What is it?
It’s basically the testing of digital objects like websites, widgets or apps to help designers bring their products to life. This kind of testing focuses on the relationship between the object and the end user, to make sure that the object is:
- Learnable, meaning it’s easy to use or learn to use.
- Efficient, once the user has “learned” the product they are able to achieve a high level of productivity.
- Memorable, how easy the system is to remember. If a user takes a long break from using the product, they should be able to remember how to use it easily – there should be no need to re-learn how to use it.
- Low in errors, a user should only make a small number of errors, and if errors are made, recovering from these errors should be simple.
- And finally satisfying – a positive experience while using the system.
Usability testing is about test, repair, re-test.
Why should I care?
Jakob Nielsen the father of web based usability testing says “designers are not users” therefore usability testing with a sample of end users is crucial in creating a successful product for your target audience. In 2009 a study in the International Journal of Electronic Commerce announced that the average conversion rate for an E-Commerce site was 3.43%. Having a site which is hard to use would only work to lower this figure.
Every digital object which your client or company owns or creates should be included in the Marketing and Communications plan. Marketers should care about usability testing because promoting a product which is hard to use is like running the wrong way up an escalator – not impossible, but bloomin’ hard work!
Anything else I should know?
Yes: Usability testing doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming. Hooray!
All you need is: an office or conference room with two chairs, a computer (which is connected to the internet if a live site is being tested), a handy cam, a long video cable and a tripod. Some usability experts fiercely believe that anyone can facilitate a test, but its best to use someone who is patient, calm, empathetic, a good listener and inherently fair. There are plenty of books about which can teach you how to do it so get reading.
Lucy is an Account Manager at Pass It On, a Social Media Marketing Agency. She is currently studying for an MSc in Multimedia at Swansea Metropolitan University. Follow Lucy on Twitter here.