Just Do a Simple Usability Test

Doing simple usability test will help you to find major flaws in user interface in a matter of minutes, all you need is computer, willing helper and some patience. This will help you to simplify interface, improve user experience and catch bugs.

I was just trying to create an account on the site of one well known company. Well, one thing it was annoying because they keep asking questions about what industry I am working in and what my position is, but instead of providing open text field for entry they came up with a list of items, and surprise, I am having really hard time to find one which really fits me. Guess what happens when user has to go through this kind of registration? They are likely to make a wrong choice, or, just to make a random pick (because they don’t know why you are asking that anyway).

Every time I see registration process which asks me to fill a form with a lot of fields, I ask 2 questions

  • Do I actually want to register or it’s too much trouble?
  • Why do they ask me all those questions, should I put some fake info for privacy sake?

I think I am not the only one asking that, so you may loose some registrations on question #1 and then get some useless data because of questions #2.

But back to my registration, the biggest challenge I faced was username filed. When asked for username, I have pretty good idea what it is, thanks for tons of websites I ever visited and registered on. So, I typed in my usual username (hoping it’s available) just to get an error message like this:

Well, that’s confusing, why don’t you just ask email then?

Of course, we all make mistakes, so how to catch those? And the answer is not that difficult or unexpected – TESTING.

When new feature is added to the site, ask someone, actually anyone who is not involved with the website that much and doesn’t know it very well, to perform some simple task on the site. New registration form? Ask to create an account. New products catalogue? Ask someone to find specific item, or, just go through items and pick up something what they like. While they are doing so, sit with them and watch how they are doing that. Don’t try to help them, don’t take mouse away from them or point at anything at the screen (that’s hard part for me).  Just ask what are they doing and why are they doing this (if that’s not obvious). You may be surprised what people do and how they do it! And after 2-3 simple tests  like this you will see if there are any major issues. That is not 100% accurate test which will reveal you a lot of statistics or all errors and bugs, but it will sure help you to find big ones.

So, to sum it up: Just Do a Simple Usability Test. Really. Today.