The first steps to successfully running a user test - Fabric Digital

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The first steps to successfully running a user test

19th Jul // 2016

So you’ve spent countless hours running UX workshops, designing a website, getting it built… you can just brush your hands and go home now can’t you? Afraid not!

User Testing is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of running a successful online service of any kind. Sadly, it’s often overlooked. A good agency will always recommend regular user testing of any website to ensure that things are working as they should.

For the uninitiated, there are several types of testing which you might undertake during a web project. You, or your development team, might set up automated feature tests which ensure individual parts of your website work as intended. During development you could run integration tests, making sure several pieces of collaborative code work together.

Those are both examples of important, often vital, types of testing, but they don’t help make sure that users are interacting with your website in the way that you intend.

User Testing involves letting real users loose on your website with a given task and usually a set time in which to complete it. Tasks can be extremely specific, broad or completely open depending on what information you’re trying to glean from the users.

Sure, analytics are great, but they don’t tell you the story behind the numbers. You can certainly see how many people clicked on a link or used a certain element but you can’t find out why, often forcing analysis to include an element of guesswork. User testing allows your reporting to be based on factual accounts of website use.

Scalability is a big bonus of user testing. User tests are mainly conducted online (although focus group style testing still has its place) so you can have any number of users completing your tests. Obviously this affects cost, but the more users you receive feedback from, the more accurate your data will be.

As with any type of testing it’s really important to have an accurate measure of results. Usability surveys are a good way of getting a general measure of how your website is perceived, but it doesn’t provide some of the subtleties you might pick up from watching a user interact with your site. For this reason it’s good practice to utilise both types of feedback, giving you a good mix of qualitative and quantitative information.

Sounds great! How do I start?
We recommend working with an agency who has plenty of experience, especially for your first foray into user testing. The huge benefit to this is that they will be able to advise on what to do with the results that you get. If a strong enough case is put forward through your user testing then you might find a significant change to your website is suggested. If this is the case then it’s great to already have an agency capable of making those changes on board. This way you already have a team available to implement the changes you need as soon as is practical.

The important thing to remember is that any changes to your website need testing to make sure that you’re making a positive impact. Testing, altering and re-testing is a key process which will help improve the performance of your website in the long run.

Interested in trying out some user testing? Get in touch and we’ll guide you through it!

Penned by Sam Butterworth in UX Design