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Making the Case for UX - Usability Testing

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5 min read


Posted by Padraic McElroy on November 22, 2017

Making the Case for UX - Usability Testing

When we are building a digital product, it will definitely not succeed without good creative design, development, testing and management. That much is clear. So it can, in theory be completed without UX techniques such as usability testing... But is it really a good idea to launch a product that your target audience may not understand how to use? This is the fifth and final part of a series of posts that explores the business benefits of UX research methodologies that can take place throughout a product development lifecycle. While initial user research helps to define personas and user goals and usability reviews ensure that an interface or prototype conforms with UX principles, usability testing validates whether users will be able to use the product. Usability testing is a fast and effective way to validate whether you are on the right track with your product design. It is particularly useful when designing complex processes such as ecommerce features and lengthy forms. It allows you to find out why users leave your website without converting (making a purchase, creating an account etc.). It can:

  • help uncover dead ends in user journeys
  • indicate where users get stuck or overwhelmed
  • reveal a lack of trust in a process (e.g. online payments)
We source participants who represent the target user and test wireframe and design prototypes with them. This is done as early as possible in the project, either in our UX lab or through remote testing.

Quantitative and qualitative feedback

Usability testing is one of the best ways of gaining valuable insights into how successful your product will be. It allows researchers to collect both quantitative and qualitative feedback from participants. The quantitative feedback that can be gathered is often based around task analysis. We define scenarios in which users will need to complete tasks, such as registering as a member, making a purchase or finding a certain feature. The output includes success rates and task-completion times. This allows researchers to assign scores to elements of a proposed design. This can be used to show how much of an improvement a new design is over an old one, making it a handy tool for calculating return on investment. Quantitative findings are always best understood when complemented by qualitative feedback. Qualitative findings happen through observation of participants and offer a direct assessment of the usability of a system. Researchers can observe directly if a participant is having trouble finding a button or completing a form. Good researchers will ask unplanned follow-up questions if specific areas of a prototype are proving challenging for participants. After running the same study with multiple participants, we quickly see trends emerging around what isn’t working for our users. As this research happens very early in projects, issues can fixed easily, as development will not have begun.

Consensus building

Findings from usability testing validate proposed solutions. This also helps to build consensus for a given approach among all parties. The validation from real users gives weight to the proposed approach. This validation and consensus can prove particularly valuable if more senior stakeholders get involved later in the project and request changes. When a stakeholder asks for a new feature for example, it’s good to be able to say you’ve already tested it, it wasn’t well received and has been left out as a result.

Reduce development & support costs

Development costs can be expensive, so it is important that when we get to this stage of a project, there is a clear view of what needs to be built. If a product is built and assumptions have been made that users will find a certain feature or behave in a certain way - and they don’t – additional time and money may be required re-working features, this means more design, development, testing, management and so on. An additional advantage of being able to identify and fix issues early, is that this should result in a reduction in customer complaints and customer support calls, meaning a further cost saving for the business.

How it’s worked for us

A good example of how this process has proven to be effective for us is the Electric Ireland website, which won the Best Universal Design Award at the Irish Internet Association (IIA) awards. This project involved catering to a varied user base in a highly competitive market. An iterative process of customer research, prototyping and usability testing was an essential part of the delivery of our design solution. Key user journeys were validated through usability testing and we were delighted to receive further validation of our work through the award.
“Through their work on Electric Ireland’s website, Arekibo were the standard bearers for design thinking with the customer in mind. The very fact that Electric Ireland have the widest possible demographic of customers and that Arekibo developed their website to accommodate accessibility for that demographic is a fantastic achievement and a very worthy winner” – Joan Mulvihill, former CEO of IIA.

Conclusion

Users who have a good experience with your product will be more likely to return and buy from you again. Also, happy customers also means free word of mouth marketing, which often leads to further revenue. Think about how powerful reviews are when you’re shopping online. As UX professionals, we can make recommendations based on business requirements, budget and best practice. Effective user research however, gives a much deeper insight into issues around how our target audience will use the product. The return on investment into UX research and design often ends up being far greater than the initial outlay. This means both saving money and making money. By fixing problems before they arise, before time is spent building features that may eventually need re-working, savings are made. And by properly researching your users, their goals and behaviours, you will be much more likely to successfully increase revenue.

Other posts in this series, "Making the Case for UX"

We hope that you have found this series of posts informative. For details on how we can assist you with your website's UX, take a look at our range of UX Services. Or feel free to contact us here or have a look at our sister company, X Communications.

About the Author

Padraic McElroy
Padraic McElroy

Padraic is a UX Researcher at Arekibo. He has a keen interest product usability.