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7 top tips for running usability tests

ChecklistUsability testing is hugely important for discovering how people interact with your website. The insights gained from usability testing can help you revise poor design, raise user satisfaction and increase your website’s conversion rate.

While usability testing can have a huge positive effect on your Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) by identifying issues and helping you take decisive action to solve problems and make improvements, usability tests need to be done right in order to be helpful.

From asking follow-up questions to recruiting the right number of participants for accurate data, read on to learn seven top tips that you can use to get more from your next usability test.

1. Keep each test short, simple and interesting

The longer the test, the lower the engagement. Although most participants will be happy to complete your usability test tasks, long or overly complicated tasks might begin to feel like repetitive work, resulting in a change in participant behaviour.

Instead of using your website as they normally would, a long or complicated task can result in a test participant racing through your test in an effort to complete it quickly. This means less accurate, less actionable insight for your business.

Keep your instructions accurate and helpful and your test participants interested by using short, simple and interesting test tasks. Tasks that are complicated and difficult not only confuse participants – they can also cause them to act unnaturally.

2. Resist the temptation to guide or help users

It’s tough seeing someone struggle to do something on your website, especially if you played a role in designing it. Helping participants in a moderated usability test can seem like a good idea, but it’s actually a major mistake.

The most valuable usability testing data is untouched and unassisted. Leave your participants to make mistakes and take longer than they should, since each issue they run into is a signal that your website could benefit from improvement.

3. Ask follow-up questions for additional insight

Once each participant has finished the test process, ask them additional questions about the tasks they’ve performed. Test participants can be quiet and focused whilst they complete the test, but full of insight and answers after it’s finished.

If you’re performing a laboratory test, you can interview participants in person to learn more about their test experience. In an online usability test, you can send participants to a questionnaire to solicit additional feedback and information.

4. Run a pilot test to spot flaws in your test plan

Is your test plan really as good as you think it is? It’s easy to assume that your test plan is foolproof and straightforward, only to see it confuse users and bring things to a halt in reality.

Before you start your usability test, run a pilot test with a friend or co-worker. Let them complete the test, as if they were a real participant, so that you can spot any vague directions or potential points of confusion before you start live testing.

5. Screen participants to avoid wasting test time

While every test participant will be able to provide some level of insight, you’ll get the most helpful, actionable information from people that closely match the target audience of your website.

If you’re carrying out a remote unmoderated test, set screener questions to ensure the test is only sent to participants that match your target audience. Alternatively, you can recruit participants directly from your website (we recommend a tool called Ethnio for this) or email a subset of your database asking for willing participants.

Screening participants may increase the amount of time it takes to build a team of testers, but it will save you a significantly greater amount of time during the testing process, as well as making sure you get the most insightful, valuable data.

6. Recruit five to 15 participants for accurate data

Research shows that a small sample of just five users is enough to identify 85% of the issues that are affecting your website’s conversion rate. 15 users increases the comprehensiveness of your testing even further and provides additional value.

You don’t need a big testing team to generate important insight into the way people behave on your website. In fact, if you have limited resources, a large testing team can often be more of a setback than an asset.

Focus on recruiting five to 15 users for your next usability test. This amount is all it takes to generate insightful, helpful feedback without resulting in an overly long or expensive testing process.

7. Test your website’s essential functions first

One of the hardest aspects of usability testing is working out what to test first. Do you start with your website’s navigational menu or go straight to the signup form and checkout page?

A good rule of thumb is to start your usability testing with your website’s essential functions. In e-commerce, this usually means actions like adding a product to a cart and checking out or registering a personal account.

Prioritise your website’s essential functions and make them the focus of your first usability tests. Less essential features can be tested, but they shouldn’t be your first testing and optimisation targets.

Learn more about usability testing for Conversion Rate Optimisation

{{cta(’96c95ee7-da0f-43a6-99db-4bb290c8e817′,’justifyleft’)}} Is your website preventing users from becoming customers? Are users dropping out of your checkout and never returning? Usability testing can fill the gaps in your CRO process and give you the insight you need to make huge conversion improvements. Especially if you follow these 7 top tips for running usability tests.

If you’d like to learn more about usability testing, download our free white paper: How To Use Usability Testing to Increase Your Conversion Rate. Inside, you’ll find detailed advice on how you can use usability testing for CRO, including:

  • The three types of usability testing used by CRO experts
  • How to run usability tests yourself, even on a limited budget
  • How to use the data from usability testing in the CRO process
  • Simple but effective tips to get the most from your usability tests

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