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Usability Testing on a Dime: A Three-Week DIY Plan

by Tim Ash  |  
February 14, 2012

In this article, you'll learn how to...

  • Conduct usability testing for your website
  • Identify key issues with your site in three weeks

Usability testing is the most powerful, most effective thing you can do for your website.

That's a big statement to make, and people often want to dismiss usability testing because they're under the assumption that it's too complicated and expensive.

Some organizations conduct usability testing before launching a redesign, but many skip that step altogether, citing lack of time, lack of money, or both. But usability testing doesn't have to be that complicated, and almost anyone can do it—from start to finish—in about three weeks, according to Steve Krug, author of Don't Make Me Think and Rocket Surgery Made Easy.

Krug lays out a simple, inexpensive formula for conducting your own usability tests. His underlying premise is the following: If you watch people use your site and hear them think out loud as they're using it, you'll figure out very quickly where people are getting hung up.

Basic Ingredients

Here's what you'll need to create an effective, ongoing usability-testing program that won't kill your budget:

  • One morning per month
  • Three volunteers and some sort of incentive for participation (e.g., gift certificate)
  • A list of core tasks that are consistent with the business goals of your website, and a script to coach them through the process
  • A conference room, a webcam, and some inexpensive software
  • A group of people from your organization who are involved in your website content, design, and functionality

That's it. No laboratory. No two-way glass. No expensive moderator.

Week 1: Plan, Recruit, and Build Your Team

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Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners, a website conversion optimization firm. He is also founder of Conversion Conference, the first international conference series focused on improving online conversions.

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  • by Lee Kelly Fri Feb 17, 2012 via web

    I find it ironic reading a usability article on a site that is far to busy including such annoying elements as a cringeworthy floating social media bar and an end of page pop-out. An unintentional oxymoron.

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