Usability Testing: Do it Early and Often for a Great Website

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Usability testing is imperative if you want to take a good site and make it a great site. It will often reveal usability issues that web designers, developers and clients will never discover because they are too close to the project and too familiar with the content.

Typically, a usability test involves one user who is shown a site or a wireframe and asked to do something or explain what they are looking at. It’s not too complicated. However, usability testing is often cut from web design budgets for largely two reasons:

  • It’s too expensive
  • It takes too much time

Neither of these are necessarily true.

It’s Too Expensive
It is possible to spend $10,000 – $15,000 on usability testing, and if it’s in the budget, go for it. You can have your sessions recorded in a lab with a third party usability professional running the show. You can monitor the session via a one-way mirror and you can test a myriad of users. Unfortunately, most budgets don’t allow for that. But that doesn’t mean you should skip testing. It isn’t necessary to go all out to gain useful insights from usability testing.

It is possible to do usability testing on a much smaller budget. If you have a camcorder, a person to administer the test, a quiet room with a computer, a willing participant who comfortably uses the Web, and $50-100 for each participant, then you can perform a testing session.

It Takes Too Much Time
Each individual test runs anywhere from 30-45 minutes and you need only test 3-4 users for each round of testing. You’re looking at a handful of hours for the testing and an hour meeting to go over the results with the team and come up with a plan to address any issues. Testing can be accomplished in less than a day and the data you glean from that time spent could save many hours of development time.

Steve Krug, Usability Guru, suggests taking one day at the beginning of each development stage to test. It’s not an enormous investment and the ROI could be huge. Test early and often. It’s guaranteed to pay off.

You may find this article helpful: 10 Questions to Ask a Web Developer Before Hiring


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