You might remember Steve Austin, astronaut. He was the one of the best… and then he got even better, thanks to the miracle of bionics.
Usability Testing is the web site equivalent of bionics. By testing, measuring, analyzing, and refining your site, we can make the website better for your audiences, make their their searches and results faster, and make their ties to your content and your services stronger.
What Is Usability Testing?
There are a ton of way to test the usability of a website. Simply put, usability testing is any type of review, survey, or experiment to tell how your users react to and interact with your site, and whether they are able to accomplish the tasks or goals of your site.
Every web site has its own reason for being. Your website might be geared to presenting a program to potential students and encouraging them to apply. Your site might be geared to a specific medical service and in attracting potential patients to make an initial screening appointment. Your site might be simply informational in nature – delivering life style tips and recommendations for diabetic, for example.
Depending on the goal, the design, layout, and navigation of your site might be radically different from another. Usability testing allows you to evaluate those decisions and to make changes to your site in order to improve its ease of use for your audience and in helping them achieve goals.
Google Analytics provides a good basis for making decisions regarding these type of changes, but there are a variety of quantitative and qualitative tests that can assist in making these iterative changes. Web Services now provides these services to Uf Health units and departments on request.
Usability Reviews and Tests provided by Web Services
The optimization review is a basic review of the site by the Web Content Optimizer for issues of accessibility, usability, and search engine optimization. This report is done as a last step prior to a site launch, but should be undertaken periodically by units. The review makes recommendations to improve usability, information architecture, accessibility, and search engine optimization.
Card-Sorting tests gets feedback from users on site navigation, organization, and taxonomy of the site. Web Services provides both in-person and online card-sorting testing.
Information Architecture for large scale organizations tend to be driven by several factors, most of which are often not conducive to the user experience. The first is to mirror the institutional organization and its org charts, which might not be transparent to an outside audience. The second is to base itself off of the traditional models of the site or on the design of other sites for peer institutions. While this is generally a good benchmark, it may not accurately reflect the thought process of the user.
By removing the process of determining the structure from the biases and preconceptions of the content editors and allowing input from the audience into building structures and work flows that make sense to them, we enhance the usability of the site and the ease of its use.
While analytics and event tracking can pinpoint the number of times an element on a page is accessed, it is difficult to visually communicate this issue to stakeholders. Heat maps give an easy to use interface for understanding the usage patterns of visitors and identifying opportunities to address issue in navigation and interaction with site content.
Paper prototyping is a low cost method of testing user interfaces without spending significant time of coding and development. Proposed interfaces are presented to a participant and as the participant goes about accomplishing a task, the tester manipulates the paper prototype to show the user how the interface reacts to their actions.
Questionnaires and Surveys would be used to capture user sentiment and reactions to the site. Unlike our other Usability Tests, the questionnaire/survey would be a user-initiated review of the site that would be accessed during real time use of the web site or application.
Testing various versions and formats of web pages and web elements to determine which has a greater level of engagement or usefulness for the users. A/B testing allows the testing of two different approaches to a design or usability problem on a website. In this experimental model, two different versions of a web page are created, each with a different approach to content layout, design of graphics and buttons, etc. The first visitor to a given page is served Version A; the next visitor, Version B. In an iterative change environment, Version A is usually the original version of a web page on the site, and serves as a control to measure the effective of the proposed changes in Version B.
Informal Usability Testing is used to measure user behavior and interaction with our website, in the presence of a Web Services moderator. The moderator records how the user tries to accomplish certain tasks on the website. Using the subjects’ feedback, Web Services them recommends iterative site changes to improve the site’s function. Usability Testing provides a bellwether on the usefulness of the site. It provides with direct interaction with our audience, which can uncover issues that surveys might miss due to their inflexible nature.
Qualitative assessments of site design and impressions. Focus Groups are used as a group-think exercise to determine public perception to site design and structure.
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For the Higher Ed Web Professional
Are you interested in making usability testing a service line for your web office? We’re providing our Usability Testing planning document as a resource in doing just that!
For each of the services we are offering, the document lists:
- What we test
- Why we test
- What this test targets
- What are the goals of testing
- What are the outcomes of testing
- What’s the return on investment for testing
- What are the risks in not testing
- Methodology: How We Test
- How we evaluate and measure
- How we optimize based on the results
- Annual timetable for testing
- Resources needed for testing service
Photo of Six Million Dollar Man Toy artwork courtesy 1976 Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman Toy Catalogue