Usability is mentioned by anyone as something very important in web and application design, something that must be done early and often and something that offers you great benefits in the long run. So why wouldn’t you want to do usability testing? In his famous book Don’t make me think- A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug, offers 5 reasons why people don’t do usability testing on their websites:
- They don’t have enough time
- They don’t have enough money
- They don’t have the expertise
- They don’t have a usability lab
- They don’t know how to interpret the results
Although all above reasons are valid, they have been proved to be inadequate in preventing you from doing usability tests because:
- They can actually save you time. By doing usability tests early and often, you will discover errors that can be corrected more easily than when you have launched your product and need to redo things from the beginning.
- You don’t need more than 500$ to conduct a decent usability test. Moreover, you can use remote usability testing tools such as Userfeel (Note: I am a Java Developer at Userfeel – just saying…) which offer you the benefits of a usability test at a low cost.
- It is very easy to do. You don’t need to be an expert to bring some people over to your desk and see how they interact with your site. Keep in mind that even the most poorly conducted tests will give useful results.
- You don’t need a usability room. All you simply need is a quiet room that has a desk with a computer and two chairs.
- You can easily see what the major problems are. As Steve Krug says “the important lessons tend to be obvious to everyone who’s watching. The serious problems are hard to miss.”
But why people (site owners, designers and developers) still refuse to test their site or application for usability issues?
A small experiment with a mini questionnaire
Many clients, when I discuss with them about doing usability tests, they offer me one of the above 5 explanations (not enough time, money etc). The problem is that many of them have already done many usability tests, or at least know the benefits and how easy it is to conduct them. So I decided to ask them what happens after a usability test, what are their reactions and thoughts, and how do they affect them regarding future tests. Most of them responded in a way I would expect: that usability is indeed a very important factor in the success (or not) of a product/website/application. But there were a few answers that, to be honest with you, I would never expect them to be heard. So why do you think people avoid doing usability tests?
They are surprised by the results
You can bet that every usability testing that you do, will give you a big or small surprise to think about. There will always be one person that just “can’t figure out which button to press” or “didn’t understand that this link leads to nowhere”. This seems to puzzle some developers/designers because they get confused and scratch their heads after each test thinking “What the hell was that?”. Many of them still don’t realize that the systems and products they create are not always used the way they suppose to. So they seem to avoid doing usability tests because they do not like (ugly) surprises.
They may find out that they are wrong when they thought they were right
Usability testing can prove your assumptions to be wrong or even worthless. For instance, many CEOs and developers still believe that users must create an account (or check-in if they already have one) before they make a purchase from you site. Many usability reports and surveys have proven that this is totally wrong: users do not like at all to create an account before a purchase (see for example this consumer research from janrain, or the e-commerce usability report from Baymard Institute, or simply watch the online checkout in real life video from Google Analytics). Some people just don’t like to be proven wrong, especially if their egoism is very high (“I am right and everybody else is wrong”). So they avoid to do usability tests, simply because they don’t want their ego hurt.
They may need to do from the beginning what they thought was ready
Many don’t care about being surprised or being proven wrong and they decide to do usability tests, knowing that this way they will learn ways to improve their products. But many of them realize that key elements (such as the checkout process, the main navigation, the overall design, or whatever it is that they are testing) are a mess and must be redesigned. Do you think they want that? Do you think that they can bear the fact that money and time was lost on something that must be done again? Many don’t, so they avoid usability testing at all costs even if they have a web site or application (be it new or old, but especially new) that brings them zero results.
What all the above show us? That by performing usability tests, you reveal the truth about how good your product is or not. For various reasons some can’t handle that, so they try to hide usability problems under the carpet without knowing the actual ROI from usability. Fortunately they are very few compared to all those who try to improve their products, bringing more happy customers and greater profits for them. So how about you? Do you avoid usability testing or are you in favor of constant improvement?
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