User testing helps us determine if our efforts result in a better experience for our audiences. We think we've designed our sites in a user-friendly way, and have provided content that people want and need. Testing lets us know if we're right.
We want users to easily, logically, and intuitively find what they're looking for, which determines if our key performance indicators (KPIs) are being met.
By finding out how people access and understand our content, we can improve the structure of the site, as well as tweak the messages we're trying to convey.
We use a system from Loop 11 to perform user testing. When your site is being built, user testing will be one of the steps discussed during your interaction with Digital Communications.
When selecting testers, you'll need a minimum of five in each category (prospective students; current students; etc.); more is better.
To conduct a user test of your site, you'll need to
- Select testers. Establishing the categories is easy. You'll use members of your primary and secondary audiences, which you determined at the beginning of this process. For academic units, that likely means prospective and current students, parents, and faculty and staff.
- Determine the primary tasks. What are the most important tasks you want site visitors to accomplish? You'll use your KPIs as a starting point, as you'll have set your site up to meet them.
- Test the navigation. You've set up your navigation hierarchy in a way that you think is logical and easy to follow. Testers will tell you if they agree. This is where you find out how many clicks it takes to find a specific piece of information, and how long it takes someone to get to it.
When you get your results, you can dig into the data and discover:
- How well your Information Architecture works. Are your pages well organized? Can you get to the ones you want quickly?
- If you have enough site search cues. In addition to the site navigation, these include such features as calls to action, spotlights, and hyperlinks.
- If a page is in the right place. Sometimes, it isn't. If user testing shows several people took a long time to find it, and consistently searched for it in another place, that's a sign that you need to move it.