I’ve spent some time this week reading Steve Krug’s 156 page book, “Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do It Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems” and I wanted to pass along a few BUX Nuggets of wisdom I learned.
Krug does a good job of explaining how to do user testing yourself in an easy to read, understand and realistically do your own user testing. It’s an easy read that provides step by step instructions in an way that is easy to read and understand.
Ben and Newman have tackled this book previously on the site in the following stories.
I’m going to take a different approach than Ben and Newman and assume you don’t know a whole lot about user testing and the value it provides for businesses that use their website as a business tool (that should be all of you!).
User testing is practiced for all types of products and services, but for the purposes of this post, we are going to talk about user testing as it relates to the usability of websites. This is not a complete guide for how to conduct a user test, but rather an overview of all the basics.
Let’s get started.
What is User Testing?
According to Krug, user testing is “Watching people try to use what you’re creating/designing/building (or watching something you’ve already created/designed/built), with the intention of
(a) making it easier for people to use or
(b) proving that it is easy to use”
Which is the answer to my next question…
Why User Testing?
Every business that has a website should engage in user testing. Why? Because the best way to know how to improve the website you have is by observing people using it and asking them questions about their experience. A user test will provide meaningful information about the usability and effectiveness of your website, and more importantly how to go about improving the experience for users.
According to Krug, user testing always works! Even on the best websites out there, there is room for improvement. ”The funny thing is, it just works,” Krug says since “most of the serious problems tend to be easy to find.”
You may familiar with Peter Morville’s UX Honeycomb, which serves as a guide for marketers, developers and designers to evaluate the 6 influential factors of user experience and try to maximize those areas. User testings gives us insight to how “usable”, “desirable”, and “useful” a site is.
Who are the users?
Ideally, users should be representative of your target market or people that already use the site. That’s not always easy to pull off if you are doing your own user testing, but that’s ok!
Krug goes on to say that in the begininning stages of user testing, that “almost anybody” will find the same big usability problems, so you can recruit a bit more loosely in the beginning. As you get more specific with the tasks you ask the users to complete, the participants may need to have some or advance knowledge on the websites topic.
How many Users?
According to Krug, the magic number for users is three users per testing session. Based on timeliness and effectiveness, three users is enough to provide a significant amount of feedback for improvement. He also recommends always having some users in reserve in case your first-string doesn’t show up.
How do you get Users?
You can get users in a number of ways such as advertising in the paper, Facebook or Craigslist for example. If you have access to your target market, then go to them first. If it’s senior citizens, go to a Senior Center, if it’s college students, go to a University. You get the point.
Although it is not always possible, it is the best practice to compensate participants. Kuger suggests a VISA card or an Amazon gift card since it is easier for recording/tax purposes. Some participants could just be happy to give their feedback in exchange for some free food. Use your judgement.
When is a good time to start user testing?
Do you have a website? Then, yesterday.
Kruger says, “Start earlier than you think makes sense.”
As soon as possible in the design/development process. As early as when it is only an idea drawn on a napkin. You do not have to set up an official “user test”, just ask anyone to take a look at it and get some feedback. You might ask, “What is the first thing you look at when you see this design?” or “Do you know what this is supposed too be?”
Krug recommends one morning a month with three users at each session.
Where should I conduct user tests?
At your office, home, meeting or conference room or anywhere you have access to a room, internet, tables, chairs, electricity and privacy. It’s best if it’s in a central location that’s easy to find.
How to conduct a user test
Krug offers a complete checklist step-by-step in the book of everything that needs to be done. He’s even included a sample introduction for the facilitator. I’ve included some of the basics:
- Create a list of tasks and scenarios for the users to complete. Here are some examples for the Better User Experience Blog: “Go to the UX Directory,” “Like us on Facebook”, “You are looking for articles for a research paper on Google Analytics”, “Listen to a podcast on Survey Gizmo”. This will be part of a larger script that might include welcoming the participants.
- Pilot the test scenarions-Even if it’s on your 90 year old Grandmother, test them out, aloud, so that you can make sure the directions make sense during the actual user test.
- Invite observers- anyone that is a stakeholder contributor to the project that can learn from observing.
- Create and distribute a list of rules and expectations for both participants and observers. Things like arrive on time, no cell phones.
- Set up screen sharing capabilities.
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- Set up speaker, camera and audio recording capabilities so you have a record of the user test to refer back to.
- Make sure you have internet access
- Make sure you bring compensation or whatever is coordinated for the users
- Debriefing- get together with everyone that observed (providing lunch is a nice touch) and determine the three most serious usability problems with the each participant as well as a plan to resolve the issues.
So there you have it…there is no excuse not to be user TESTING your website. You can do it yourself, after all. By implementing (ideally you would do one per month) user test, you are are unlocking huge potential IMPROVE your website and it’s ability to interact with your customers.