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Plan the Usability Test

1) Know the Goals of the Usability Test

The primary point of usability testing is to provide feedback during the design/development process to ensure that the web site will actually be easy and effective to use and provide valuable information to the users. Four primary elements to measure are:

  • Ease and effectiveness of navigation - Do users find what they need easily. Is there a clear pattern to the navigation that fits easily into the users mental model. Are you links labeled with terms that make sense to your users. (Or, are you speaking in your own private jargon!)
  • Usefulness of content - What information do your users want/need? Have you organized the content on each page in such a way that it is easy for your users to quickly find it? Or do they have to read all the fine print while standing on their heads?
  • Effectiveness of presentation - Did the graphic design, fonts and colors highlight the navigation and content, making the site easier to use? Or did the presentation distract or create a barrier between the user and the information?
  • Task success rate - Were the users able to accomplish the key task they needed/wanted to accomplish. If they were able to complete the task, did they feel satisfied, neutral or angry and frustrated?

2) Determine Usability Testing Timeframe

Meet with the clients who are requesting the usability testing as well as the developers who are designing the site. Ask the client when they hope to have the site live. Ask the developers when they hope to have the system available for usability testing. Request at least 4-8 weeks between the Usability Testing dates and the "Go Live" Date.

Example of an absolute minimum timeframe:

  • Week 1
    • Determine usability goals, timeframe, audience, recruiting plan
    • Review web site with clients/developers, develop usability test instruments
  • Week 2
    • Recruit test subjects
    • Test the test, make adjustments to test or web interface
  • Week 3
    • Conduct the tests and gather testing data
  • Week 4
    • Compile data and draft a report, review report with all test facilitators for consensus, produce final report
    • Present final report to clients and developers. Clients/developers decide what recommendations they will address.

3) Determine the Target Audience & Test Subject Recruitment Plan

Ask the client who the primary audience(s) are for this web site. Try and keep the audience focus down to 2-5 audience types. After the primary audience(s) have been named, considering setting a goal of 3-5 representative test subjects for each primary audience type. For example, when testing the UT Austin home page we had 14 test subjects. See Jakob Nielsen's article on why testing 20 users is enough.

  • 3 Faculty/Staff
  • 3 Alumni
  • 3 Prospective Students
  • 3 Students
  • 2 Students w/ Visual Disabilities

Identify possible test subjects, gather their contact information, establish the week(s) that you will be conducting your testing, schedule locations for the testing, double check with your clients, developers and test facilitators that the testing week(s) are realistic.

Consider offering an incentive for people to participate in the usability test. Common incentives are free lunch or gift certificates. For students, we often order pizza and soda. We have also used $20 gift certificates to local bookstores, music stores or UT related stores. Incentives greatly improve attendance. When we have used incentives, we have reliably had 100% attendance in our test subjects.

Here is an example of a testing grid:

Date Location Test Time Target Group Facilitator NoteTaker Test Subjects
1/28 - Mon FAC 227 1pm - 2pm Faculty/Staff Mary Gloria Carol, Dave, Sue
1/29 - Tues Development Office 11:30am - 1pm Alumni Susan Wendy

Frank, Christine,

1/30 - Wed Westlake HS Noon - 1pm Prospective Students Gloria Wendy Jennifer,
1/31 - Thur

Slatin's Lab

9am - 10am Visual Disability Gloria Mary Mike
1/31 - Thur Slatin's Lab 1pm - 2pm Visual Disability Mary Gloria Kay
2/1 - Fri FAC 227 1pm - 2pm Current Student Susan Mary


  Updated 2006 July 26
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