Q: We’re considering a redesign of our website, and a young marketing whiz here keeps emphasizing UX testing. What is it, and do we really need it?
A: UX stands for user experience, and UX testing is a current buzzword in web design. The principle behind it is as simple and profound as “form follows function” – an idea put forth in 1896 by American architect Louis Sullivan that has become the most famous axiom in modern design.
The earliest websites, dating back to 1991, were text only. As the technology that enables us to graphically design web pages evolved, designers got excited about every latest and greatest new thing they could do to make a site look cutting-edge. In too many cases, the principles of good design have been tossed aside in the pursuit of cool. In form, the websites are dazzling; but in function, they are difficult to use.
In many ways, the current focus on user experience is a return to core design principles that apply equally to buildings, equipment and websites. These things exist to be used, so the best design is the one that makes them easiest to use.
UX testing is a way to evaluate the ease with which an average person can use a website to complete typical tasks, such as finding a specific page, signing up for a newsletter, downloading a product spec sheet, filling out a form or making a purchase.
In a formal test, a usability specialist will plan out what functions are to be tested and how, the type of participants to be recruited, and the metrics to be captured by recording equipment or human observers.
Formal UX testing can add significantly to the cost of a website, so most small-to-medium businesses will opt for an informal approach. This can work well if the client and the website design company test the site’s functionality by asking multiple individuals who are not involved in the project to complete all of the important tasks.
By monitoring their behavior, you might see that the navigation bar wasn’t as intuitive as you thought, or the purchase checkout process is too cumbersome. Make sure you have set aside time after the testing phase for the designer to adjust the form so that it better supports the function.
Need help designing your social media pages, website or brochure? Call Kim Landry at 484-829-0021 or email [email protected].