When it comes to testing your user experiences, there are plenty of methods you can use that will get you the information you need. From interviews to assistive technology testing, these methods offer a more streamlined and beneficial process capable of revealing the insights you need to revolutionize your UX.
But how can you know what user and usability tests to use in the course of evaluating your project? To ensure users are getting the best experience on your website, you’ll need a suite of testing tools at your disposal for every situation.
Here, we provide a guide that covers the tests you should be running as you look for problems, evaluate efficiency, and explore user sentiment.
What Tests Should You Be Running?
Every web platform or mobile application should come thoroughly tested for the range of users. Failing to do so will limit your audience and the potential of your tool. At worst, it could even open you up to liability issues.
But what tests should you be running?
The range of web application testing options available to you is vast and powerful. Through these tools, you’ll be able to gain insight into how users experience a platform, how it functions, and even how secure it will be against a world of digital threats. All these tests are highly necessary because they’ll determine not only your UX but the ability of your sites and apps to compete in the modern era.
These are some of the tests that every web designer and developer should run before delivery:
Each of these items represents a category that comes with its own set of tests and tools that make streamlining a web product simpler. Here, we dive into the details, exploring which to use and how they help.
We’ll start with user testing. This is a category separate from usability testing because it typically occurs at the beginning of development rather than throughout and at the final stages like with usability testing. Instead, user testing focuses on making sure that design ideas are efficient and useful.
User testing takes many forms. However, three primary methods will help you conduct thorough, insightful tests. These are:
- Interviews and focus groups: For direct, qualitative insight into web or application UX, little is better than interviews and focus groups. By engaging with small groups of testers, you can get a better sense of how your platform will work for users in the real world, an invaluable step for the early stages of a design.
- Guerilla testing: Next, this method takes interviews to the streets. With guerilla testing, devs take their prototype out to a public place, offer individuals incentives like free food or coffee, and gather their feedback as they assess the functionality and usability of your design.
- Card sorting: This method allows you to gain insight into organizational logic from just about any tester. All you need to do is write down features or content on individual cards and have the participant organize them and explain why they did so. This will provide the feedback you need to optimize UI navigation.
From here, you’ll be prepared with the initial feedback you need to build an amazing UX. But throughout the process, engage in consistent usability testing to best ensure an effective design.
Usability testing, simply put, is the means of measuring how functional a project really is. This is necessary for any product, not just web or software applications. Any tool the public utilizes has to be usable, otherwise, it has little to no value. Hence this is your primary goal in usability testing. If you prioritize any other goals over this, you aren’t going to meet usability standards.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have other goals in usability testing besides basic functionality. In fact, usability is relevant to all aspects of a product or service. In the case of marketing your product or service, the usability of any digital marketing, like email promotions, can make or break their success. Fifty-three percent of all purchased advertising is now digital, and proving your product’s worth on the crowded digital marketplace requires perfect usability.
Meeting these business goals is where usability testing comes in. This process should be employed throughout development to assess changes and new iterations. Here are some of the methods for going about usability testing:
- Hallway testing: A hallway test consists of approaching random people in your vicinity and asking them some quick questions about a design. Ideally, you’ll have some kind of prototype they can try out for themselves. This method allows for quick insight from users who aren’t necessarily UX experts themselves.
- Automated usability evaluation: This is what just about every developer strives for, though it can be extremely difficult to actually implement. Various methods, like Justin Mifsud’s USEful Framework, help devs and designers build tools for automating some usability features throughout the development process.
- Paper prototype testing: Paper prototype testing is about creating paper models of your software and asking a tester to approach it as they might the real thing. If the navigation and layout make sense and support usability, you know you’re on the right track. This is one extremely low-cost way to conduct usability testing throughout development.
With these testing methods, you can ensure a usable platform that meets the needs of a large audience. However, you’ll still need to accommodate users with visual, auditory, or other impairments that your usability testing might not have accounted for.
This brings us to accessibility testing. Accessibility is an aspect of usability that too often goes understated. This is a necessary aspect of design not just for complying with legal standards but for building an inclusive, quality product that is naturally optimized for search engines. Accessible design is good design, which should be your number one goal for this sector of testing. Meeting this goal will not only keep your product or service legally compliant, but it could also open up new markets, especially if your competitors are not doing the same testing you are.
Implement accessibility testing throughout the design process to make sure that your products are compatible with assistive technologies and a wide range of helpful devices. From mobile optimization to screen reader functionality, accessibility is a component of user and usability testing that you cannot neglect.
Here are some of the ways you can better test for accessibility:
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): The WCAG represents a collection of standards and metrics for making any web-based system more accessible for all users. These standards revolve around the core elements of perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustness. Follow these principles throughout the design process and test features with them in mind.
- Web accessibility evaluation tools: These are the resources assembled and promoted by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, and they can help any web developer build a more inclusive, functional platform. From color contrast analyzers to accessibility APIs, these tools offer all a dev could want in testing for accessibility.
- Assistive Technology (AT) testing: AT represents the range of devices individuals with any kind of impairment might need to use your platform with the same degree of success as any other user. Use speech recognition, screen reader, and special keyboard software tools to ensure that your design functions with these essential devices.
With an accessible UX, you’ll create an inclusive and adaptable system that more users will find more valuable. From here, it’s all a matter of making sure your usability goals meet the standards of all those who will want and need to make use of your site, app, or software. Fortunately, all these testing methods consist of checks that make optimizing UX a breeze.
The development and design process for any user interface or tool requires testing at frequent intervals. Without user, usability, and accessibility testing methods, your platform will fail to function for the audience you’re designing it for. By implementing these tests, you can catch errors that could hamper your SEO or turn away would-be customers at checkout.
Use interviews, paper prototypes, web accessibility evaluation tools, and more as you test your platform for success. The right combination of these methods will ensure nothing slips through the cracks. Experiment to find the best results for you.
Where to Learn More
For an in-depth understanding of usability testing and accessibility, we recommend the following online courses by Frank Spillers, Chief Experience Officer of Experience Dynamics:
If you are new to UX design, check out the free library of UX literature at the Interaction Design Foundation.