Usability Testing Basics continued
Note that when talking about usability studies user testing is different from focus groups. As mentioned before in user testing “users are observed while they are performing the tasks in order to determine where they have difficulty.” In focus groups users are asked for their opinion regarding their evaluation of the website design. Data gathered from focus groups are valuable but is not really the best method for usability studies. To determine usability of a website user testing is considered to be more apt.
So during what part of the web design process should user testing be conducted? The answer is - all throughout the process. One of the common mistakes of website designers is that they tend to complete the entire design and only do the testing after the design has been implemented. This is a mistake because waiting till the design is fully implemented will almost always reveal a whole slew of critical mistakes all at once. It is almost impossible to deal with all those mistakes, especially if many are structural in nature, so that you will end up having wasted much time since you will need to go back and redo most things, if not scrap everything all together. Because of this it is imperative that user testing be done in between each critical step of the web design process. This means conducting user test BEFORE implementation to get feedback on proposed design, conducting a user test on your competitions’ websites, showing prototypes of your design and testing them, and then a more in depth testing during beta phase.