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When Should You Do Usability Testing?

You have carefully written your website’s description and entered appropriate keywords. Your website is one of the top ranking sites if someone searches for target keywords. You have successfully ensured that people can find your website. But then, what’s next?
While strategies like
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are important, we should also consider what happens after people get to a website. We want visitors to have positive user experiences and keep coming back to our websites.

That’s where User Testing comes in. Providing a good User Experience (UX) that guides users through the site and turns that traffic into conversions and/or sales is crucial for getting the most out of your web presence. During the design and development of a website, we work with the site’s users to find out everything we can about how they use the website, what issues or pain points they have, and what features they would like to see added to the site. The insights gained from these testing sessions is invaluable for determining how to meet users’ needs in a way that will convert traffic into sales.

There is one question that comes up regularly: when is the best time to perform this user testing? Let’s look at the benefits that can be gained from performing testing at different stages of a website redesign project:

The Beginning

User testing is often done on the existing website to uncover the severity of user issues and other important user behaviors. We conduct this user testing during the Discovery phase of a project, and this is a great way to assess the site (as well as any competitors's sites) and get feedback from users about how they use the site, any pain points they might have, and places where they struggle to accomplish their tasks. We usually learn new user insights through this testing that even stakeholders have not realized. The goal of user testing at this phase is to learn as much information as possible about what doesn’t work about the current website and what process/content we must carry over to the new website so that our website redesign doesn’t accidentally break what works well for users.

The Middle

Since user testing is often meant to discover any issues with an existing site, it may seem counterintuitive to perform testing on a redesigned site that has not yet been completed. However, presenting design ideas to a site’s actual users can provide essential insights about whether the redesigned site will meet their needs. The feedback gathered from this mid-project testing can validate new design ideas and help designers learn whether they are going to solve users’ problems, whether they are targeting these problems without fully resolving them, or whether they might inadvertently lead to other, unforeseen issues.

One advantage of performing user testing during the Design phase of a project is that it can often result in savings of time and money. By having users look at prototypes (such as sketches, wireframes, or Photoshop mockups) of the new designs, they may be able to help designers discover any issues and determine if any adjustments should be made before proceeding with design and development work. Resolving these issues at this early stage can result in savings down the line, since it will eliminate the possibility of having to rework the design to address problems found at a later stage of the project.

The End

Performing user testing at the end of the Development phase of the project, before the new website is deployed, can help designers and developers verify that the site’s issues have been addressed and that the redesigned site will meet the users’ needs. Completing this final check to catch any issues that might still exist will result in a smoother launch.

At this point of the project, most of the design and development work should have been completed, but user testing can discover any minor usability issues that might still exist and make sure all user interactions have been built correctly. This final look at whether there is any room for improvement in the steps users take when using the website can make a big difference in ensuring the website’s success.

Testing Throughout the Project

While user testing is most often thought of as something that takes place during the Discovery phase of a website redesign project, we recommend running several rounds of user testing throughout the entire project. Ideally, testing should be done with different people at different times during the project, which will provide the insights that are needed to provide the best user experience possible.

Generating website traffic is important, but the ultimate goal of a website is to create conversions and/or sales, and providing the ideal user experience is the best way to do so. User testing is essential for determining how to create this experience, and performing this testing throughout an entire project is the best way of getting the information we need to ensure that the users’ needs are met.

Do you have any questions about WSOL’s user testing methods and how they can give you the insights you need to create a website that provides the best possible ROI? Please contact us to speak to a Solutions Engineer, or feel free to share any other questions you might have in the comments below.

About the Author

Britney Na
Britney Na
As WSOL’s Interaction Designer, Britney assesses the overall health of websites that we will be redesigning by performing usability testing and assessing user experience issues. She works to prioritize improvements and design new page templates and navigation structure for these sites, making sure the intended design pieces are built properly throughout the development process. Britney’s efforts are an integral part of the Discovery and Design process, and she provides essential value to the team through tasks including user and stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiry, UX heuristics, information architecture, personas, wireframes, paper prototyping, and online prototyping. Britney has a wealth of experience in the Interaction Design industry. With a Master of Design degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Britney’s background includes working on the interaction design for the navigation consoles of General Motors automobiles and a variety of other high-end projects. Her specialties include User-Centered Design, User Research, Interaction Design, and User Experience Design.