With a myriad of articles appearing revolving around the theme of usability and user experience, designers have been challenged to look at their websites and creations in a new light. Through this, some have changed their websites, and some have shrugged things off. Still, what remains is that the role of usability and user experience in our designs is important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
So then, there seems to be a separation in designers on how seriously they take usability. Some of us have been testing usability and user experience without knowing it already, and some of us have recently added usability testing to our arsenal.
But with more “inexpensive” tools popping up that provide us with quantitative analysis, some designers are taking the lazy route and testing only after their website goes live. So the question stands, can we test usability before our project goes live? Why is it important? And, most importantly: how can we test before launch?
Note: For all intents and purposes in this article when referring to usability and user experience, we will call it “usability” (although they are both very different things).
P.S: We have an awesome contest launching on Tuesday of next week that we want you to get in on. So if you aren’t already, follow us on Twitter or grab a copy of our feed. We’ve also worked on an epic contest and giveaway for the folks at UX Booth, so if you want more on usability, you should give those guys a look-through!
Can We Test Before Launch?
Most of us have likely heard of the acronym TETO – that is, Test Early, Test Often. This term applies not only until after launch, but pre launch. What I find with freelancers today is that we end up designing the initial website for the client, and that is wrong. We must design for the user, and therefore bring the user into the process.
We can also test without having a website already launched (e.g. for clients wanting to create their first web presence), and we’ve outlined those methods below!
Testing after launch is ineffective. By this time, you may have lost potential revenue, and lost a chance at building a relationship with a user. Sure, after launch we can get some nice real-time data through websites like CrazyEgg and ClickTale, but this can possibly waste our time in launching the product. Instead, testing before launch can save us tons of time by deducing whether our creations are in line with the user’s needs and wants.
What We Need To Test Before Launch
Here’s a checklist of things we need to outline in our usability testing prior to launch:
- The reason that the user will be coming to the website
- To find out who the ideal user is
- What functions the user wants – no, expects – from the website
- The design, to ensure it is easy to understand
- The functions and processes, to ensure they’re simple and to reduce bounces
- Ensure consistency throughout the design and content
- Check for bugs, including spelling mistakes
- Test for accessibility
How Can We Do This?
While there is a myriad of testing applications to which I’ve listed a few resources of below (no need to list them again when they’ve been listed so many times before), here are a few ways we can get users involved in the process:
- Have a focus group with already-loyal users on what they want from the website
- Have a focus group with potential users within the niche as to what they want from the website
- Send prototypes to these users and either track them via remote testing (with tools like Usabilla), or bring them in and test them (possibly using a nice Mac tool like Silverback)
- (If this is a redesign/realign) Use analytics software to generate quantitative analysis based on the current design
- 20 Fantastic Usability & Conversion Analysis Tools via Spyre
- Usability Testing Toolkit: Resources, Articles, and Techniques via Noupe
We’ve also got an big post outlining some other usability applications coming next week on UX Booth. We’ll make sure it’s placed here when it goes live!
How to Convince Your Clients to Spend the Extra Time and Money on Usability Testing
While this will definitely be a topic discussed in a later article, here are a few ways you can convince your clients to spend the extra money (for your time, of course) for testing usability prior to launch:
- Will improve client loyalty and satisfaction
- In turn, will increase sales by simplifying site processes
- Ensure that the direction of the business is effective on it’s niche
- Will improve the design and functionality
- Will improve SEO
It’s Your Turn
Why do you think bringing users in on the process before launch is important? What other ways can you do this, and what ways have you found effective? How do you convince your clients that usability testing before launch is important? Share your responses in the comments section, below!