Archive for usability testing
In our roles as user experience practitioners, we are regularly asked to test with prototypes, ranging from low fidelity paper prototypes through to hi fidelity pre-launch fully interactive prototypes. Clients often ask how their prototype compares with others, and how different aspects will work with or affect the testing. So, here’s our top 5 tips for building a prototype to get the best out of the research.
Content and design
Let’s start with the content and design of the prototype. Although the level of detail that’s included in the prototype varies depending on the fidelity, at all fidelities the content and design needs to support what you are trying to find out.
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On Wednesday 28th September, UX Sheffield was hosted at The Electric Works, and featured pioneer of usability Rolf Molich. Rolf, who has worked in the field since 1984, came to discuss ‘Myths about usability testing’.
‘5 users will find 85% of usability problems’
Rolf began the talk by discussing the myth, made famous by Jakob Nielson, that ‘5 users will find 85% of usability problems’. Rolf went on to explain how it is impossible to say you have found ALL usability problems, as some usability problems will be specific to certain types of users, and therefore are unlikely to be spotted with a small sample of users. Rolf suggested instead, rather, that ‘5 users are enough to drive a useful iterative cycle’, where the key usability findings will be discovered, as they will be applicable to the majority of your users.
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In our role as User Experience Practitioners we know a lot about the advantages of using eye-tracking in usability research, but we are always learning.
This article covers a few of the things we have observed during our usability research using eye-tracking, and shows just a few of the benefits that eye-tracking can bring to your user research.
1. Making things bigger and bolder doesn’t always work
You may have been to usability sessions and heard users say things like “Oh, I didn’t see that. If it was bigger I’d probably have noticed it.”, or you may have heard “It just needs to be bigger and bolder, make it flashy!” While feedback is useful, it’s important to remember that ultimately what people say they do, or what they say will influence them may not be true when they actually sit in front of a website. Feedback like this is opinion based, and shouldn’t be taken literally.
Instead, listen to the users’ feedback and consider it in context to what the observed behaviour shows. While users may say that making something bigger and bolder would grab their attention, our specialist eye-tracking has revealed, that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it takes re-thinking the position or content of a call to action to get your users to engage with it, it doesn’t have to be a flashing neon sign.
The eye-tracking shows how the user missed the large banner at the top of the page, and instead was drawn to the content underneath.
2. Consider how buttons display visual hierarchy
While you may wish to try and incorporate company colours as much as possible on a website, it is important to consider the consequences of these actions.
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As a business we are always challenging the UX space. UX seems to be the trendy thing that everyone wants to do, everybody says they do, but no one quite agrees on what it is. We presented this thought piece at the NUXONE conference in Bradford on 27th October 2012, and we’d like to share this in the hope that more professionals within this space will take up the challenge.
At the beginning of the year, we looked at the new design for Twitter brand pages, which allowed a greater creative use of space for companies, increased advertising opportunities and easier means of communication with their followers.
We considered the implications of the new layout and assessed the opportunities it would present the brands. We found that:
- Banner images worked well at directing users to content and worked well as advertising space and promoting brand identity
- Promoted tweets worked well to reinforce and feature content
- Users disliked pages that felt too corporate
In the last week, Twitter launched the new profile page design which is open to all users, not just to brands, and features a header image (similar to the Facebook Timeline ‘Cover image’), an increase in size and quantity of the ‘Recent images’ on the profile page and a tweaked layout to the page.
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We invited users to participate in booking a holiday on the Thomson website. They were asked to have a destination and booking party in mind and add on any specific requirements they would need. Eye tracking technology was used to observe how the users would navigate through the site during the holiday booking process.
Once on the Thomson homepage one user was immediately attracted by the ‘Late deals’ option. This took them to a landing page showing over 33,000 holiday deals which the user found overwhelming. The results were already arranged in lowest price order but this was not obvious to the user. Clicking on the column heading rearranged the date order of the results, but again we saw the user looking around the page because she had failed to realise that anything hand changed due to the listings looking so similar.
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Our team conducted an eye tracking review of Waitrose for the May edition of Internet Retailing Magazine. The full article can be read here: Waitrose Website Eye Tracking Article.
We invited users to participate in sessions to explore the new Waitrose.com website. These were people who shopped online and had different levels of experience regarding using grocery websites. By using eye tracking technology we were able to observe users shopping naturally for basic items that they would regularly need.
Users struggled to find the most basic of items. The simplified initial drop down menu for ‘Groceries’ was limited.In order to find bread, users had to learn to click on ‘Cupboard’>’Food’>’Bakery’ and then choose an additional category such as ‘Sliced bread’.
This was felt to be a long route to individual items. It was not obvious how these sections were ordered within the navigation area displayed at the top of the page,with some users commenting that they expected to see the most common sections first.
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Users should not have to think too hard when they are using your website. They should not have to refer to help screens and they shouldn’t be made to feel stupid. Simply by observing your customers you can avoid this.
Web designers and developers often forget that they are not typical users. Web coders have a far more extensive knowledge of the website they are developing than the average user is ever going to have. Website owners also forget that they are experts in their field and typically use jargon & assumptions that are alien to their customers. After working on a project for some time it is easy to forget that others are not so familiar with what you do, don’t understand your terminology or don’t follow your logic. There may be aspects of the website that seem obvious to you that might in fact be utterly confusing to your users. It is therefore important to take a step back from to time to time and make sure you don’t leave your users behind.
Usability Testing is an essential aspect of any user-centred approach that puts the user, rather than the website, at the center of the development process. Adopting such an approach advocates that the user should be foremost in any design decisions.
According to the International Standards Organization (ISO)…
“Usability is the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”
ISO 9241-11: Guidance on Usability (1998)
But why is it so important for web design and what will it do for your business?
An effective website…
- allows customers (users) to achieve their goals
- has a high conversion rate
- meets business objectives
- delivers a positive brand image
An efficient website…
- provides answers quickly
- follows a logical sequence
- doesn’t waste resources
- requires less content management time
A satisfied user…
- achieves their goal
- enjoys their experience
- tells others
- comes back again
Usability testing will tell you where your website has opportunities for improving all of these aspects, and in the process achieve a high return on your website investment.
Find out more about our usability testing services.
Our team conducted an eye tracking review of M&S multi-channel activity over the 2010 Christmas season for the January edition of Internet Retailing Magazine. The abbreviated article can be read here: M&S Mobile Website Eye Tracking Article
We ran a range of tasks relevant to Christmas, either browsing for a last minute present or choosing an outfit for the festive season. The cross channel experience allows users to be more demanding about the vehicle that they use to shop, and the expectations that they bring with them to that experience. This is a huge challenge for companies when providing functionality across multiple routes, in this case website, mobile website, TV and in store.
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Within our world of behavioural research we see a split regarding where our clients come from; either from companies approaching us directly, or referred by design agencies. Increasingly eye tracking is being sought out by agencies that have a need to add user research and also diversify their product services to clients. Companies are looking to create the best experience for the end user within their sector, and for this to happen a user centred design approach needs to be adopted with user research supporting the process.
Benefits of eye tracking to agencies
The benefit of eye tracking is that it enables a type of research where you can access the reasons why people do what they do. It allows research to take place that is very natural and not stressful to the person taking part. This means more truthful findings that can be trusted by the team.
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