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The importance of user testing

To user test, or not user test, that is the question?

Image representing The importance of user testing

When it comes to designing your organisation's website and digital services, user testing can often be viewed as an optional part of the wider design process. With pressures on resources and deadlines to meet, getting services online can often seem like the only end goal. However, in reality what end-users really want are services online, but designed in a way they understand, and ultimately they will use.

Why user test?

  1. You could easily be spending time and money developing features that are broken. If you commence early-stage testing to identify flaws, you can revise your design before such revisions become overly costly.
  2. It's easier to double your conversion rates than it is to double your traffic. Unless your processes are guided by real user feedback, you're essentially just throwing tests at the wall to see what sticks.
  3. Controlled user testing will show you exactly which parts of your design frustrate people, where they get confused, and what keeps them from doing what they set out to achieve.
  4. If you find out early what confuses people you can make the necessary changes and have a fast track to making the biggest impact on your conversion rates.
  5. Decrease customer support costs. Your customer support teams task list will be significantly reduced if the user can complete their task without confusion.
  6. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. User testing will give a fresh, unbiased opinion and nothing will be swayed by internal opinions.
  7. User testing will give you a definitive conclusion from real people and allow for a set of tasks to fix the issues quickly and efficiently.

What about the Digital Standards?

With the advent of the new Digital Standards the expectation now is that we all should:

  1. Do ongoing user research - Put a plan in place for ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously seek feedback from users to improve the service.
  2. Test the end-to-end service - Be able to test the end-to-end service in an environment identical to that of the live version, including on all common browsers and devices, and using dummy accounts and a representative sample of users.
  3. Make sure users succeed first time - Create a service which is simple to use and intuitive enough that users succeed the first time.

So we hope you agree that user testing should play an integral part in any project looking to provide an excellent service for your users/customers.

How can this be best achieved?

Taking a User Centred Design (UCD) approach to the development of your online services will allow you to use a number of techniques to ensure that you build a fully user tested product that meets the needs of your users, including:

1.     Card Sorting

Card sorting is used to determine the most appropriate navigational structure for your website and/or digital service(s). These are used to determine the most appropriate navigational structure for your website and/or digital service(s). This is an electronic exercise where a group of testers will sort and group information in a way that makes most sense to them. We then produce a report following this exercise to show the resulting dendrograms, matrices and grouping strategies produced by the card sort. The report includes our recommendations for the draft information architecture, sub categories and pages.

2.     Tree Testing

Once the draft information architecture has been developed, we then conduct a tree testing exercise. This is where a group of testers use the draft structure to see what happens when they try to find different information. Once again, the testers will be a mix of internal staff and customers; they can, but do not have to, be the same people as those involved in card sorting. We build the tree testing architecture for you and provide a link to send to your testers. As with the card testing, we also ask them to complete a feedback form to show how easy they found it. Once the testing is complete, we will produce a report showing the outcome of the testing and recommending any required changes to the information architecture. It includes the path analysis and destinations tables to highlight the categories, sub categories and pages that were successful and those that were not.

3.     Wireframe Testing

Taking a User Centred Design (UCD) approach to the development of your online services will allow you to use a number of techniques to ensure that you build a fully user tested product that meets the needs of your users.Wireframing is the design practice of visually laying out all core pages of a product or website. The purpose is to reduce or eliminate fundamental layout changes at build stage.  Prototyping (an early approximation of a final system or product) is a basic clickable demo of the core functionality and best practice user journeys using the completed wireframes.

4.     Usability Testing

As the website/digital service is built, it needs to be tested to ensure that it meets your needs and those of your users. This is an iterative process and it needs to be tested on different devices to ensure that it works the same on a PC, tablet and mobile devices.  Each participant is presented with an online set of tasks and questions to allow them to perform specific tasks and answer specific questions regarding the website.  The tasks and questions selected are based on the on specific feedback required.  A follow up report is provided that shows the results of the testing and the recommended improvements/next steps.

Next steps

Please contact us for further information on the benefits that have recently been achieved with similar client projects with West Lothian Council, the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust and Welwyn and Hatfield Council and how this is helping them both with their Digital Standards Assessments and producing excellent UCD focused digital services for their users.

For more information about us, the work that we do and how we could help you deliver your transformation programmes visit  www.gossinteractive.com/digital-transformation

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