This last week, I conducted usability testing for a UX report that I’m creating (coming soon!) for a company’s website, called PM&J. Usability testing is one piece of the big puzzle, but one of the most essential ones. So, I’m writing an entire post dedicated to the process!
Usability testing is a technique to understand how users think when navigating websites and utilize that information to organize the structure of a site for ease of use.
The idea behind it is to assign tasks to participants relating to a site’s navigation, and observe as they complete the tasks. Participants should speak through their task, letting the moderators know what they’re doing, and why.
Simply put, usability testing will typically reveal surprising usability flaws of a website.
Putting together the materials
To begin my process, I put together a script of what I would say to the participants of the study. This allowed me to provide them with all of the necessary information that they would need, including disclaimers about their actions and asking consent that they be recorded. If they agreed, I also created a consent form for them to sign and return back to me.
The tasks are arguably the most important part of a usability test. They need to be clear and provide the participants with a scenario to complete the action.
Tasks were as followed:
- You are a sourcing specialist for a company and need to source soft patio furniture for the upcoming year. You heard about PM&J through word of mouth, but you don’t know much about them as a vendor. Find out if PM&J can provide you and your company with soft patio furniture.
- You are the same sourcing specialist as before. You have other vendor partners you’ve worked with in the past and are unsure it’s worth exploring a new connection with PM&J. Find out what sets PM&J apart from its competitors.
- You bought a pet bed from a store, and the cover ripped. Your pet loves this bed, and you want a replacement cover. The store no longer carries this item, and they have directed you to the vendor, PM&J. Find out how you can reach someone at PM&J about this inquiry.
- You’re an existing client of PM&J and want to know more about what the company launches with other clients. Find out if there’s a portfolio of product launches or press release information.
- You are a business owner and rely on conventions and events to build relationships. Find out where you can learn more about PM&J through events.
Conducting the sessions
I guided the usability study sessions three separate times with three participants.
Participant 1: 30-year-old industrial controls technician
Participant 2: 62-year-old retail supervisor
Participant 3: 30-year-old graphic designer
These tests are typically done within a controlled lab, but due to the pandemic, the sessions were done via a recorded zoom meeting.
Each participant was asked the same five tasks, and I was able to use their recorded responses to analyze the results.
- 2/3 participants took the same route by hovering over “Products” and then selecting “Home.”
- The other participant took a different path by first selecting “Our Story,” then “Private Label Expertise,” to then the correct path, “Products” to “Home.”
- 2/3 participants mentioned that “Home” as a category under “Products” was confusing, as they thought that would normally direct them back to the home page of the website.
- All participants found “Competitive Advantage” very quickly and easily, which is the correct path.
- 2/3 participants mentioned that they found the “Competitive Advantage” link in multiple locations on the site and that all were clickable and easy to access.
- 2/3 participants went straight to “Contact”
- The other user expressed that they would want to find the solution under “Products” then “Pet.” But then directed to “Contact” like the other two.
- All three participants were confused about the contact form on the page. The form indicates that the user requires a retailer name, which didn’t align with any of the participants thoughts on the action they needed to perform.
- 2/3 participants ended up eventually finding a contact email and phone number in a small font in a different location on the page.
- Each participant first navigated to the “News” section on the website and found blog posts specific to PM&J’s partnerships.
- They all found additional categories on the side of the posts to narrow down their search, which they expressed seemed helpful.
- After staying on the page and exploring for an average of one minute, the participants then realized that the content of the posts was very outdated, with the most recent post being from 2016. Each user expressed concerns with this, as they weren’t sure they’d find this a trustworthy page for resources.
- Task five resulted in the longest average time to complete.
- None of the participants could find event information under the navigation dropdowns and were left unconfident if they’d be able to complete this task.
- Eventually, each participant found that there is an animated newsletter at the top of the homepage that expresses a Global Pet convention. However, it’s located on the third page of the animation, so easily missed, and it doesn’t provide any actions.
- Additionally, only one of the three participants noticed that the event was advertised for 2020, which made them feel as if the site is less reliable.
Overall, I found that after conducting the test with the three participants, there were some things that I expected would be issues, but also a few surprises. For example, I didn’t expect task 2 to be as quick and easy as it was for the users – “competitive advantage” didn’t sound like a straightforward option to me, but all participants were confident in this selection. But that’s why usability testing is such an important part of UX!
From these results, I’ve illustrated some recommendations for the site, which you can see in my final UX report – next week!
Pannafino, J., & Mcneil, P. (2017). UX Methods: a quick guide to user experience research methods. Cduxp.
Solloway, A., Nicolas, T., Coolridge, M., & Skillman, E. (1AD, January 2). Usability testing report template and examples. Xtensio. Retrieved from https://library.xtensio.com/usability-testing-report-template-and-examples