Making Usability Testing More Useful

November 17, 2015
The C2 Group

C2 discusses its recent modification to its usability testing method.

UX & Design

Whenever you have the ability to test your site, I think you should. Decisions about design, navigation, and functionality should never be made in a boardroom surrounded by “personas” and business partners.

Analytics are a great start to understand how people use your site, but the problem is the data can’t talk to you. Drop-off and exit rates don’t provide the same gut punch as a blank stare and an audible “ummmm….” when you’re watching someone try and use your site.

We recently had the opportunity to make a small tweak to how we conduct usability testing. The change is a practice I had been familiar with and wanted to bring to C2.  Our standard practice of two consecutive days of testing had served us great. We receive ample and meaningful feedback, and we’re able to provide solid recommendations to our clients based on what we’ve learned.

But there is a problem. What happens when halfway through the first day of testing, it becomes abundantly clear that the navigation is inconsistent, the designs draw your eyes away from critical functionality, or the tasks we’re asking just don’t make sense?  It can be a long two days of negative feedback.

During our last usability session, we were able to take a day between test sessions to apply changes to the design. The ability to iterate on our design gave us a better test for the next day. We were able to deliver better results to the client, and, in our opinion, a better design.

Two continuous days of testing can too easily be written off with bad design and poor questioning, but with the day to iterate and change, we can ensure the results we get are pointing us in the right direction.

To me, usability testing isn’t necessarily successful when participants pass all their scenarios or tasks and praise us for how easy it was.  It's successful when it is a collaboration between the client and our team, when everyone is watching the same tests and helping to craft the ideal outcome.

Whether it’s a single day of quick testing, or two days of testing with a day in between to adjust, usability testing is always beneficial. There’s always something to learn.