Website Usability Testing Can Improve Website Performance

Your site is getting tested every day by visitors. Google Analytics can provide a wealth of metrics on bounce rates, pages accessed, duration, and engagement, but to really understand how users are working with your site and why performance might be less than desired, website usability studies are often used.

Usability testing is an important part of the marketing and branding of your company. In fact, experts claim that up to 52% percent of the business- to-business decision process is made before the customer ever talks to sales. Usability testing is a way to gain an evaluate how easily users can accomplish a given task on a device. Your overall website performance will be determined in part by its usability. For visitors to convert on your website, they need to easily navigate to your conversion pages. Websites that have intuitive navigation create better experiences and engagements—and score higher in usability studies.

Proper preparation is key.
1. The goals and objectives of the study will help determine which UX research methodology to use.
2. Determine the format and setting.

• Most face-to-face studies are conducted in a laboratory setting versus in the field. However, if your users’ environment is critical, then going to the participant may be necessary.
• Moderated discussions will provide richer insights in that probing questions during the discussion may be used to gain deeper insights. A facilitator can explain the test session, allowing respondent to ask questions. He or she can assign typical scenarios and observes if the respondent has any difficulty in performing what was requested. Unmoderated discussions can be faster and cheaper IF you can access the right participants. Testing results in this case rely on the users’ ability to understand what is asked and to stay engaged for the test duration.
• In-person or remote: In-person is the preferred method for its control and distraction-free environment. The moderator can better establish rapport and will be able to detect more subtle cues such as body language.

3. Determine the number of participants. We generally recommend 5-8 participants to yield the best return on qualitative, moderated usability studies. It’s better to uncover problems and test using a second 5-8-participant phase than to spend time on a greater number and be unable to retest.

4. A screener should be used to ensure that your test participants are closely matched to the types of people who visit your site. This can be done with both consumer and business-to-business audiences

5. Make sure that your testing coincides with typical user settings, and that test scenarios are carefully prepared in advance. Careful attention should be given to Google Analytics in the case of existing sites.

At the end, I usually like to ask additional subjective questions to gain a more comprehensive user experience.

Website usability studies typically provide both objective and subjective measures:
o Was the user able to successfully complete the scenarios as proposed?
o Was each test conducted within a reasonable time period, in as few clicks as possible?
o Was the task performed in an intuitive nature or did the respondent seem to hunt for the navigational path?
o How do users rate their experience on a 5-point scale or similar
o What likes and dislikes do users express concerning various aspects such as appearance, degree of information, and usefulness?

In summary, employing a usability study to gain insight into user experience, and then taking action to correct areas of concern can vastly improve your website performance.