, I should say, site evaluation and revision?
- What’s the difference between UI experts and ‘random testers’?
- Is there a standard Website evaluation form for general site improvement? Visual design and layout? Color Scheme? Functionality?
- Should you test for everything – all facets of a site – at once?