“Usability Testing Castaway”

We’ve been working closely with MSU Usability Center to conduct testing on a  high profile website client. This testing came after the fact we built the site but now I can see the benefit of testing through iterative phases. While not cheap to conduct an organization that truly wishes to make their site focused and effective should definitely consider running their site through this valuable process.

The testing entails a series of questions they ask typical users to run through in finding some information in the web site or to perform a specific task such as purchasing something. The subjects are monitored on video and they’re encouraged to verbally talk about their process as they decide where to go as well as offer up suggestions that would improve their experience. Meanwhile we as developers watch the testing in another room and can’t seem to yell loud enough through the wall “click on the link that says e-commerce!!” all the while they were just looking for a link that says “Buy this item here.” I think we as web developers and designers often forget that we’re not the typical average user. We often fall into traps of using jargon and terminologies in our sites that an avergage user wouldn’t understand. Many times this is the verbage coming from the organization but they too aren’t the typical user. They come from the perspective of how their business runs and already have their own biases in using internal terminologies that can further confuse a user. If you want to make a happy customer they need to achieve the goals of your site, enjoy the experience and come back. A effective useable website will provide them answers quickly and be presented in a logical layout that strengthens your branding but more importantly accomplishes helping your user find what they need. A happy customer means a happy website owner.

Often during the study we noticed a simple thing of how something is labeled would confound and confused users even if it made complete sense to us.  Simply adjusting the verbage to something more simple and clear to the customer and not to expectations of the organization or developer increases click through rate immediately and drives them to the answer they were looking for to begin with. We should always be conscious of how the site is reading right down to how we verbalize the links or the sub headlines. User center design starts and ends with the users and the sooner we can have them involved the better the site will be.