Join Kelly Goto for an in-depth discussion in this video Usability 101, part of Web ReDesign: Strategies for Success.
I've been a fan of usability testing for years and years. I've been advocating it, being an evangelist for it. And in this movie we're going to take you through why usability testing is so important, why you should incorporate it into your workflow; and although it is part of the core process, you can expand upon it with any organization, either informally or formally. We're going to take you through this movie and show you a little bit more detail. So, why usability testing why is it important? This is pretty funny because when I was a young designer, I started off doing print, making some beautiful brochures and one of them in particular sealed with a piece of velcro, it had some cards in it, a piece of vellum, paper made from Japan; and I went around and showed everybody how it worked, including the printer.
It wasn't until I saw the final piece in the showroom of the car dealership, where people actually couldn't figure out how to open it. I watched as they turned it upside down, they finally figured out there was a piece of velcro and once they undid it, all the contents fell on the floor. I realized at that point that I had been showing everybody how this thing worked that I had designed, instead of letting people work it out themselves. If I had understood the value of usability testing, even back then, it would have saved so much time and trouble. So, what are the differences between these methods? I believe unlike some usability purists that you can utilize a number of methodologies in the process of getting feedback from your customers.
I still believe that focus groups can be valuable although we don't use them very often, because they are giving you opinions and feedback from outside own organization. Interviews are also helpful! Usability testing is what we're going to be going over today and if you get into other methods of field research, ethnography and other kinds of social science, there is so much that you can learn by continuing to watch and observe, how people use your content, services and products in their actual lifestyles. But let's go on with a little bit more on usability testing.
So what is usability testing? It's really all about ease of use and it's a method that has been around far longer than the web. It started in the field of Human Factors Engineering and really got into products and services like tractors and toothbrushes and some of the things that people used at the turn of the century. People wanted to determine how easy it was something to use and how can we streamline the process to make it better, to continue to iterate and improve that experience for that individual. In relation to the web, it's an understanding of how someone navigates, finds content and information and understands how to get from point A to point B on your website.
It's really one-on-one watching and learning. So you are taking a look at how someone is using your website, you're not actually showing them. How many of you have designed a website and sat with someone down in front of it and asked them what they thought? And they start to point around you and say no, no, no, don't go there! Oh! No, no, that's not active and you eventually take the mouse over and show them the cool stuff yourself. That is the antithesis of usability testing. What you want to do is sit back, zip your mouth shut, put your hands behind your back and watch someone unassisted as they go through your website.
It's very hard and it is also extremely interesting. What is usability testing and how does it differ from other methods of research? It's a one or two day process with at least 4-8 participants per day. You want to take an hour per session and you have already gone through your site, remember you can't test everything on your site. You are going to have some predetermined tasks that you are going to lay out in advance and you have a test facilitator, hopefully someone that has experience in moderating, understanding how people are using the site and they're taking notes and sometimes it's videotaped, but not always, sometimes you have other people that are observing in the room.
And what you are going to show is, what's working and what's not working on the site. There are a couple of advantages to formal testing and we're going to talk about the differences between formal and informal testing in a movie that's to follow. We've seen the beauty of usability testing. We've seen engineers have that aha moment as people navigate through their site and have specific issues with navigation, labeling or maybe they go through it smoothly. It's a chance for us to see the outcome of everything that we've been putting together following the core process step by step and then seeing if our target audience can understand it, navigate through it and in the end, have an experience that they consider to be not only likable and not only usable but something that they are going to integrate into their lives.
So, why don't we test? Well, I don't know if any of you have read that book Stephen Covey's Secrets of Highly Successful People, but one thing really caught my attention, it's Quadrant II. Quadrant II is everything that's in the important category that's non-urgent. Most of our days are spent dealing with emergencies, urgent e-mails, phone calls, everything else and at the end of the day we go to our couch, sit and watch TV and deal with everything that's not urgent and not important. That's Quadrant IV here. And what ends up being missed on a daily basis is Quadrant II, things that are important but because they're not urgent, they often fall by the wayside.
Things like Usability testing and QA testing usually fall into this category. So, usability testing also has a number of different aspects to it. Just because you say great, we're going to engage in a usability test. Internally in your organization, you might not realize that it also includes things like expert or heuristic analyses, concept testing, customer interviews, card sorting contextual inquiry, all kinds of bits and pieces of methods that come out in the usability testing category.
So, what I encourage you to do is take a lot of these methods and pick ones that are going to work for your organization, understand the value of them, educate your team and develop a toolkit so that you can get to the end result which is actually test. So, the goal is to develop a toolkit of usability techniques that you can use in your organization within your own team and of course, if you need to hire an outside expert to come in and complete some of the testing, whatever methods you use and whatever type of testing that you do; just remember the goal is to start testing.
Informal testing is better than no testing at all and definitely the results are worth it.