User Testing: benefits and methdologies

Letizia Zappa
By Letizia Zappa

In the customer-centric era, where every single action revolves around customers, the need for user testing is stronger than ever. Any business with a website must be aware of the importance user feedback can have: not only in interface design but also in business growth.

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User testing of websites

Definition: What is user testing?

In the process of website designing, the end user plays a central role. In such processes, where testing is mandatory, what can be better than evaluating a website through the eyes of potential users? User testing is exactly this: selecting users to test a website, collect their feedback and finally using this to improve user experience. In these tests, individuals are given a task/questions regarding their website usage experience.

Benefits: Why is user testing important?

A website can have many different aims such as:

  • Being the primary touch-point between a firm and a customer
  • Selling products
  • Entertaining readers with contents
  • Raising brand and product awareness

It goes without saying that websites nowadays play a vital role for most businesses out there. What’s more, we are living the customer-centric era, where every move, every product is made to satisfy the customer and make her experience great. All the more reason to involve the user in the website designing process itself. The main benefit of user testing is receiving unbiased insights from individuals who are part of the target.

This valuable feedback can then help you improve your interface usability and design so that they perfectly fit users’ needs.

Evaluation: How to get the right feedback when user testing

User testing can be quite a consuming process, for this reason, it’s important to make the best out of it. How to?

  • Remind the participants they are not being tested and there is no right answer.
  • To get a more honest feedback, remind users they’re not evaluating YOU, a person but an interface.
  • Give always extra space for comments and spontaneous thoughts: you may discover really unexpected things from this.
  • Try to use some gamification: show your participants at what point of the test they are, or once they have finished the test, allow them to access previous users’ answers. This way they will be more encouraged to complete the test.
  • Of course, you cannot just test one user. Feedback, in order to be useful, must come from at least 5 individuals.

User testing methodologies

We have gone through user testing benefits and best approaches. But what are the preferred methodologies? We will now discuss what are the best methods and hopefully, guide you in choosing the method that suits your needs best.

The top 5 types of user testing

  1. Remote User Testing allows you to test your website with users in their natural environment (e.g. home sofa) thanks to screen sharing software or remote user testing online tools.
  2. Focus Groups are a good method to test user experience on more individuals at the same time. Participants are gathered together in one room where they together experience the website. This sparks conversation and usually gives useful and unexpected feedback insights to website designers.
  3. Beta Testing consists in rolling out a version of a website exclusively to individuals who are keen on giving consistent feedback. This allows you to improve the site before making it public.
  4. Surveys are always effective as they provide you with a secure and easy method to get direct feedback from your website users.
  5. A/B User Testing is great to test the effectiveness of some website features over others. By creating two versions of the same website and testing it on users you can understand easily which one is the most usable.

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What are the best practices for user testing?

Like in most things, it is very important to have a master plan to follow. Here are the essential steps in user testing.

  • Plan from A to Z your test: timeline, number of participants, methods, everything needs to be decided in advance.
  • Test often. User testing can be useful in different time periods, not only when launching a new website or a new version of it.
  • Find participants. Be sure to have available participants.
  • Create a “script” to follow throughout your test. Every participant needs to go through the same experience, solve the same tasks and answer the same questions.
  • Be specific when debriefing. At the end of the testing period, be sure to go into details when drawing your conclusions.

Examples: What are the best questions for user testing of websites?

We also made a list of some of the most popular questions commonly used in user testing.

  1. How likely is that you would recommend our website to a friend/colleague?
  2. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate our website?
  3. Whats’ the thing you like the most about our website?
  4. How easy did you find navigating the website on a scale from 1 to 10?
  5. Which features of this website are the most/least important to you?

Clearly, this list could go on and on, but much depends on what type of website we are talking about, what are the needs of the owners, what stage of the user interface design we are considering and so forth so on.

Free online tools and software for user testing

UserReport is a free online tool that makes user testing easy and quick.

Thanks to its online survey and feedback tools, you will be able to

  • Ask users direct questions about user interface
  • Track their online behaviour
  • Get immediate reports with the answers collected
  • Allow users to freely leave comments with ideas or bugs discovered
  • Keep loyalty and satisfaction high

 

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