How to perform usability testing?
When you design a new website or a new system, the user should be “on your mind” all the time. You might ask: when is the right time to do a usability test? To get the best usability possible, it’s important to test as soon as possible. It’s much harder to make changes after a site or system is in use. You can perform simple tests early in the process, test on prototypes!
With a prototype, you can test navigation, placement, layout, clarity, feedback and so on, even if you haven’t started to code 🙂 I will write more about prototyping in a later post.
There are some important things to have in mind if you are going to do a usability test:
- Test with users! Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to take a member from the team. One “real” user is better than not testing at all. Testing on your team might be better than not testing, but they probably know a lot about the site/system and that knowledge influences their ability to discover usability issues.
- Create realistic tasks for the test. Let the user go through all or some of the tasks, depending of what you need to test.
- While the user is testing, sit beside him/her and observe what he/she does during the test. You will not remember it afterwards! Every detail is worth noting, if the user has problems finding a button or function, write it down!
- “Thinking aloud” means that the user speaks their thoughts during the test. This gives even more information than “just” observing what he/she does.
- If the user permits it, the best way to take notes is to make a video recording of the test session. You can go back later, as many times as you like. This is a valuable source of information through the whole development process, not only during design.
In a real project, there might not be more then one test. Users have other things to do, of course. But make a plan about what you are going to test. Be sure to test the things you want to test 🙂