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Part 1: Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3: Tips and Tricks To Start User Testing

So, you’ve found the perfect car. It has all the bells and whistles, gets great gas mileage and, boy, will your friends turn their heads. Now, all you have to do is take it for a test drive!

A website redesign takes a lot of sweat equity and financial resources. At the end of the process, you need a website that delivers a Return on Investment (ROI) and achieves its goals. Why wait until you’ve launched your new site to find out if it will get the results you need?

User testing is an important, if not necessary, part of the redesign process. Today, online testing tools are making usability testing more accessible. No longer does testing have to be left to the experts. Although if you can afford it we do recommend that you consider working with a usability expert as there is a lot of value in having an experienced partner to help guide you through the process.

We’ve created this user testing blog series to bring you tools and tips to test your digital strategy assumptions before you launch your website. In this series we will:

  • Guide you through scheduling and planning your tests
  • Explore different types of testing for different aspect of your site
  • Present an array of online tools to help you get the job done, and expert tips to make things as easy as possible

First up, on this list let’s talk about scheduling and planning your usability testing.

Put it in the Calendar: Planning is Everything

User testing can happen throughout all phases of the redesign process from discovery to launch. You might begin by evaluating what works and doesn’t work on your current site and engaging your users in quick and easy ways (learn more in Part 2 of this series). Then, in the discovery and design phases, sitemaps, wireframes, and design mockups can all be tested, revised and tested again (you guessed it, more to come on this too). And, of course testing can occur in the development phase. 

Our series will primarily focus on testing in the discovery and design phases. Your testing schedule should be be worked into your timeline so it will not hold up the process. In order for this to happen you need to know what you are testing and when you are testing BEFORE you firm up your schedule. 

Get Bossy: Create Tasks and Scenarios

Your testers need to know what to do and how to do it. Tasks are the actions you will ask your users to complete. You are testing to see how easily they can complete them. 

Consider these questions when you start creating your tasks:

  • What do you want your users to find? Perhaps you have featured content or important Calls to Action (CTA’s) you want your users to engage with. 
  • Where do you want your users to go? Can you users navigate your site in simple and easy ways?
  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge for your users to understand? Maybe you’ve changed your site’s information architecture, introduced a new concept, or have rebranded.

Tips

  • Keep it Simple. Tasks should be clear and easy to understand. Make sure they can be completed with actions and that each task is specific to one action.
  • Keep it Short. Your testers are busy people too! Don’t overwhelm them with a laundry list of tasks. 5 tasks per test is more than enough to get useful results.
  • Use your website goals and user persona research to guide your tasks. Haven’t done user personas? Download our free template.
  • Create Scenarios. Scenarios can help the user complete tasks. Construct stories that give context to what the user is trying to accomplish. Give tasks through the perspective of different users and use cases:
    •  “You’re a student looking for…”
    • “You’re planning a vacation between..”
    • “You are a current customer who needs technical support…”, etc.
  • Brush up on your user experience knowledge. One great resource is User Experience Matters, by our UX Designer Cheryl Little.

I Can’t Remember My Line!: Create a Script

Now that you’ve created your tasks and scenarios, create a script to use as a guide for testing. Not only will this make it easier for you to conduct the tests but a script will allow others to give feedback and facilitate the test for you.

Tools

Eeny, Meeny Miny, Moe: Pick Your Testers

This part of the planning process can be overwhelming but before you worry about finding and managing a slew of volunteer testers, keep calm and read on:

So who should you include in your user testing groups?

  • Representatives from your current audience
  • Representatives from your new, target audiences
  • Staff, stakeholders, board members, etc.

Tips

  • Test frequently in small groups. You don’t need a large testing group, in fact, you can highlight major problems in as few as 3 tests.
  • Testing in smaller groups will allow you to test more often without having to find a huge pool of participants. This will be especially helpful when it’s time to make changes and retest. (Continue reading for more tips on retesting.)
  • Remember your user personas! Make sure these personas are represented in your testing groups.
  • The Beta Group. Consider creating a group that is involved with testing throughout the duration of your redesign process. This is a great way to engage your loyal users and to get more in depth feedback along the way. And, bonus, it will save you some time too.
  • Dangle that carrot! Who doesn’t love an incentive? Consider coupons and giveaways for your testers. A small token can be very effective especially for tests that take less time. For bigger commitments, consider bigger carrots!


On the Record: Recording Your Test

Recording your tests will allow you to analyze the results and easily share them with others.

Tools

  • If you are testing remotely tools like Gotomeeting.com and Google hangouts allow easy screen sharing and recording functionality. 
    • Tip: Send the assets that you are testing to your users and have them share their screen so you can record their actions.
  • If you are testing in person, use a service such as Screencast to record your users actions.

Try, Try, Try Again: Retesting the Right Way

You are bound to encounter problems that need to be addressed once you start testing. That’s the point, right? Since you have organized your testing into small groups, you’re in the perfect position to make changes and retest. Although you may want to fix everything before testing with your next group, slow and steady definitely wins this race.

Tip

  • Address one problem at a time and then retest. Do not change more than one problem at a time or you can’t reliably isolate the issue and it will be harder to interpret your test results.

So there you have it. All the tips and tools to start planning and creating your tests. Now go test! Wait, you want to know what to test and how to test it? Well, we’ve got that covered. Watch out for the rest of our series where we will cover homepage evaluations and user polling, information architecture and navigation testing, and wireframe and design mockup tests. 

Website Launch Checklist

Additional Resources

Take 5: User Experience Matters | Mediacurrent Blog Post
Desigining for Personas | Mediacurrent Blog Post

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