Usability Testing on a Shoestring.

With a little effort you can do some quick tests and create opportunities to optimize the experience and objectives of your site.

The User Experience and Strategy teams here at Genuine believe in testing every chance we get. With a little effort you can do some quick tests and create opportunities to optimize the experience and objectives of your site. Here’s how:

  1. Know when it’s best to test

    You’ve probably already gone through personas and user needs. User tests are really about observing how users are interacting with your wireframes or designs and validating those personas. Don’t overcomplicate your tests or take any steps backwards from the work that you have already.

  2. Identify what you want (what you really, really want)

    At Genuine we focus on the 5 main user needs and business needs for the project. Our team finds that collaborating with one of our strategists (or a buddy) on these tasks and to be extremely clarifying. This process really focuses the team around the main things we want and need users to accomplish on the site. With 5 users and 5 tasks we are able to keep these sessions to about 15 minutes.

  3. Be realistic about your guinea pigs

    In an ideal world we would be recruiting people that are the target audience for the site. However, we have found that just asking people to put themselves in the target audiences’ shoes and think aloud as they interact with the site can capture the largest usability issues. As this is testing on a shoestring you can grab co-workers, friends, or family members.

  4. Make recruitment and participation fun

    To make these tests recognizable we created a “brand” and logo. We call them UX Road Tests. Employees at Genuine have come to associate our department and testing with any email requests that go out with this logo. We provide snacks or small prizes to our participants to make it a relaxing and fun experience.

  5. More tests, less users

    Usability tests don’t have to have 10 or 20 participants. The popular researcher and usability expert Jakob Nielsen, popularized the concept of using numerous small usability tests—typically with only five test subjects each. We’ve found that the best results come from testing around five users and running as many small tests as possible throughout the project cycle. Running multiple small tests keeps us agile in our project process and allows us to quickly pivot and find the best most engaging solution.

  6. You don’t need fancy tools

    If you are just trying to do a quick gut check you can simply show your prototype on screen or use a paper prototype for a user to flip through. This can be a simple session where you are jotting down notes, or if you’re looking to capture something more concrete to share with a client or your internal team there are plenty of tools out there. We like because it’s free, easy to use, and allows you to capture video and clicks of your users. (Booyah.)

  7. Articulate your findings

    This can be a simple voice-over when presenting round 2 of wireframes or designs. We find that the element of storytelling about a user and a particular scenario resonates with people. This qualitative research helps to justify decision-making and makes the user more real for everyone involved on the project. At Genuine we like to create a usability testing tasks and findings document to capture what we have discovered. Another way to engage people with your findings is to create a snappy highlights video with your main takeaways from the testing. Putting a real face to a quote or piece of feedback allows everyone on the team to rally behind a feature or a piece of functionality.

We can’s say it enough: Never underestimate the power of a quick usability test. Have some tricks and tips of your own? Share with us in the comments!

Lauren Werner

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