Nina Patkai | March 2016

We love to run usability tests. They are extremely useful for learning whether our users are able to complete tasks successfully, to identify how long it takes for them to complete tasks, are they satisfied with our website and to identify any required changes to improve the user experience.

That's how it feels to watch a user test your product for the first time.

STEP 1: Choose Your Target Audience

Decide how many participants you need for the test? According to Nielsen, 5 users is enough. This lets you find most of the usability problems as you would find with more participants.

Next, decide what device should they use? Computer, tablet or mobile phone? Would you like them to conduct the test on a Mac or PC, and on which browser? Also you can specify for example their age group, income level and gender.

Remote user testing services, such as UserTesting, lets you create a screener to find the most appropriate users for your test.

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STEP 2: Select Tasks

Select tasks by thinking about the scenarios of why a user comes to your site, and what goals do they have? For example a scenario could be that: "You are traveling to Chigago next weekend and would like to check the fares." And a task could be that "Book a flight to Chigago for next Friday."

You can also list follow-up questions you might want to add, but try not to make the test too long for the user. After 15 to 30 minutes the user might get bored with the test.

Be careful not to guide the user, let them try to find out how to complete tasks by themselves. For example do not write in a task that 'click on this link' and then 'click on this button'.

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STEP 3: Perform the Test

Send email invitations to users to complete your test, or in some services they find users for you.

If you are doing moderated remote testing, meaning that you observe the users while they complete the tasks, you need to remember not to guide the user during the test. Let users talk. That's often how you get the best feedback. Also, remember to record the session, so you can analyze it later.

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STEP 4: Evaluate the Results

After you receive your user test videos and possibly written text, looking through the videos is very educational.

Look for patterns. Do two or more users have trouble completing the same task? Listen to what the users talk about, they might say something you didn't expect that gives a chance to make your site better. You should discuss the test results with the team, since results can be subjective.

After refining your site you should test again. It's an iterative process. Your assumptions might be wrong and need to be verified.

EXTRA: Get Started for Free

These services offer a free trial for you to get started with user testing:

  • Free usability testing service, Peek
  • Learn what users think of your app or website with UserBob
  • Upgrade your site's usability with Usability Provider
  • Watch videos of real people using your website with trymyUI