How To Test A Web Site Design In An Hour And On a Shoestring Budget

I have a friend who volunteers to be on an advisory board for a land trust conservancy organization. They have been designing a web site for the land trust. But they are all volunteers, and the organization doesn’t have a budget for web site design. They have a programmer donating her time to put together the website.

Can you get user feedback when the site doesn’t even exist yet? — My friend’s background is in usability, and she was concerned that the web site that the programmer was putting together had usability problems. But the group has virtually no budget to do user centered design or get user feedback on the prototype. And all she had were some pictures of a draft of some of the pages. For example, here’s what she had for the home page:

Picture of home page for Conservancy site

The menus didn’t “work” because it was just a picture, so she put together this page showing what would be in the drop downs if you did click on the main navigation on the home page:

Picture of home page with drop down menus

Continue reading “How To Test A Web Site Design In An Hour And On a Shoestring Budget”

Book Review of Steve Krug's Rocket Surgery Made Easy

I’ve been a fan of Steve Krug’s since his original book, Don’t Make Me Think, came out about a decade ago. (And Steve was kind enough to write an endorsement for my book, Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? when it came out last year).

Steve’s new book is all about user testing of web sites (or software or products or anything really). The premise of the book is that ANYONE can conduct a simple user test and that EVERYONE who has a website, software, or a product, should conduct user testing.

So the book is a DIY guide to simple, but effective, user testing.

Here’s my review via video, and below that I’ll summarize the take-aways:

What I like most about the book:

It’s very thorough — This really is everything you need to know to conduct an informal usability test.

Useful checklists — Chapter 7 is called “Some boring checklists” and it has great (not boring) checklists of what to do and when to do it.

All the wording and scripts you need — Chapter 8 gives you all the details you need, for example what to say as the facilitator, and what your consent form should contain. You get the actual forms and scripts.

How to interpret the data you get — Chapters 11 and 12 tell you what to do now that you’ve run the user tests and you have information.

How to think about the results — One of my favorite chapters is #10, where he walks you through how to have a meeting with your team and decide what actions to take based on the feedback you got during the test.

Link to an example video — In the book Steve gives you a URL to watch a video. The video is Steve conducting a user test with a real user. He annotates the video with some call outs so you can learn what he is doing as he goes along.

It’s a great book and I recommend it for anyone who has anything to do with designing or improving a website, or software, or technology product that people use. Whether you are new to user testing, or a pro with many years under your belt, you will find this book to be of immense value.

If you’d like to read more about it on Amazon, here’s a link (affiliate):


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10 Ways To Get User Feedback

Recently I was talking to someone who is relatively new to the field of usability and user experience. He has developed a web application and wanted some ideas for getting feedback from users. He commented that he was planning on sending out a survey to users to see what they think about the web application. That was his plan for user testing. I’m so entrenched in the concept of usability and user testing that I have to stop sometimes and remember that not everyone else is.

“Well, you do have other choices besides doing a survey, you know”, I said.

“Oh, really?” he asked, “like what?”.

“I’ll send you some ideas,” I replied, and then I thought, “That would make a good blog post”, and, here we are.

1. “Traditional” moderated usability test – Let’s start with the most well-known and most used method of getting feedback from users. In a moderated usability test the user sits down in front of the software, web site web application, or other product that you are testing and uses the product, site or item to get one or more tasks done. The tester designs the test with real-life scenarios and asks the user to use the product or tool or site to go through and actually do the scenarios. The user is asked to talk out loud while they are completing the scenarios, so that the tester can understand what they are thinking and experiencing as they complete the activities they have been asked to do.  It’s called moderated because there is a facilitator to moderate the testing.

It’s important in a moderated usability test that:

  • Users must be representative of the actual user. It doesn’t work to use you or friend in the next cubicle, or your sister. The idea is to have a representative user try to use the site or product to get real tasks done.
  • Although you may be collecting other data, such as time to complete the task or number or types of errors made, the main data comes from the comments users make while they are working (called the “think aloud” technique).
  • Tests are done one-on-one. This isn’t a focus group.
  • Some facilitators “probe” with questions during the test, but this is tricky to do. You don’t want your questions to influence the user. Some facilitators wait until the tasks are completed before asking questions (called “de-briefing”).

Pros: Gives you lots of great data on what the usability issues are

Cons: Fairly expensive to conduct. You do these one at a time, so if you are testing 10 users that’s a lot of your time to be at the sessions, plan them,  analyze and report on data, etc. You may also need to pay for recruiting users and you need to give them an “incentive” (pay them in some way with cash, gift certificates etc). Continue reading “10 Ways To Get User Feedback”