How Effective Is Your Website? The Ultimate Guide to Website Usability Testing

Web usability test
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When it comes to attracting and retaining visitors to your website, usability is critical.

57% of users say that they would not recommend a business that had a poorly designed mobile site. That’s how important a functioning user-friendly website is.

If you are not investing in ensuring that your visitors can use your website, then you can say goodbye to them, and their friends.

Making sure your website is as visitor-friendly as possible doesn’t necessarily require big-budget spending. On the contrary, it just means using a web usability test.

Usability testing for websites requires a logical, pragmatic approach to examining your existing website with a high degree of attention to detail.

Here’s how to conduct a usability test so that you can enjoy a much more effective website.

What is Usability?

The International Organization for Standardization defines usability as the extent to which users can carry out the task that a product is designed for.

Usability is relevant to all manner of products, not least websites.

When measuring the usability of your website, you will be looking for the following qualities:

  • Effectiveness
  • Efficiency
  • Satisfaction

The website needs to not only function, but it needs to run smoothly and meet the expectations of the user.

Why Is Usability Testing Important?

When you’ve spent a long time developing a website, it can be very easy to miss important elements of the website function. You may add elements to the site which may appear to be fine, however, for whatever reason fail to work properly once the site is live.

Having users check your website can be very beneficial in identifying these issues so that you can repair them.

Some examples of the types of problem that you will be looking for include:

  • Issues with the complexity of the site and how easy it is to navigate it
  • Inability to complete actions within the site
  • Bugs within the site that cause the site to behave in a strange way
  • Pages not loading smoothly
  • Images overlapping text or vice versa

It is not only important to carry out this type of testing when a website is being launched, but also whenever you make any significant changes or updates to the site.

Usability and User Experience

It is crucial to note that usability and user experience are not the same things.

Usability relates to how effective, efficient, and satisfying a website is to use. Everything else is related to user experience.

An example of user experience might be if you sell products from your site but the product selection isn’t great, or if the overall design of the page isn’t aesthetically pleasing and is uncomfortable to look at.

What Usability Testing is Not

There may be serval things that you believe to be usability testing, but which are not.

For example, if you are carrying out A/B testing to see which version of an element of your website is best, this is not necessarily a usability test.

Usability testing is not a survey or focus group to see how user experience can be improved. While the usability of a site may impact user experience, gauging people’s opinions is not relevant to checking to ensure the website meets its intended purpose.

Using tests such as heat maps that explore the route that users travel around your site so that you can improve user experience is not checking for usability.

While navigation is an important element of usability, learning user behavior in this manner is more beneficial to user experience.

What Questions Does Usability Testing Seek to Answer?

When carrying our website usability testing, you will be looking to answer specific questions about your site. Define these questions before devising your usability tests.

  • Why are people visiting your website?
  • What do they hope to achieve from their visit?
  • What are the alternatives to your site?
  • What stops users from doing what they need to?
  • Is there anything missing from the site?
  • Is there anything confusing in the wording?

In addition to asking these questions about the usability of your test, you should ask questions of the users who will be carrying out usability tests on your behalf.

The types of questions you should be asking of them will center around their experience with using similar websites, and how much they use the technology that they will be accessing the website, though.

Devising Your Web Usability Test

Before your site goes live, it is a good idea to carry out full web usability testing. This will involve a series of stringent tests to ensure the usability is kept to the highest level.

Having a website usability questionnaire to work off will be helpful. Create a full list of all of the aspects of your website that you will need to test and go through them all methodically.

If you take a logical approach when testing all the functions of your website, then you will not miss anything out.

Your checklist should include aspects such as:

  • Functionality testing
  • Interface testing
  • Compatibility testing
  • Performance testing
  • Security testing

Divide up your checklist in subsequent lists that apply to your website.

To get a full picture of the usability of your site, you may need to enlist the help of several beta testers who are willing to take their time to try every aspect of the website and feedback any problems.

Test for Functionality

Does everything on your website work?

By the time your website is complete, it may have dozens or even hundreds of different pages. Each one will have different technical aspects running on them. There may be links, forms, social media plugins, and a whole host of other functions.

You may not notice something not working, but once you start seeing a reasonable volume of traffic through your site, it won’t take long for your visitors to find these faults, and you may lose them as a result.

You can break functionality down into several key areas.

Testing Links

Every link on your website needs to lead to the correct place. When setting up a website fully, there could be potentially thousands of links.

Check the following:

  • Check any outgoing links to ensure there are no broken URLs
  • Check all internal links are working
  • Test any links that send emails
  • Check all links within social media plugins or widgets
  • Test all social share buttons

From time-to-time, pages linked to in external links may change or close down. Running regular checks using a broken link checker will help you here.

Not only will broken links affect the usability of your site, but it will also harm your SEO link building strategy.

Testing Forms

If your website uses any type of webform to gather information from users, such as a comments box or a contact box, you will need to carry out thorough testing to ensure this works.

If a user believes they have sent a message to the site owners, but the form has not worked, this can translate to poor user experience.

When checking the function of forms on your website, carry out the following tests:

  • Run full tests on all input boxes to ensure they function
  • Make sure that it is possible to alter all default values and they are correct.
  • Test incorrect values. For example, does an error message come up if you use a phone number that is too short or type improperly formatted email addresses?
  • Ensure that all mandatory fields are marked and return an error if they are not completed
  • Make sure that the user can amend forms if they are incorrect
  • Check that the form sends and the website host receives them.

Forms are a vital part of many websites and you mustn’t overlook these in your usability testing.

Database Tests

Your website may need to access information from a database. Checking the integrity of your database is important.

Check that all of your search queries are returning the expected results.

Test Your Website on Multiple Browsers and Devices

Users will visit your website in various ways.

64% of users use Google Chrome as their chosen web browser, while 38% of users access the internet from an Android device.

Is your website compatible with all of the most popular web browsers? Does it load on desktop, phone, tablet, and any other web-enabled device?

When you are building your site, you may be checking it from your own computer, but does that take into account all of the other options available for accessing it?

Check the website is fully functioning and usable using every type of browser and operating system to ensure there are no compatibility issues that cut off a large percentage of potential visitors.

Carrying out Tests for Navigation

Is it easy for users to find their way around your website?

Nobody likes to feel as though they are lost, and a website that is hard to navigate may cause users to abandon their visits and never return.

Think about the reasons that people are visiting the site. For example, on an eCommerce website, is there a logical progression through product ranges? Are they easy ways of filtering and searching for options on each page?

Once your customer has selected their products, is reviewing their basket straight forward? And, how easy is it to find the checkout?

How easy is it to find out information about returns and shipping? Is there a contact box?

Websites are very often laid out similarly because users will expect certain site functions to be in certain areas. For example, if the basket and checkout are not in the type right-hand corner of the page, it may be confusing for customers.

To test navigation, have several beta test users explore the site for the first time. Get them to feedback any feelings of confusion that they have.

You may want to design a test around navigation that first-time beta test users can complete. Make a list of actions that you would like them to complete and time how long it takes them to do them.

Testing Your Websites Performance

The way that your website performs can impact on its usability. For instance, if your website does not load correctly, then many of its functions may not be usable.

If your website is slow to load, you are likely to lose users. Page load speeds should be an important part of your SEO strategy anyway, but you can also check these as part of your usability tests.

While testing page loading speeds, look out for elements of the site that never fully load or that are prone to stopping working.

Content Checking

All of the written content on your website should be easily understood. Keep information simple and make it easy to read.

When measuring the usability of your website, consider the following:

  • Is your content free of spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Are your web pages laid out in a way that makes the text easy to follow?
  • Does the text stand out from the page? For example, using font colors that clash or are too similar to the background can make it almost impossible to read the content.

In addition to having well laid out informative text on your website, how easy is it for users to find the information that they need?

Having a search function will help increase usability.

Web Usability Testing Is Not a One-Off Task

As you have read, carrying out a web usability test is essential. This is not just a one-time-only process, however. Make sure you repeat this whenever you make any major website changes.

Testing for usability can be complex and time-consuming. However, with the right organization and planning, you can efficiently complete the work.

For assistance with your website needs, get in touch today for a no-obligation consultation with Riserr.