Is web usability testing possible for less than $50, in less than 2 hours a week? That’s what Chas Grundy of the University of Notre Dame said in his eduweb conference session. So while John and Erick are at HighEdWeb, I’ll finish up with my own conference notes.
Usability testing can be as simple as sitting 3-5 users down in front of your website, and watching what they do. With screen capture software and/or a webcam, you can even record them.
Chas offered several suggestions and encouragements on web usability testing.
- Focus on the big issues. Begin today.
- Decide what to learn, how to learn, who from, when to test. Most users are similar. If high school students can’t find your “Contact Us” button, neither can rich elderly potential donors.
- Explain to the users that there are no right/wrong answers. In fact, they’re not being tested at all – the web developers are.
- Test early, test often. Don’t wait until the site is set in stone.
- You can test using paper prototypes and mockups, even before your site is finished.
- Test competitors’ websites too, to see if alternatives work better than what you’re doing.
- When you test, give users tasks. Don’t leave it open-ended.
- Encourage your users talk out loud over the tasks, but don’t offer any direction yourself.
- If you ask about something, people will create opinions where they had none before.
- What web users say is not always what they do. Ignore speculation.
- Fix the obvious, do special testing on the hard parts, then retest.
- Design once, increment forever.
- Remember: everything we do could be wrong. We don’t know until we’ve tested it.
Chas suggested several usability testing software tools…
- Camtasia – currently available for $10 for the A&M community from https://software.tamu.edu/
- Silverback – another screen capture option
- Jing Pro – creates videos, including screen captures
- Optimal Sort – free online card sorting for usability/information architecture
…and several websites on usability and usability testing:
- sensible.com – The online home of Web usability consultant Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think.
- useit.com – For usability research, many turn to Dr. Jakob Nielsen’s website. For graphic design beauty, they usually look elsewhere.
- usability.gov – A one-stop source from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on how to make websites more usable, useful, and accessible.