Whether you’re working on a big redesign project or have embraced a more iterative redesign approach, usability testing should be considered as one of your web work cornerstones.
I’m sure you’ve already read or heard that testing with only 5 users will provide you great insights to improve the usability of your website (Gosh, I even wrote a post about a conference session about this — 5 years ago ;-). That’s why there is no reason for skipping Do-It-Yourself usability tests.
In a column about the topic published on May 24, 2010, usability expert Jakob Nielsen explains that it’s a good idea to invite all the web team members as well as some executives to observe your usability tests.
“Credibility. Because they’ve seen how you derive insights, they’ll believe your usability findings and reports (vs. thinking you made them up or are just offering your personal opinions or preferences).
Buy-in. In addition to inviting team members to observe, you should also invite them to a debriefing to discuss what happened in the test sessions and to help draw the early conclusions. When people participate in the analysis, they’re more likely to accept and act on the recommendations.
Note: This is not just a gimmick to enforce your design advice. The actual findings will be better when a group with broader expertise helps you analyze the observations. Plus, each additional pair of eyes will observe something extra.
Memorability. It’s hard to remember findings that you’ve only seen presented in bullet points or read in a long report. It’s easier to remember findings when you can relate them to your personal experience of observing some of the user sessions that generated the findings.
Empathy. Seeing nice people suffer under your design is a powerful motivator to make it right. Also, the excuse that “only stupid users would get this wrong” isn’t used (even subconsciously) by team members who’ve heard those users make articulate and perfectly reasonable requests for a design that suits their needs.
Fewer design mistakes. When designers and developers have seen their actual customers, they’re less likely to go overboard with design ideas that aren’t going to work for users. The better the raw UI, the fewer fixes will be needed after the next round of user testing.”
Nielsen adds that executives who attend these sessions are “more likely to prioritize user experience after experiencing users” – including in their budget allocations.
If you’d love to show usability testing to your boss or train your team members to run these tests at your institution, you should definitely consider signing up for Usability Testing 360 Webinars, scheduled on June 16 & 17 (and if you have the chance to have a dedicated usability specialist in your team, Nielsen’s workshops are also great to perfect your team member skills).
Led by Chas Grundy from the University of Notre Dame, this 2-webinar series includes a first session that will tell you all you need to know to run your own usability tests and a second session that will show you live usability tests at different stages of a web design project.
This second session will be perfect to demonstrate the power of usability testing to your website stakeholders, boss or VP.
Registration for this 2-webinar series are open until June 7, 2010 at www.higheredexperts.com/usability360
The $300 registration fee includes a 1-year access to the recordings in case some of your team members can’t make it the days of the live sessions.