Getting Started with Usability Testing

Oh no you didn’t just say Usability Testing

Over the years, I have witnessed a host of negative reactions from clients upon the very utterance of the term. These range from deep intakes of breath and shuddering shoulders, to looks of shock and despair. Planning and running a Usability Testing session doesn’t have to be so daunting. By adopting a ‘Guerrilla’ approach, Usability Testing becomes a simple and straightforward affair. It can be easily introduced as a regular step in your digital product or Website’s design and development process.

Where Did Guerrilla Usability Testing Come From?

My inspiration for this article comes from many places. Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think” is a seminal classic on the topic of usability and a favourite of mine. When I host usability workshops myself, I recommend reading his chapter on Usability Testing, as his method is effective and uncomplicated.

However I first heard the term ‘Guerrilla’ Usability Testing from an old boss of mine in the mid naughties. She asked me to conduct some Usability Testing on a new homepage design I had created for a University Website portal. I remember looking back at her nervously, stating “The new design is to be launched in a matter of days, so I’m not sure if we have the means or time to introduce testing.” She smiled at me and said, “It’s ok, just do some Guerrilla Testing! Getting feedback from some users is better than no user feedback.” Her advice opened my mind and I set about testing with a much more relaxed, no pressure approach. After all, there was nothing to loose and precious user insight to gain. By the end of the next day I had managed to recruit and test the new Website homepage with 20 participants. The process worked very well and the data gleaned from the tests unearthed usability issues with the homepage design that we quickly addressed and fixed in time for the launch.

My boss alluded to a Jakob Nielsen finding from his blog post from March 19, 2000, in which he surmises that “Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.”

The Do’s of Usability Testing

  • Do create a culture in your business where you always do some sort of Usability Testing, as some testing is better than none.
  • Do approach Usability Testing Projects in a relaxed and confident manner; it really isn’t a big deal.
  • Do focus on finding the biggest and most common user and usability issues with the system being tested.
  • Do prioritise the addressing and resolution of the low-hanging-fruit issues which can be solved easily.
  • Do get on with the job and move around any obstacles that come in your way.

The Don’t’s of Usability Testing

  • You don’t have to spend a fortune to conduct quick and dirty Guerrilla style usability tests. The rewards are well worth the minimal spend and will doubled in value.
  • Don’t complicate the testing process by adding unnecessary or cumbersome steps.
  • Don’t fixate on how accurate the data may be or worry that because a usability test is guerrilla and quick, that it may skew or bias research. Usability Testing sheds light on what users really think about your experience and how they perceive and behave with your digital product or Website. This insight is invaluable.
  • Don’t worry about finding genuine users of the actual digital product or Website. If you cannot recruit from your customers for whatever reason, start recruiting members of the public. Usability issues are issues for everyone who is familiar with online technology, even if they are not your target demographic.
  • Don’t take any negative feedback from Usability Testing personally. This is real data about your product experience. See it as a great opportunity to improve the User Experience on an ongoing basis.

More about Graphic Mint’s Usability Testing Services

Usability Testing Featured Project: Connecting Scholarship and Research at Trinity College Library Dublin

Séamus Byrne and the Graphic Mint team are based in Dublin, Ireland and conduct Usability Testing in our lab, at your location, or remotely on Websites, apps and software with real users. We recruit participants, write usability test scripts and insightful usability reports to measure the value of User Experiences (UX) with your digital products.

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