5 Stupid Reasons You’re Not Conducting Usability Tests
A usability test involves recruiting potential customers (the users or participants) and asking them to think aloud while performing a series of pre-defined tasks on your website. The test can be moderated (in person or remotely, where the moderator is on a video or phone call with the participant) or unmoderated (a recorded session where the participant is given a series of tasks to complete on their own). Usability tests are critical in ensuring your website is user-friendly and that users can complete the tasks they set out to do on your website. Unfortunately, far too many companies and products skip this part of website and product development. Typically, excuses fall into the following categories:
1. You think it’s too expensive.
Yes, user testing does require an investment of time and money. However, if you’re considering usability testing, it’s likely your business is centered around your website or software—whether your business is an e-commerce site or an e-learning platform, it’s generating income for your business. Your users’s ability to use the site is integral to your business’s success. Moderated usability tests require screen recording software (usually a one-time fee), screen sharing or meeting software if conducted remotely (free to a small monthly fee), an optional incentive for participants, and your time. Unmoderated testing services where test participants are provided for you vary widely in cost, with restrictions to the number of tasks and length of the video. In either scenario, the major investment is the time it takes to develop, run, and analyze the tests. The alternative, however, of having users abandon your product or service for another, more user-friendly product, is far more costly. How many customers/users can you afford to lose?
2. You don’t have time It takes time to prepare for, schedule, conduct, and analyze usability tests.
And then, of course, you need to implement the changes. However, it takes a considerable amount of time to design, project manage, develop and launch a design and even more time to redo it when you realize you’ve done it all wrong. User research and user testing can save you a considerable amount of time and and money by:
- Making you pause to re-evaluate features that may not be necessary or valued by customers.
- Alert you to features that customers do find valuable.
- Point out design flaws or user/task flows that weren’t well thought-out or poorly executed.
- Help you help your customers do exactly what you want them to do.
- Help you help your customers do exactly what they want to do.
3. Your ideal user is hard to find.
Finding target users can be challenging if your product or service is targeted towards an extremely specific audience, users who are not in your geographic area, and/or users who are difficult to pin down for an hour (for example, an ER doctor or an executive). However, if your core group of users are “too difficult” to pin down, you're likely making major assumptions on their behalf. This is all the more reason to ensure you interview and usability test with these users. If you’re a brand new startup with no existing customers, reach out to your existing network. LinkedIn can be particularly helpful when searching for specific job titles and geographic areas—see if someone you already know can introduce you to a potential usability study participant. In these scenarios, you will probably have to offer a particularly appealing incentive in exchange for the participant’s time. For unmoderated tests, usability testing services can connect you to participants who meet your criteria (different platforms allow different levels of specificity).
4. Your site is “good enough.”
Good enough for you? Or good enough for your users? You know your site, you’re familiar with its quirks and nuances and you have a vested interest in putting up with those quirks and nuances. Your customers do not. Even if you’ve done user research and testing, ongoing testing is required as your site changes or new features are added. And, over time, your business and your users will naturally evolve, which—you guessed it—means more usability testing. Think about it: how much has your site changed over the past few years? Depending on your industry, you’ve made ongoing changes to it or it’s been sitting idle for five years and looks outdated (not to mention the outdated functionality).
5. Not everyone on your team is on board with the idea.
If other members of your team aren’t on board with the idea of user testing, it’s likely for one of the other four reasons outlined in this article. The challenge for you, then, is to do a little homework before presenting the idea (or re-presenting it):
- Are you getting customer service emails or phone calls? What is the cost associated with answering each of these calls and emails and finding a solution? What are the common themes? Are these because of an underlying problem with your website or something your website could help with?
- What are people saying about your product on social media? If your product is frustrating users, it’s very possible they are publicly airing their grievances before you can address the problem.
- Have brief but candid conversations with existing customers: what are the top 3 things they are happy with or unhappy with about their experience with the company? This could be related to the website or not but, either way, the website could contain the solution.
Remember, usability testing—just like research, design, and development—are a part of the process, not an afterthought.