View Full Version : Web site usability testing

04-29-2009, 04:20 PM
Kristine's thread on proofing copy reminded me of the importance of usability testing for web sites, so I thought it deserved a thread for discussion.

Like many of the other members here, I fly mostly solo on the projects I do, so this one is always challenging. Sure, my clients often have plenty of "testers" and I have some other resources, but I can't help thinking we could all do better.

Rule #1 that most of us should know about is the designer is the least qualified to test a site. Quite simply, we know too much. Every site has to pass the test of being easy for the person who has no idea what to do. If they can figure everything out, the designer has succeeded.

Rule #2 is test early and test often. Again, this is more of a challenge for us than a large agency, and the small business owner has to keep the costs down. But it is still extremely important.

I have plenty more to say on the subject, and I have ideas on how this forum can help, but I look forward to the dicussion we can have here. What say you?

04-29-2009, 04:40 PM
I have to agree with you on this one. I have gotten frustrated in the past because we've used a button or something that seemed so simple to us and yet utterly baffled visitors to the site. You can't take anything for granted, and you must have the site tested by people other than those who built it. What seems perfectly organic and obvious to you may not be obvious to others.

The other half of the equation is that you have to be willing to let go of cool features or neat design ideas because they just don't work. Function must triumph over form. A button or menu can be the coolest looking thing in the world, and be useless if it turns visitors off.

04-29-2009, 04:45 PM
I'm like you. It's hard for me to justify the costs of usability testing to my clients. I doubt most would want to pay the additional costs. I tend to subscribe to the Don't Make Me Think model (I'm guessing you've read the book) and try to stick with conventions a lot. I'm usually pretty good at taking myself out of the equation and looking at a design through the eyes of someone without that extra knowledge. Still I know that's no substitute for real testing.

I generally ask a few people to look over what I'm doing as I'm developing a site. Some friends and family members are actually pretty good at helping me with this.

The hard part is the cost and the time. Even a minimal amount of testing will probably beyond the budget of most of my clients and the time delay would probably also have them balk.

I suppose website reviews like we have here can help and some ideas are beginning to rattle around in my head as to ways to create some kind of online testing service. Might be a decent idea for a new business.

04-29-2009, 04:59 PM
In a couple of recent projects I found that using ClickTale helped a lot because I didn't have to guess where the "blocks" were and that helped me to adjust the navigation and layout just a smidge so that it made sense to visitors.

04-29-2009, 09:40 PM
Whether ClickTale or another click tracking application it's a good idea to use one. I really need to use them more. What do you specifically like about ClickTale? Have you tried any of the others?

04-29-2009, 10:54 PM
I know Google offers some testing tools, but I haven't used them. Maybe if someone else has, they can weigh in on what their experience was.

I'm also like you, vangogh, in the sense that I apply as many known rules as I can learn about, but testing still always reveals something. I also agree there is some kind of business idea brewing here. I've had similar thoughts before you even said that.

I think most web site owners would be shocked at what they could learn by subjecting their sites to some good testing. What's more, I think even us seasoned designers would still have a few surprises. Even the most experienced agencies use extensive testing, and I don't think it's just so they have a way to spend money.

04-29-2009, 11:46 PM
I haven't tried others. I just found it somehow and found it so cool. The recording is a video that shows what the visitor is doing on your site. You can literally tell when they are stuck or confused by the mouse motions...

04-30-2009, 01:29 AM
Steve I don't believe Google has click tracking tools like ClickTale, though they do offer Website Optimizer for split testing and multivariate testing.

Patrysha, Crazy Egg (http://crazyegg.com/) is another tool for click tracking. I've used it, albeit in limited fashion, and it is nice.

04-30-2009, 09:28 AM
I will have to look into that one when the craziness around here dies down.

I'm trying to get organized so I can start outsourcing the tasks I can and concentrate on building the client base and my products, but meanwhile I have to keep up with the work I have agreed to and I'm going slightly insane.

04-30-2009, 12:51 PM
Yeah, the web optimizer is probably what I was thinking of, but not having any experience with it I couldn't say anything about it (other than it exists).

05-01-2009, 03:56 PM
Steve, I used Crazy Egg too. Installtion was a little screwy for me. But got it working pretty quick. I think that tracking ablitiy is quite good, although I wasnt able to gleam anything from it, yet at least.

05-01-2009, 04:22 PM
I was just testing it and I used it to track things on the home page of my blog. There was a problem, though not related to Crazy Egg. Because my blog home page changes with a new post the clicks won't necessarily make sense. Often I'd be looking at where the clicks were when a different post was the newest. It wasn't the best choice of page to track on my part.

It would work better on a page that remained more constant.