Web App Usability Testing is Good for You

This is a pretty exciting week in the office. We invited several people to help us test the latest version of JotForm. It was eye opening to see how people behave on these tests. We have always done quick “what do you think about this site” or “what do you think about this feature” kind of tests with other people and since we always get feedback emails from people we thought we understood how other people use our web application. How wrong we were!

You must see us watching the usability testing videos. Maybe not. Because it would be pretty embarrassing. We scream, we make funny noises, people cover their face with their hands in desperation. People get up and start kicking the air. OK, that was me. Watching people mess up things helplessly. It is pretty nerve racking. But, it is also fun! Because we know we can easily fix the issues. In fact, fixing them is sometimes easier than watching another person screw up on the next test. So, user testing is very motivational.

If you had a brick and mortar business you would be watching people all day how they behave. You don’t have that luxury when your business is on the web. You don’t know how most people are using your site. You might think you know how they behave but unless you are doing some formal user testing, you probably only think you know. If you have a web site or web app you must do usability testing. It is not that difficult. If you do not have the time, go to usertesting.com and order them. It is cheap and easy. In addition to the in office tests we have also used usertesting.com and had really good results. They were sometimes as good as the tests we have done in the office. I’d highly recommend it.

DevWatchingUsabilityTest(image courtesy of Chabster)

How we do the in-office Usability Testing

If you do not want to buy the book, here is our recipe:

1. Ask people you know to spare an hour for you. The book suggests paying them or giving Amazon gift certificates, but since we invite friends, we just invite them at lunch time and buy them good pizza. They should not have used your site before so that they have a fresh eye and no biases.

2.  We have Camtasia Studio installed on our windows testing box. Since most people use windows, we do the tests on Windows. There is also a nice microphone. Make sure to test the settings before people arrive. You don’t want to waste their time fixing unrelated problems. You should also prepare the browser before the test and make sure that all cookies and history is cleared. Make the testing URL browser homepage.

3. The tester sits in front of the computer and facilitator sits near him. You should have a notebook and a pen so that you can take notes during the test.

4. First ask them to look at the site for 5 seconds and describe what they remember from their memory. Ask if they understood what is the purpose of the web site.

5. Then ask them to look at the site without clicking on anything. Ask them to describe what they see on the screen and what would happen if they click on any of the pages.

6. Next, ask them to perform a task on the site. They should do it themselves and without any help from you. If they ask questions about the task, do not help them. Instead ask them what they would have done if they were alone. Give them answers like psychologist do: “What do you think it is?” If they look confused, ask them what they are thinking.

7. Have a backup test in case the user completes the task too quickly.

8. Thank them and eat the pizza together.

9. Sit down with all other developers and watch the movie. Don’t make pop corn since you will be too busy writing down all the issues you see. :)

Happy Testing!

2 Responses to “Web App Usability Testing is Good for You”

  1. Rachel says:

    Thanks for sharing your recipe!! How much time does it take to do each usability test?

  2. Aytekin says:

    Hi Rachel, we just let the tester complete the task. Usually 45 minutes is more than enough.

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