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Usability testing

Usability testing is a method by which users are asked to perform certain tasks in an effort to measure the website's ease-of-use, task time, and the user's perception of the experience.

Usability testing can be done formally, in a usability lab with video cameras, or informally, with paper mock-ups of website. Changes are made to the website based on the findings of the usability tests. Whether the test is formal or informal, usability test participants are encouraged to think aloud and voice their every opinion. Usability testing is best used in conjunction with user-centered design, a method by which a product is designed according to the needs and specifications of users.

Usability testing allows you to measure the quality of a user's experience when they interact with your website. It’s one of the best ways to find out what is or isn't working on your site.


What to do

Plan scope, issues, participants, location, budget

  • What are you going to test?
  • What concerns do you have about the site that you want to test?
  • Which users should participate in the test?
  • Where will you conduct the test? What is your budget for testing?

Develop scenarios

  • Select relevant tasks for users to try.
  • Prepare, try out, and refine scenarios for those tasks.

Make sure the scenarios are clearly written and not too much of a challenge for the allotted test time.

Recruit test participants

  • Recruit users who accurately represent your current or potential users.
  • Consider using a firm that specializes in recruiting for usability tests.
  • If you do it yourself, build a database of users for future tests.

Conduct usability testing

  • Make sure participants know that they are helping by trying out the website; the site is being tested, not them.
  • Get participants to think aloud as they work.
  • Let participants express their reactions.
  • Listen! Do not lead. Be sure to stay neutral in your words and body language. Be careful not to ask leading questions that may skew the participants' responses.
  • Take detailed, useful notes concentrating on observations of behaviour rather than inferences.

Make good use of the test results

  • Compile the data from all participants.
  • List the problems that participants had.
  • Sort the problems by priority and frequency of the problem.
  • Develop solutions. Fix the problems.
  • Test the revised version to ensure you made the right design decisions.



Who can help

European Commission
DG Communication
Unit A.5 - EUROPA site