Usability Testing Basics

On my post on Signs that your Website Needs to be Redesigned I mentioned how running tests is the way to determine a website’s usability. Usability testing is of utmost importance if you wish to make sure that your website design has as few usability issues as possible.

There are numerous methods used to study usability although the most widely used, and perhaps the most important one, is user testing. As the name implies user testing involves the participation of users. In user testing a certain number of users are chosen to perform specific tasks. These users are observed while they are performing the tasks in order to determine where they have difficulty. After the test the users are usually asked for feedback so that they can point out which aspects of the design was most useful and pleasant and which aspects gave them the most difficulty and why.

The selection of users to participate in the user testing is critical in getting relevant results. When doing studies random selection is usually used to guard against bias. However, when doing usability studies you need to get users based on a certain criteria in order to ensure that the users are representative of your actual or target users. If you have a huge set of users that can participate in the testing then well and good, however even if you only have a handful that should be enough if these five users really are representative of the entire group.

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