Ask a digital marketer if they’re aware of the benefits of usability testing and you’ll receive an almost universal response: “Yes.”
Ask them if they’ve carried out usability testing for their latest website, application or interface and you’ll hear something a little different: “I’d love to, but I don’t have the time right now.”
Usability testing is one of the most effective ways to find out, beyond any doubt, how users interact with your website. It’s one of the most essential steps in a Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) programme, but it’s also one of the most frequently avoided.
One reason so many marketers avoid using usability testing in CRO is because of the perceived amount of time required. Since usability testing depends on people other than your in-house team, a common assumption is that it’s slow and inefficient.
In this guide, we break the usability testing process down into three steps:
- finding and recruiting testers
- scheduling usability tests
- analysing the data from testing
Step 1: Recruiting usability testing participants
For many businesses, the longest part of the usability testing process isn’t usability testing itself, but putting together a team of participants that match your website’s target audience.
There are several ways to recruit usability testing participants: through an agency, using targeted advertising or via your own website. Our favourite method is to find testing participants using your own website.
This recruitment method lets you quickly assemble a team of qualified people that match your target demographic. It also guarantees that those participating in your test closely match the type of people most likely to actively use your website.
There are several ways to recruit users for usability testing from your website. These include:
- Using Ethn.io to create a screener that specifically recruits people that match your target description (see our step by step guide to setting up Ethnio here)
- Trigger a modal pop-up on your website that directs users to a survey using Google Forms or another form builder
- Recruit users from your email list or customer database.
Assembling a qualified team of usability testing participants can take days or, if your targeting criteria is very specific, weeks. The more traffic your website receives and the broader your test audience, the quicker you’ll assemble a team of participants.
How much time does recruiting usability testing participants take?
The tasks involved in setting up participant recruitment takes only a couple of hours. the variable is how long it takes for this recruitment to identify suitable participants. This depends on the amount of traffic your site receives and the recruitment method chosen, but we'd expect you to be able to advance to the next step within the week.
Step 2: Preparing and scheduling your usability tests
The more people you recruit for usability testing, the greater the level of insight you’ll get into how people interact with your website. Larger participant numbers are also far more difficult for your own staff to schedule and manage.
We’ve found that the sweet spot for usability participants is five to 15 users. A smaller team rarely provides the diversity of insight required, while larger tester numbers can often become too complicated and time-consuming to manage.
Once your participants are assembled, it's time to schedule individual tests. Tests can require anything from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the scale of the test and complexity of the tasks. We recommend not exceeding the hour though as the longer the task, the more likely the participant will get fatigued and the quality of their insight may be compromised.
If this is your first experiment with usability testing, it’s worth spacing each test at least one hour apart. This will give you time to revise and improve your approach, should your initial test fail to reveal the insight you were expecting.
How much time does preparing and scheduling tests take?
That depends on the complexity of the task you plan to ask the testers to complete, but it should never be more than one hour per participant.
Step 3: Analysing your usability testing data
The bulk of the time usability testing takes is in this analysis step. You should aim to spend as long as you can analysing the information you get from usability testing.
Successful usability experts take extensive notes during their sessions and even examine video footage of participants 3-4 times after the session to identify opportunities to improve their website. In this case, the analysis takes place over a number of weeks.
But of course, not everyone has that much time to spend. At the very least we recommend watching the recorded usability test once more. Even if you were taking notes during the session, there's bound to be something you missed. Watching the videos again often highlights things you may have been too distracted during the session to notice as well as raising additional questions and increasing the learnings you get.
How much time does analysing your usability testing data take?
The more time you put in at this stage, the greater the benefit you get from the exercise. Aim to spend double the amount of time on this step as you did in the first two steps.
How much time does usability testing take? You get out what you put in.
Usability testing requires time, however, the insights it provides are fundamental and hugely valuable for improve your website’s usability, profitability and ROI.
From beginning to end, the usability testing process described above can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. It can also be an ongoing process in which you return to test participants after making changes to get their latest feedback.
Far from ending once the test is over, usability testing continues to play a major role in their CRO process as a diagnostic tool. The insight provided by a usability test can help you develop A/B testing hypotheses or redesign opportunities so be sure to regularly set time aside to run new tests, or even watch old recordings for new insight.
If this blog has inspired you to run your own usability test, be sure to check out our other usability testing blogs
Usability testing can fill the gaps in your CRO process and give you the insight you need to make huge conversion improvements. If you’d like to learn more about usability testing to increase conversion rates, and need expert help, read our ebook below for 8 questions you must ask to find, hire and get great results from CRO professionals.