How to test the usability of your website at home

How to test the usability of your website at home

There’s no point in investing in targeted Facebook ads linking to your website if people are going to be bamboozled when they arrive at the destination. The user experience, or UX, of your website is critical to capitalising on the time you put in to social media. So how do you know if your website is up to scratch or if it’s a pain in the backside?

All good sites have two things in common, according to UX/UI Designer Dave Rayner who has been making websites since 2000 and has done work for the likes of Telstra and the NRL.

“The site has to look good,” Dave says. “It doesn't have to be a fancy high-end design, but there needs to be some sense of quality in the imagery and basic layout. Quality equals credibility.”

Secondly, your website needs to meet the immediate expectations of your customer. “If people are coming from a specific campaign or ad, your site needs to tell that story straight away,” Dave says. “If you’re offering 20% off sunglasses, then wherever they land really needs to push that and have that next step. Whether it's buy now, or sign-up, or whatever that action is, it needs to be top of page.”

How do you find out if your website is meeting the expectations of your customer? You gather a group of people (your users) and ask them to do something.

How to conduct a home UX experiment

  • Decide on your task

What do you want your users to do? For example, if your Facebook ad invites people to purchase sunglasses, you could start your users on the webpage your ad links to and ask them to buy three pairs. If you’re a service-based organisation you could ask them to find your phone number, submit a web enquiry or sign-up to your newsletter.

  • Mobile v desktop

Use Google Analytics to segment mobile/desktop visitors. Conduct the test on whichever device is the most popular.

  • Brief your users

Invite your users in to the living room one at a time to do the test (we don’t want them influencing each other). Dave says you should deliver the following speech before they start: “There are no right or wrong answers. It’s not a test about you. You can't fail. It’s about the application or the site. If you’re confused that's brilliant. You've actually achieved something.”

  • Sit back, be quiet and watch what they do

“You need to be watching them, not getting them to tell you about it later because that won't happen. They'll distort the truth,” Dave says. “You need to just watch and wait for them to stop, pause, get confused and think ‘Um, what do I click?’”

TIP: If you’re able to film your users completing the task then that’s even better because you can analyse the footage later.

  • Interpret your results

Where did people get stuck? What tripped them up? Did they try to ask you any questions? This shows you where you can improve the user experience of your website.

A few words on reliability

Some UX designers will say testing on friends or family is a bad idea. While you probably shouldn’t test on your mum, friends and family are better than nothing! What’s perhaps more important is finding people who reflect your customer personas. If your customers are fifty-somethings, there’s no point testing on your teenage nieces and nephews.

The size of your group is something you should also consider. “If you test one person, it's borderline,” Dave says. “If you test with two or three people you're halfway there. If you test with five, you're good enough now to go back and make changes.”

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