"Fixing a problem in development costs 10 times as much as fixing it in design, and 100 times as much if you’re trying to fix the problem in a product that’s already been released." -Roger Pressman
As UX professionals who advocate both for excellent user experiences and the most efficient and economical website projects for our business partners, it pains us that usability testing isn't regularly prioritized by companies for their website or app. Testing with representative users ends up an afterthought, or a “nice to have” instead of a critical part of the process when doing a site redesign. This mentality can cost companies millions.
What is usability testing?
Usability testing is where we evaluate the ease of use of a product or service with real users. It is an important part of the design and development process. To put it simply, when you conduct usability testing, you are making sure people can use your product or service and have a positive experience.
This method of user research involves either an expert moderator or scripted testing software asking users to perform a series of specific tasks and identifying areas of confusion or friction while the user tries to complete the task. It can fit effectively into almost any budget and timeline and should be done regularly throughout the course of the design and development lifecycle. This provides rapid feedback for iterative improvements, increasing the success of the final product you put out there.
Usability testing reliably brings data-informed insights and the voice of the customer into both the design of a new site or app and ongoing optimization. The qualitative and human aspect provides further context to quantitative data, e.g. from Google Analytics, and allows you to make more informed decisions.
Quantitative data can tell you the “what,” but it’s the qualitative insights gained from direct user research like usability testing that gives you the “why.” These insights can provide the reason for that drop in conversions after you launched your completely redesigned product page. While analytics can show you that conversions are down, without observing users and asking them about their experience, you may not realize something as simple as deprioritizing secondary calls to action to remove distraction will provide the clear path the user was missing.
And here’s where the proactive use of usability testing is so helpful. If you’d included usability testing as part of the product page redesign, you likely would have caught the issue before spending the time and money developing and launching a suboptimal experience.
Gathering evidence to make your case.
How often have you tried to encourage key stakeholders to think differently about the solution to a problem? Or tried to adjust the outdated, but long-held beliefs about your company’s users? Or convince them of an issue you’ve found with the site, but that they don’t see and analytics hasn’t yet exposed? Any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Without evidence, this can be an ongoing (and often losing) battle. Usability testing gives you that evidence. By testing with your users, you can identify which solution is going to be optimal for them before code is even written. You gain insights directly from your target users about your product or service, and what they need from you. You may even uncover previously unknown pain points with your users and be able to take action to smooth out a workflow.
How usability testing helped inform a successful redesign of a popular bike brand.
We partnered with Schwinn Bicycles on a recent site redesign. From initial conversations, they knew they needed robust user research and testing effort to inform their decision making. As one part of that, we conducted usability testing against their current website to gauge a benchmark with users representing their target audiences.
Through these tests, we not only confirmed suspected issues but were able to prioritize solutions based on what we found to be the points of greatest frustration. Perhaps even more importantly, we uncovered many new issues, which allowed us to move confidently into the planning and design phase.
We didn’t just stop there with usability testing. After we were into the redesign phase for the new website experience, we used our design comps to quickly validate the proposed site redesign with both moderated usability testing and unmoderated first-click testing. With this testing, we were able to confirm the redesign not only addressed the key points of frustration, but ensured the new site was going to be a successful launch for this legacy brand. And that was before a single line of code was written.
Usability testing won’t break the bank.
Perhaps one of the most compelling things about usability testing is that it’s economical. It doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, as noted earlier, it’s usually far more expensive in the long run not to include usability testing as part of your product or service lifecycle.
An often-used stat in UX contends that you can find 85% of the critical usability issues with just five testers. It’s entirely possible, if scheduling cooperates, to run tests with those five users in less than a day’s time, which then allows you to analyze the findings and quickly identify any showstopper issues which warrant further investigation.
Special labs and expensive equipment aren’t required; we’ve developed a very agile approach to testing for rapid feedback. Make it easy for people to use your website, give us a call today to discuss how.