How to improve your website’s usability

Many clients contemplating a website redesign ask us how we would create a user friendly website for them. The most obvious questions we ask in return are “who are your users” and “what do they want to do?” This leads us to the often underutilized field of website usability.

Unlike Search Engine Optimization, which is a battle for supremacy, everyone can be a winner when it comes to website usability, as long as you are ready to ask the right questions, and check your preconceived notions at the door.

 Usability testing refers to evaluating a product or service by testing it with representative users. The goal is to identify any usability problems, collect qualitative and quantitative data and determine the participant's satisfaction with the product.

One of our savvier clients came to us with a problem. His enterprise-class software had a complex licensing scheme based on different use cases. He and his staff regularly field questions from both prospective and existing clients on choosing the correct license. This was frustrating to him as he felt the website was clear and easy to understand.

What made this client stand apart, is he recognized that while he understood his website, his customers didn’t, and to him, making it more usable to his customers was more important. For this, he reached out to DesignHammer to help him understand what was confusing his customers, and more importantly, how to make his website for usable to these audiences.

With knowledge of the website’s audience segments, as well as the reported obstacles, we developed a plan to identify the existing problems with site organization, content, and functionality related to product information and license calculations using summative usability testing. In this case we determined Summative Usability Testing (task-based evaluation using Representative Users to determine) was in order. To record test sessions for later analysis we used Silverback, a light-weight “guerilla” usability tool to simultaneously record test subject interaction with the site, as well as video and audio of the test subject.

Armed with our test data, we collaborated with our client to reorganize and revise the site’s content, as well as the functionality of the software license calculator. The result was an increase in conversions, and revenue for our client.

 If there's one thing you learn by working on a lot of different Web sites, it's that almost any design idea—no matter how appallingly bad— can be made usable in the right circumstances, with enough effort.

Ready to give usability testing a try? Review our DrupalCamp slides and let us show how usability tests can be performed both quickly and inexpensively using popular DIY usability techniques. We will cover both analog and online tools for:

  • Usability Testing
    • Open Card Sorts
    • Closed Card Sorts
    • Tree Testing
    • Expectancy Testing
    • 5-Second Usability Testing
    • Visual Affordance Testing
    • Click Testing
    • Sample-of-One Testing
    • Performance Testing
    • Free Exploration Testing
  • User Testing
    • User Surveys
    • A/B Testing
    • Multivariate Testing
  • Analytics
    • Web Analytics
    • Heat Maps

You don’t need a lot of participants either—many valuable tests may be performed with as few as five subjects.

Is your website effectively overcoming your obstacles? If you are not up to doing the work yourself, let us help you improve your website’s usability.

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