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The 5 biggest usability testing mistakes (and how to avoid them)

The 5 biggest usability testing mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Do it right and usability testing reveals all the obstacles that prevent your users from becoming customers. It lets you discover your website’s most effective page elements and gives you deep insight into how people behave on your website.

In other words it gives you the kind of knowledge and perspective that makes Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) such a successful process.

Do it wrong, however, and usability testing gives you “insights” into how users interact with your website that are inaccurate and counterproductive, putting you further behind in the CRO process than when you began.

In this blog, we’ll share the five biggest usability testing errors made by rookies and experienced researchers alike to help make sure you don’t repeat them in your own CRO programmes.

Usability testing mistake #1 - Guiding users through a test process

usability-testing-mistake-1-guidingOne of the most common usability testing mistakes is guiding users through a test that they should be completing alone. It’s easy to surrender to temptation and help users navigate through home screens, search results and other seemingly simple and user-friendly pages.

This is actually a major mistake. No matter how simple the task may seem to you, it could be challenging for the test participant. Guiding users through different parts of the test process prevents you from finding out the real issues users are experiencing and the optimisation opportunities on your website.

For example, your guidance could help users quickly make their way through a long and complicated order form that, had they been left alone, they may have struggled to complete easily.

The greater your level of interaction with test participants during the test itself, the more interference your results will contain. Take a laissez-faire approach to testing and let users make mistakes, since each mistake is an opportunity for analysis.

Usability testing mistake #2 - Recruiting the wrong participants

usability-testing-mistake-2-wrong-recruitmentThe type of data your usability testing generates will have a great deal to do with its audience. A test performed on teenagers will produce different results, for example, than a test performed on people aged 60 and up.

To produce the most insightful, actionable data, your test audience should closely match the audience that uses your website. If your e-commerce website sells items for babies and expectant mothers, you should test women of child-bearing age.

If your website sells weight training equipment, your testing should focus on people with an interest in fitness (or better yet, a history of buying fitness items). The right audience for your testing is the one most likely to use your website.

One of the biggest benefits of remote moderated testing is that it allows you to find your test participants on your own website. Recruiting test participants this way ensures your test audience closely reflects your target market.

Usability testing mistake #3 - Forgetting to carry out a pilot test 

usability-testing-mistake-3-no-pilot-testWhen you’re carrying out a remote unmoderated test, or any type of usability test that requires detailed, specific instructions, it’s important to ask someone you know to run through your test before you assign it to live participants.

Instructions that seem simple when written in front of you might be confusing and difficult for users to follow in a live test environment. Subtleties and wording issues can be hard to spot when you’re writing the test, but easy to spot as its subject.

Before you perform any type of usability testing with detailed instructions, carry out a pilot test with a colleague to make sure your instructions are clear, easy to follow and free of vague, unclear language that’s open to multiple interpretations. 

Usability testing mistake #4 - Not having a post-test analysis plan

usability-testing-mistake-4-no-analysisWhat will you do with the data your usability testing generates? It’s easy to go into a usability test without a plan, resulting in a large amount of wasted time and insight that, while valuable, is never put into action.

Before you begin your usability test, have a rough outline of what you expect to use the insight for. If your testing reveals that your website’s design is confusing users, you should be ready to start work on a redesign once the testing has concluded. 

Usability testing can provide an incredible level of insight, but that insight is worth little without action. From redesigned pages to simplified forms, create to-do tasks from the results of your usability testing and take action as soon as you’re ready.

Usability testing mistake #5 - Failing to keep testing after changes

usability-testing-mistake-5-stop-testingMany marketers have the belief that usability testing is a one-off task – something to be done before major changes are made to a website. Actually, usability testing is an important task that can be repeated regularly for additional insight.

After you’ve generated insight through usability testing and used the data to make changes to your website, don’t stop. Carry out an additional usability test to see if the changes have had the desired effect on usability and conversions and identify the next areas you need to focus on to increase your online sales.

Just as A/B testing is an ongoing process to create the best possible version of your website, usability testing is a process that can be repeated after major changes to get a greater level of insight into how people use your website. 

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