This isn’t my story. But, it does a much better job at making a case for usability testing than anything I could possibly make up. Ready?
Once upon a time there existed an e-commerce website. Before redesigning their checkout process they enlisted the help of a usability expert to conduct a usability test. The tests were simple in design: people were given money to buy items from the website in exchange for allowing the usability expert to watch. The expert focus was on what, if anything, was hindering users from making a purchase.
The following is what took place at the checkout page: If users had been to the website before, they’d click Login and input an Email Address and Password. If this was their first time visiting, they’d Register and then Login. This was a simple Login/Register form. What could possibly go wrong here?
As it turns out, many of the shoppers taking part in the usability test, didn’t want to register. And first-time shoppers couldn’t remember if they had been to the website before and subsequently didn’t enjoy entering in what they thought were proper email and password combinations. This certainly didn’t help the sales process.
For repeat customers taking part in the test, they couldn’t for the life of them remember their username and password information. So what they were forced to do was request a new password, confirm it in an email, and then set a new one. That’s a tedious three step process, I can’t imagine that helped with user purchases.
The easy $300 million fix
Could forgetting your login info or the thought of registering really be that large of a hindrance to users making a purchase?
If they replaced the entire registration process with a “continue” button, would that do the trick?
Yup. That’s all it took. Within the first week of implementing the “continue” button, which allowed users to purchase items as a guest, there was a sales increase of $6 million. And password reset requests declined 80%.
The continue button was accompanied with a short message:
“You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.”
In the websites first year it saw an additional purchasing revenue of $300,000,000.
That’s the story usability expert Jared Spool told in Luke Wroblewski’s book Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks. And it’s 100% true. What Spool did, and what usability testing does, is figure out, rather simply, if a website is as easy as we thought it was to use.
You’d be surprised at how other people use your website. You may be able to navigate through it with ease, but that doesn’t mean the average person can do so too.
Don’t make users think
Whatever the goal of your website is, whether you want to increase lead generation or on-site purchasing, you need to take the time to ask the following question: Does the design of my website lend to users accomplishing their goal?
The difference between reaching your goals could simply be the wording of a button. It could be the text size is too small to read. There could be one too many calls to action, overloading the user with options. Whatever the problem is, often times it’s an easy fix. And the only way to really see the problem is to have someone other than yourself play around on your site, while you watch.
The marketing director wants 50 calls to action. The web developer hates menu pulldowns. The CEO wants sparkly text. And the project manager wanted to make them all happy. When designing a website, it doesn’t make sense to ask questions like “Does the average person like pulldown menus?”
The right kind of question to ask is “Does this pulldown, with these items and this wording in this context on this page create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?”
There’s really only one way to answer that question: testing. – Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think.
The 10 rules of thumb
The user interface design industry sticks to 10 guideline, called “heuristics” – these are simple rules that anyone could implement and in turn see a dramatic improvement of website ease of use.
- Visibility of system status – always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback.
- Match between system and the real world – speak the users’ language, rather than system-oriented terms.
- User control and freedom – always give users an exit. Support undo and redo.
- Consistency and standards – users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing.
- Error prevention – even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place.
- Recognition rather than recall – make objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another.
- Flexibility and efficiency of use – allow users to tailor frequent actions.
- Aesthetic and minimalist design – every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors – error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
- Help and documentation – provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large. — via Jakob Nielsen‘s Ten Usability Heuristics
- Comparative Usability Evaluation (CUE) – When a bunch of usability teams independently and simultaneously evaluate the same website, web application, or Windows program.
- System Usability Scale (SUS) – A questionnaire used for measuring perceptions of usability.
- CogTool – A user experience prototyping tool that automatically evaluates your design with a predictive human performance model
Check out last weeks blog: “How inbound marketing and HubSpot will change the way you think about marketing (2 of 2)“