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3 Reasons Why Usability Testing Isn’t Part of Your Workflow

by Stefan Rössler on November 27, 2014 –

We believe the Web is about people.

And that usability testing is the perfect way to understand these people and to improve your website based on their goals and needs, their feedback.

While that’s great, usability testing is not part of most designers’ or developers’ workflows.

Let me give you 3 quick reasons why that’s the case and how you can change this for maximum gain & growth.

  1. Usability testing is still too expensive
  2. Usability testing takes a lot of time
  3. Usability testing isn’t as effortless as it could be

1. Usability testing is still too expensive

Think about UserTesting.com. They are offering a great service, but it’s “pricy” as one of our customers told us.

That’s because they focus on fixing problems. They try to give their customers a lot of options for targeting the right users, and they give them instant results.

You need to know that they have a pool of over a million test users waiting to do tests. And that’s always great!

But it costs a lot of money to maintain their business model, and to deliver on their promise.

And that’s why their customers have to pay the price of about 50$ per test.

2. Usability testing takes a lot of time

I have to mention UserTesting again, because they promise you to get your first test results within one hour.

Imagine this: you buy a test and get your first video within 60 minutes. Isn’t that great?

Well, it sounds great but this approach stems from the assumption that people treat usability testing as an afterthought.

And it’s true, a lot of people pay for some quick usability testing to get everything right in one shot, to check “easy to use” off of their to-do list.

In reality usability testing can take a lot of time, so even if it’s fast, it still has to be done over a long period of time.

3. Usability testing isn’t as effortless as it could be

For the last 5 years we were planning, organizing, and evaluating hundreds of usability tests for our clients.

There’s one thing we know for sure: it’s a hell of a lot of work.

Although there are brilliant solutions out there, it takes hours, if not days, to watch and analyze the test videos.

Even if you pay someone for doing all the heavy lifting, it still takes a lot of effort to communicate all usability findings to your team.

Believe us, we were sitting in meetings that lasted all day, just to present some test results to our clients.

In the end it’s always a lot of effort on both sides.

“When a designer runs a test, he or she knows what happened and can immediately start redesigning to fix the problems that the test identified. No meeting, no report, no communications overhead required.”

Jakob Nielsen, the “Usability guru”

Let me tell you, what we’ve learned so far- Usability testing is part of every business, just like design and marketing have been for centuries.

Everything is interconnected, and usability testing is not limited to a certain role or job title.

It’s part of every designer’s, every developer’s, and every web site owner’s workflow. At least it should be.

Again, the Web is about people. It’s also about technology, of course it’s about design, and the fact that marketing plays a vital role in this, is not new at all.

Anyway, the Web is, above all else, about people and not technology.

Although technology enables people to communicate in a way, that would have been called magic only decades ago.

It’s great to see there are millions of people out there making all this magic happen. I admire every single one of them, and I think they’re doing something valuable, if they spend time working on technology.

The question then is, why are they doing it?

The answer: for people.

They do it for themselves, for you, for me, and for everyone else.

That’s where usability testing comes in handy. Over the last years we’ve learned how useful testing with real people can be.

If you never did any usability testing before, you wouldn’t believe how valuable it actually is. But it makes perfect sense:

We’re all talking about user experience. Why don’t we invest more time in observing users interacting with our designs and having these experiences then?

It’s obvious that this will help you improve your user experience.

But the 3 reasons in the beginning of this article about why we don’t usually do a lot of usability testing are holding us back. Even worse, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

The real problem is that we have a somewhat incomplete image of what usability testing is and how it could be used effectively.

How usability testing is misunderstood

Usability testing is great for fixing your website’s issues. Everybody knows this.

And there will be hardly anyone who claims that testing with real people is a waste of time.

We all know it’s not.

There is more than enough evidence to back this up. (are there any successful online business not investing in usability testing these days?)

So what’s the big misunderstanding then?

Many people think that usability testing is only good for fixing problems.

That’s why they wait until they have usability problems, and then they want to fix these issues immediately.

That’s exactly what happens if someone has a problem-focused mind.

It’s also the reason why many usability testing services let you target your testers based on demographics.

If you’re trying to fix certain problems, you tend to believe that you need specific people to do this. Targeting testers is not only overrated, it also costs a lot of money. You can read more about that here.

In contrast to this reactive, problem-focused approach, we came up with a rather proactive one.

I wrote more on proactive usability testing here.

In a nutshell it’s about one big idea: designers and developers do their own usability testing.

The team developing Age of Empires II did this, and they published a paper on their process, referring to it as the RITE method (Download the original paper as PDF).

Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation

Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation

Their way of thinking about usability turned my world upside down!

They didn’t try to finish their product, or develop advanced prototypes for on-demand testing. They just setup a testing schedule and tested, whatever they were working on!

Of course they were able to fix a lot of usability issues and software bugs (yap, usability testing is great for bug-fixing as well).

But there’s one thing that’s even more important about their story:

When designers and developers start observing real people, they get into a feedback loop, which helps them direct their creative & design processes towards a truly user-centric approach.

It turns out that usability testing is not just about fixing problems, it can drive your creativity!

How Userbrain changes the way we test

We believe the Web is about people and Usability testing is the perfect way to understand the people and to improve your website based on their goals and needs, on their feedback.

Now imagine if all the makers out there (designers, developers, startup people) would start doing usability testing.

Can you see how this will eventually change everything?

These ideas have the potential to grow and evolve the Web in a better direction much sooner.

Userbrain was started by us 4 makers who want to be a big part of this change:

We want to make usability testing a habit.

We offer a monthly subscription for getting videos of real people testing your website, webapp, or prototype (anything that can display a URL) through our Chrome Extension and iOS app.

You of course have a Customer Dashboard and get delivered videos there and notified via email to watch them every Monday.

All you have to do is enter the URL and write a specific task for your users (we offer to help you with this your first time and provide more of our tips & tricks).

The rest is handled by Userbrain, and we’ll send you new videos every week.

You can always change your test setup to see how people use different parts of your website.

And you can order Additional videos from the Dashboard if at any point you need more videos.

You can then View the videos, Download them, Comment on them and Share them with your team in any way. No limitations here, teamwork is most important.

You can also pause the service at any time if you don’t need testing that month.

Instead of giving you quick results on demand, we’re taking a more long-term view.

 

Now let’s visit our 3 problems again, to explain how Userbrain solves them:

1. Usability testing is still too expensive

If you’d be able to make usability testing a habit, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars per year.

And with Userbrain it’s now cheap enough to make usability testing an elementary part of your workflow.

Our subscription model is unique for the industry and allows you to get a single test for as little as 29$ (23$ with annual billing).

2. Usability testing takes a lot of time

That’s true, but it’s not a problem. It only gets problematic, if you start testing too late.

If you get a new video of someone using your website every week it would still take some time for you to collect a lot of test data, but there’s an important difference here:

Since you start usability testing on your own terms you’re not focused on fixing problems ASAP.

  • With ongoing testing you improve what you are designing that day, every day, not every month,
  • Everything is relaxed and you improve your user experience over the long run,
  • No stress, just fun and education as you watch what users are doing, and hearing them tell you Why they do it.

3. Usability testing isn’t as effortless as it could be

Have you ever organized a usability study? It’s a pain in the ass!

You have to call people, schedule test sessions, and decide how to pay them for their time.

Of course, then people get sick or don’t show up for any other reason.

And that’s just the coordination part.

Not to mention the moderation, evaluation, and presentation part, usually involved in usability testing.

It’s everything but effortless.

Even with other User Testing services out there, you have so many check boxes to decide whether to check off or not. It’s starting to resemble a TAX fill out form.

With Userbrain you just have to enter your web address and a few tasks which we can help you with, and you’re done!

BTW: I realize that this article is full of marketing. One of my intends though was to be useful. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about usability testing and that you forgive me for marketing our own service in such an obvious way. I did so, because our team is so excited about Userbrain that whenever we open or mouth (or hit the keys) we want to tell the world about it. I’m sure you understand this 🙂

And if there’s anything you’d like to talk to us about just leave a comment below or contact us.