Stephanie Briones

What I have learned about Usability Testing

Usability testing is a very valuble part of great user experience, yet it seems to be ignored a lot of times. I think a lot of people get the impression that it's too expensive and just takes too much time to do.

There are ways to do user testing that cost very little and take no more than a couple hours of time. The things that can be learned from some simple user testing, however, are priceless.

In Rocket Surgery Made Easy, Steve Krug explains how you can conduct simple and effective user tests on your own. Until I actually tried it out for myself, I wasn't aware of how fascinating user testing would be.

To see someone use a site that I created and feel the pain of my poor decisions, or point out good ones, was surprisingly mind-altering and a very enjoyable experience. Just seeing the way that other people use a browser, in itself, was intriguing.

I installed Silverback to record the session, prepared a script, asked some questions, and had the testers do a few things on my blog. Even though I have plans for changes to my blog, it seemed like a good time to test and figure out the things that should change for the user versus things I just wanted to change for me.

It was interesting that they each pointed out some of the very same things, but also unique things. Things that I had already thought about and some that I hadn't.

Some of the things that the testers struggled with were:

  1. Navigation

    My blog has almost no navigation. There is a link at the top of the page, my name, which takes you to the home page and each individual blog post on the home page takes you to the post, to go back, you need to know to click on my name again to return to the home page and back to the list of blog posts.

    Solution: Probably some breadcrumbs. I haven't decided yet. Other things that would help may include a "back to top" link at the bottom of long posts to make it easier to return to the top.

  2. Tweeting a post

    Currently you can tweet a blog post from the bottom of the blog post.

    Solution: Moving that to the top, where it would be natural to return when you're finished reading, would make it a lot easier to find and use.

  3. No dates on posts

    This actually bothers me a lot too, and it'd probably be simple to change with a little help. Right now you can see all of the posts on the page, but there's no obvious order to anything, it's just a long list.

    Solution: Find a developer that can help me add dates to my blog posts.

What was good:

One thing that they all agreed on was the fact that it was clean and simple. Something that I should keep in mind when working on changing things up.

I hope to never forget how much I got out of that short session of user testing and the value it brought to even a small two page website like my blog. The best thing about user testing is that it can never be done too late. It can be done at any time and by anyone.