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Is Website Usability Testing Necessary?

"Usability" refers to the following kinds of problems:

  • It is difficult for customers to find the information they need (takes too many "clicks".)
  • Customers are forced to wait too long for the information they need; they become impatient or lose their train of thought
  • Customers are having a hard time navigating your site; they cannot find what they need
  • Customers are not able to do what you have designed the site to do.

A recent Internet study reveals why usability is so important:

More than 83 percent of Internet users are likely to leave a website [as opposed to using search] if they feel they have to make too many clicks to find what they're looking for ... half left after just four clicks.

Many usability problems stem from the fact that the global Internet (which extends right to your customer's desktop) has severe limitations and was not really designed as a commercial-quality medium.

The design of your website must address these real-world issues

  • Internet data speeds are variable (right down to zero!) (details below)
  • Customer computer speed may be slow; your web pages may form slowly (details below)
  • Screen resolution and contrast are poor (details below)
  • Browser window size is smaller than you think (details below)
  • Software differences (browser incompatibilities) (details below)
  • Competitive websites set the standards (details below)
  • Limitations in the abilities of your customers:

    Some of your customers have terrific eyesight and see all colors perfectly. Others (about 9% of males and 2% of females) are to some degree color blind.
    Some have great memories; they can easily remember details from one page to the next, or what options were available on the home page after they've left it. Others have poor memories and must depend entirely on what is on the page right in front of them.
    Some can glance through a few pages here and there, and have a good idea of how your site is arranged. Others can look through every page and still feel lost.
    Some love to read. Others are dyslexic.
    Some customers have enormous vocabularies and are comfortable with complex sentences. Others know few words and want it short and sweet.
    Some are native speakers of English. Some know English only as a second language.
Skip The Website Usability Testing Details and continue to the conclusion at the bottom of the page.


The Details

Internet data speeds are variable (right down to zero!)
The Internet "superhighway" is actually made of many connecting systems, some of which are more modern and efficient than others. The overall speed of data transmission depends on the speed of the slowest, most congested "road" in the "highway" system. Your web server may be very fast, your customer may have broadband (high speed) access, but if the web page files need to travel through a congested or narrow bottleneck, the effective speed of data transmission drops to a crawl. (Go back)

Customer computer speed may be slow, causing your web pages to form slowly
A web page delivered to your customer's computer is in pieces; all of the graphic files must be requested by the customer computer, then assembled with the text page in memory. Customers with old or slow computers will wait longer for a complicated page to appear on the screen. (Go back)

Screen resolution and contrast are poor
The "resolution" of the screen refers to how many pixels (dots) per inch are seen on the customer's monitor. The resolution of a typical computer monitor is a fraction of the resolution offered by printed books and magazines. The poor resolution means you must be sure your site design does not depend on tiny print and very finely detailed images.
The "contrast" is the difference in brightness between the lightest color dots and the darkest dots. Computer screens are the losers again, offering less than one-tenth the contrast of good quality magazines and books. The poor contrast of your customer's screen restricts what you can do with colors and backgrounds. (Go back)

Browser window size is smaller than you think
Most people work with screens that are at least 800x600 pixels; about one-third have screens that are larger. However, remember that the browser window may not take up the entire screen, and the window itself takes up space; a title bar, menu list and button bars all occupy part of the screen, along with the scroll bar on the right side. This leaves a relatively small space to with which to work.
Studies have shown that many people have no idea how even their favorite websites are organized; it is like trying to visualize the design of an oriental rug, when you only get to see a few square inches at a time. (Go back)

Software differences (browser incompatibilities)
As if the problems already mentioned weren't enough, there are a wide variety of browsers in use today. Differences between the various versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator frustrate web authors. Many people with slow modem connections turn off graphics and just surf for text. Vision-impaired people surf with an "audio browser" that will read aloud the text from a web page. And don't forget plug-ins like Macromedia Flash for multimedia and Adobe Acrobat to read PDF document files, which must be installed by the user. (Go back)

Competitive websites
Who is your competition on the web? The correct answer is - every site on the web! Since any site is just one click away (remember, customers have bookmark files full of one-click destinations), they all compete with yours. Who is your main competition? The big sites, the ones that everyone has gone to and on which they spend much more time.
Why does this concern you? Because your customers have all learned to use the web on these big sites, and these big sites have set the standards that your site must meet. (Go back)


Conclusion

"Heuristic" (or rules-based) website usability testing from TheSiteDoctor.com can typically get you the answers you need in 3-5 business days, pinpointing the usability problems that cause your visitors - potential customers - to leave your site, and never come back.

We use several different methods to determine site usability, including rules-based testing as well as a set of tests to determine how difficult it is for a customer to perform specific tasks (like making a purchase or finding a specification.)

We prepare a report that presents all of the issues on your site, page by page. The report provides you with practical, easy-to-understand facts and recommendations to help you make decisions about each problem.

The bottom line: we help you give your customers more of what they want on your website!

 

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