There are now lots of ways to gain insight into the user experience:
- Quantitative analysis such as analytics show where there are problems.
- Monitoring calls to the customer service team, social media analysis, social listening, online feedback forms and customer surveys will tell you what users are frustrated about
- To understand why problems are happening on websites and apps, it’s necessary to undertake user research that focuses on behaviours not attitudes – what people say they do is often different to what they actually do.
Watching real users interacting with a site or app (both in development and live) is the only way to understand what the issues are that interfere with a good user experience; it also forces those with responsibility for the site or app to ‘walk in the users’ shoes’ – often an unsettling experience.
Usability testing is still the best method for understanding, in detail, users’ behaviours because you can observe these.
So, what is usability testing?
Simply put it is the process of testing how easy or difficult a website is to use with a representative group of users. It comes in three main ‘flavours’:
- Unmoderated online testing – where testers undertake testing on a site and respond to a series of pre-defined questions before, during and after the testing
- Unmoderated user videos – where testers (usually from a panel) are given a task and then asked to ‘think out loud’ whilst using a site and the session is recorded for subsequent analysis
- Moderated lab & remote testing – where users undertake tasks using think aloud protocols in moderated research either in a lab or remotely using desktop sharing software
Unmoderated research is usually cheaper; however, it requires questions to be pre-defined – whereas often the most insightful questions are prompted by testers’ behaviours during a research session and are not anticipated in advance. Furthermore, online research relies on self reporting – and, as pointed out earlier, what users say they do is often different to what they actually do.
So what do we recommend? If you want to find out why problems happen on websites and apps, then bespoke moderated usability testing (yes our type!) is still the best approach.