Working with a variety of different clients is one of the great pleasures of agency life.
When we start a new project we always spend time with clients discussing the objectives of their new website, who it’s aimed at and what they would like out of it in the future. At this stage we make some assumptions about what the end user will want from the website and how they will interact with it. However, when we start the initial designs we like to conduct user testing to ensure that our assumptions are correct. In a recent project, we involved this testing heavily and it was clear that this research aided the website’s progress.
During the design phase we debated different navigation methods; do we use a traditional menu, a mega menu or maybe a hamburger menu? We knew from the site map that we needed to accommodate up to three levels of subpages so limiting ourselves to using a traditional dropdown would create problems down the road. We also appreciated that the end user would have limited web experience so we weren’t sure that a hamburger menu would be the right fit. To solve our conundrum we invited in three different user groups and ran testing sessions.
We set the participants various tasks which involved them finding information on the website, and they did this using printed layouts (and some imagination!). Each task was created so that the user would use the navigation differently so that we could see if there was any problems with the structure. Throughout the tasks we asked the participants to use the ‘thinking out loud’ technique as they navigated through the website.
Watching the users interact with the layouts gave us an insight into how the website would be used and showed us conclusively that the mega menu was the right choice. The hamburger menu was not recognised by the target audience, so could have led to a frustrating website launch for client and user.
Due to the success of the first user testing session we decided to hold another session after the development of the website had been completed. This time we wanted to see how engaging the content was for the user and test its current structure. As the site was now live on our development server, we invited participants to test the website and created another set of tasks which asked them to find specific information on the site. Similarly to the first session, they were encouraged to talk through their thoughts out loud and then recorded their thoughts in a questionnaire at the end of the session.
The overall feedback from the second session was brilliant and the participants were incredibly excited about the new website launch. However, the session did highlight some important amendments to the site, including adding a ‘Home’ link to the navigation as the majority of the participants struggled to navigate back to the homepage. This small change will make the site much easier to use for our target audience and will improve the user’s experience.
5 Benefits of user testing:
- Getting feedback early in the project means that significant changes can be made before making any big commitments
- It’s a great opportunity to revisit and discuss design choices such as the use of colour on the site as an incidental comment could result in an significant improvement
- Working on a website on a daily basis means it’s easy to miss the obvious so it’s great to get an outside, unbiased perspective
- Involving the users in the process helps create interest in your product or service giving you a head-start on marketing and promotion
- The satisfaction of seeing all your hard work come to life, even if you have to make a few changes first!