UX (user-experience) testing is the forgotten part of the website creation process.
Often, websites are needed in a rush and testing seems like a luxury (and given that the design choices have already been made, what’s the point?).
Moreover, marketers, if they’re doing any real measurement at all, are focused more narrowly on testing around things like click-through rates on search results (which is important, too).
The problem with not doing UX testing is that design choices are made according who shouts loudest internally, or simply because web designers think a design looks elegant. Also, people internally can have fanciful ideas about how the public want to interact with a site – and testing helps move the discussion from personal feelings about how the site should work.
How to do user testing
Two big ideas jump out of Steve Krug’s book, Don’t Make Me Think. The first, which is right there in the title, is that website user interfaces shouldn’t make visitors think. Don’t design the site so that users have to make conscious decisions unless you really need to.
The second is that, like in all forms of marketing, you should test – and regularly. Steve deliberately avoids giving answers to what he calls “religious wars”, such as whether pull-down menus are good or bad. Instead, he says you should test things and see how they work in usability testing.
What’s good about the book is that it doesn’t suggest you should just pay a consultancy £25,000 to run the testing. It shows how you can do it on a shoestring yourself.
Other useful takeaways
Steve Krug also gives the following advice:
- Single-sentence paragraphs are perfectly acceptable online. I picked this trick at The Telegraph. There we would routinely insert extra paragraph returns into copy for online publication, to help readers absorb the material.
- Use lots of headlines and bullet points to help readers scan the page. (Those things that help readers scan direct mail work well online.)
- Put key terms in bold the first time they appear on a page to help scanners find them.
- It’s really important to help visitors who are several levels deep into the site and who have never seen the home page understand where they are on the site.