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Usability testing is a technique used to help discover problems or bottle-necks in your design. Before we get into the specific types of scripted tests (tree testing, benchmark tests, and hallway testing), we’ll first discuss a crucial decision in how you conduct your test: whether to moderate it or not. Physicists understand well the observer effect — the idea that the presence of an observer changes the behavior of what’s being observed, negating the whole point of observing it. As described in The Guide to Usability Testing, whether or not you choose to moderate your test depends on your specific goals and what you need to accomplish. Early stages in the development process — Specifically in the prototyping phase, where features may be incomplete or not even work, a moderator can help answer questions and explain the unclear parts.
An advanced, complicated, or high-level product — As with a prototype, if there is a great chance for confusion or misinterpretation, a moderator will help keep things on course.
Products with strict security concerns — In these cases, a moderator can keep the user where they’re supposed to be and keep them from accessing sensitive information. On the other hand, moderated tests require a knowledgeable moderator, their time, and usually a specified location, as opposed to remote usability testing.
For a moderated test, you could also let your testers participate from the comfort of their own home.
While moderated testing allows for instantaneous give-and-take feedback, there is still no substitute for letting users interact with a product in its natural environment. More natural product usage — Because remote usability testing allows participants to remain in their natural environment, their use of the product will more closely resemble real-world scenarios.
Cost savings — Costs are usually quite low since you don’t need to pay for moderators or equipment setup. Simpler coordination — With unmoderated tests, you really only need to think about cost of testing, cost of reimbursement, and user schedules. As you’ll find when looking at our User Testing & Design e-book, you can get maximum value for minimum cost when the tasks are written as clearly as possible. Nonetheless, if you choose unmoderated testing, make sure you know the criteria for picking the best usability tool. Tree testing allows you to test the information architecture by stripping out the visual elements. In a nutshell, a tree test tasks participants with finding different information on a clickable sitemap (or “tree”). For example, in this Yelp redesign exercise, we provided a tree representing the support site and then gave users 10 tasks (such as finding information on what to do with bad reviews). The importance of tree testing (and especially information architecture) is uncovered by Raluca Budiu, Senior Researcher at the Nielsen Norman Group.
If tree testing seems like something that could benefit your project, Jeff Sauro, Founding Principal of MeasuringU, goes into details about how to properly run them. Determine a product’s searchability — How well can users navigate the site, and what areas cause the most problems with navigation? Validating a change — Did a recent update correctly fix the problem, or are further revisions necessary? Because tree testing examines the success rate of a specific task, more participants will give you more accurate results. The main reason that usability is so important is because there are so many similar websites that people will go to the next site if the first one they visit is not usable.
As stated in the article Why Web Site Usability is Important for a Company, on the web, companies entirely rely on their web presence in order to achieve their online goals.
Usability Testing is a technique used to evaluate a product (in this case a website) by testing is on users. Explorative: Used early in product development to assess the effectiveness and usability of a preliminary design or prototype, as well as users’ thought processes and conceptual understanding. Assessment: Used midway in product development or as an overall usability test for technology evaluation.
Comparative: Compares two or more instructional technology products or designs and distinguishes the strengths and weaknesses of each. Hallway Testing: Using random people to test the website rather than people who are trained and experienced in testing websites. Remote Usability Testing: Testing the usability of a website using people who are located in several countries and time zones. Paper Prototype Testing: Quite simply, this usability testing method involves involves creating rough, even hand-sketched, drawings of an interface to use as prototypes, or models, of a design.
Questionnaires and Interviews: Due to their one-on-one nature, interviews enable the observer to ask direct questions to the users (apart from double checking what they are really doing).
Do-it-Yourself Walkthrough: Just as the name implies, in this technique, the observer sets up a usability test situation by creating realistic scenarios.

Controlled Experiments: An approach that is similar to scientific experiments typically involving a comparison of two products, with careful statistical balancing in a laboratory.
After you have received the results of your website usability tests, the first thing you should do is compile the information and take note of any issues that testers had in common.
Usability Geek is a Usability & User Experience (UX) blog that provides practical and useful information.
Our readership comes from various fields including those of Usability, User Experience, Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Information Architecture (IA). For advice on how to conduct 30+ different types of usability tests, check out The Guide to Usability Testing. Scripted tests tend to produce more quantitative data, beneficial for usability metrics, but can also generate qualitative data as well, depending on the how tight or controlling the script is.
In some instances a moderator will help facilitate the process and aid it in going smoothly, while in other instances they will only interrupt, not to mention the extra costs of an on-site staff. A moderator can help probe the participant to delve deeper, creating data that is fuller and more complete, plus keep users on track and clarify any confusion. Coordinating the schedules of moderated tests can be problematic, and only one can be done at a time, unless more moderators are hired. For example, Evernote actually ran a remote usability test that was moderated in which the testers were in different locations, but the moderators were all in the office. If you do choose this route, make sure you follow these 20 tips for moderated usability testing.
Kyle Soucy, Founder of Usable Interface, explains in an article for UX Matters that unmoderated tests provide tons of benefits that greatly outweigh the drawbacks — namely that they make remote usability testing a lot easier. If you’re testing a tablet, it’s hard to replicate someone kicking their feet up on a couch after a tough day at work to watch movies for two hours. With usability testing tools like UserTesting and Userlytics, tests can run as low as $49 per user.
The lack of a moderator means less control, less personal observation, and a higher risk of confusion.
As the Nielsen Norman Group advises, you’ll want something that offers same-day results, audiovisual recording, and offers a broad demographic for recruiting testers.
Using a usability testing tool like Treejack, you then record task success (clicking to the correct destination) and task directness (certainty of users that they found what was needed). Because the overall task success rate was 53 percent and directness was 46 percent, we knew that the IA needed changing — luckily, our software showed us exactly where people were confused. Simply put, a site search bar (or a three-line hamburger menu) is just not enough if the navigation is poor because users won’t know what is available to search. The object can be almost anything, including a machine, tool, process, book, software application or website.
Learnability is how easy it is for a new user to accomplish tasks the first time they visit your website. You can have the most beautiful website in the world, but people will leave immediately if they are unable to figure out how to navigate your site quickly. Similarly, a user of a company’s web site will formulate a judgement about that company that is strongly correlated with the way they perceive its web site.
Most people who set up a usability test carefully construct a scenario wherein a person performs a list of tasks that someone who is using the website for the first time is likely to perform.
This method is particularly effective for testing a new website for the first time during development.
Sometimes remote testing is performed using video conferencing, while other times the user works separately from the evaluator. Sometimes the expert is brought to a testing facility to test the site, while other times the tests are conducted remotely and automated results are sent back for review. Observing a user undertaking a task using such prototypes enables the testing of design ideas at an extremely low cost and before any coding has been done.
Various academic papers and prototypes have been developed in order to try and automate website usability testing, all with various degrees of success.
Look at the amount of time it took them or their test subjects to complete various tasks and think about what you can change so that users are able to complete these tasks faster. Below we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each, so you can decide which will work best for your user test. Not only that, but user reactions and even body language can provide useful data as well, but only if there’s someone present to document and interpret them. More importantly, moderated tests can take participants out of their comfort zone, so special care must be taken to avoid the various kinds of biases. This offers the benefits of moderation at lower cost (since you don’t have to worry as much about equipment setup), but it may not be suitable if you need a controlled lab environment due to information sensitivity.

When the test is done, you can then use the video clips that are most insightful and present them to your team for design changes. Additionally, conducting high volume, unmoderated tests using an online tool opens you to the risk of attracting participants looking only for the incentive without putting effort into the tasks. Martin Rosenmejer of Webcredible names it as one of the most important steps early in the web design process. Search also requires users to recall from memory, which increases cognitive strain and can kill the experience. It also needs to contain all of the information that you want to share with your readers in order to help them achieve the objective for which they came to your website. Memorability is how easy it is for someone to come back to using your website after they haven’t used it for a period of time. Furthermore, usable websites increase user satisfaction whereas web sites which violate usability conventions confuse users and result in a loss of revenue for the companies behind them.
Someone else observes and listens to the person who is performing the tasks while taking notes.
Nowadays, there are various software available at a relatively low cost that allow remote usability testing to be carried out even by observers who are not usability experts.
Automated expert tests are typically not as detailed as other types of usability tests, but their advantage is that they can be completed quickly.
A variation of this technique is the group walkthrough where the observer has multiple attendees performing the walkthrough. One interesting approach has been discussed in this blog is Justin Mifsud’s USEFul Framework. Also note any feedback you have been given by the testers amd where this is not clear, do contact them to clear our any ambiguities. This is the reason why they make their free online time tools so easy to use and minimally designed.
Nonetheless, this tactic is effective and Evernote gained insights that helped them improve user retention by 15 percent. On the bright side, such participants can be filtered, especially by looking at their time-to-completion or open-ended feedback.
And we all know the importance of information architecture — if the content isn’t structured logically with a simple flow, it might as well not exist. In the case of websites and software applications, usability has been defined as the ease at which an average person can use the software or website to achieve specific goals. Efficiency is how quickly users can complete tasks on your site after they are familiar with its use. This is because improving usability is a great way to encourage users to visit your site instead of the sites that belong to your competitors and is often an approach that keeps customers coming back to your site again and again. Watching someone perform common tasks on a website is a great way to test whether the site is usable because you will immediately be able to see whether they are able to perform the tasks and any difficulties they have while doing so. Typically, the click locations and streams of the users are automatically recorded and any critical incidents that occurred while they were using the site are also recorded, along with any feedback the user has submitted. Stop by the Online Clock website today to discover great examples of user-friendly web pages! That’s why an early tree test can help identify and solve the problems before they actually become problems. Satisfaction is whether users enjoy the design of your site and errors refers to the number of errors users make when they use your site, the severity of the errors and how easy they are to recover from.
Indeed, high-quality websites that are easy to use bring in customers and give a particular site a competitive edge over the competition.
Remote usability testing allows for the length of time it took each tester to complete various tasks to be recorded. As with any form of website testing, usability testing is an ongoing process so be sure to run usability tests again after you have made changes. It is a good method of testing because the tests are carried out in the normal environment of the user instead of a controlled lab. This not only ensures that the changes you made were appropriate but will additionally help you discover new usability problems.

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