How to conduct website usability testing?

Published on 20/03/2023 by Ojasvini and Andrew Blair

This article was originally published on 14/12/2021

To engage a target audience on your website, how do you know what actions they want to take when they first arrive? This article evaluates how to conduct usability testing for a website and increase customer engagement. 

A user evaluating how to conduct usability testing for a website

How important are first impressions on your website? Understanding your audience can help increase website engagement and facilitate actionable next steps. Knowing how to conduct usability testing for a website can help examine why some visitors may leave your website without engagement. What steps can you take to improve your website and increase customer satisfaction? 

According to research by Gartner, brands make the common mistake of designing their websites to focus on what they want the customer to know and not on what the customers want to accomplish. This could make it hard for visitors to follow the website and find what they want. As a result, many businesses may be focusing on building a website that grabs the customer’s attention and helps them achieve their goals. Such goals could include assisting users in completing tasks like buying a product or making a booking, among others. Therefore, usability testing methods for a website could potentially play an important role.

What is website usability testing?

Usability testing is a process used to evaluate your website. It is a way to see how easy-to-use your website is by testing it with real visitors. This process could help you locate obstructions or issues related to the design and performance of your website which may have been overlooked. The goals of usability testing can vary, but they generally include the following:

Infographic highlighting usability testing methods for a website

According to the latest figures, 59% of internet traffic comes from mobile phones, which implies that your website should have an effective desktop and mobile version. Hence —before conducting usability tests for your website — it is important to know what percentage of your customers are desktop or mobile users. You can find this data with the help of web analytics tools.

Why is a good user experience necessary for small to midsize enterprises (SMEs)?

Whenever any customer lands on your website, they will have an ‘experience’. That particular experience would impact their overall perception of your website. Website user experience best practices are based on factors such as the look and feel of the website, the navigation process, and whether or not their visit was successful. UX (user experience) testing can help align with the customer’s requirements and offers ease of use and efficiency.

Advantages of usability testing

Usability testing could help analyse how to improve your website. The sooner potential issues are identified and resolved, the better it will be for the overall customer experience. With the help of usability testing methods for a website, you could potentially be able to accomplish the following:

Find unidentified issues with your website

Usability testing could help you discover any hidden issues with your website. For instance, you could find a usability issue such as broken links or that your website takes a long time to load. According to a report by BigCommerce, even a one-second delay in page load time could lead to a 7% loss in conversion rate and about 11% less page views. 

Detect opportunities for how to improve your website

With the help of usability testing, you may be able to identify the changes required to make your website more user-friendly. For instance, if there is a lack of balance between the content and graphics on a particular web page, it could potentially drive users to look for other alternatives.

Determine the requirements of website visitors

A usability testing questionnaire for a website can help you understand the needs of your visitors. Test participants could give you feedback on what your visitors are looking for and what they expect from the website. For instance, user behaviour from a hotel booking website could be convenient navigation, trustworthy reviews, fast booking confirmations, professional graphics, and content that fully describes the property and available amenities.

Usability testing methods for a website

There are many different usability testing methods to choose from, depending on your objectives and requirements. Here, we list two commonly used types of website usability testing.

Moderated usability testing

This testing method involves the participants being guided by a moderator —someone who would conduct the test. The moderator prepares the test, guides the participants, and simultaneously records the responses. The test could be carried out in a lab or any place that’s ideally free of interruptions. 

Moderated usability testing can be done either face-to-face or remotely. If the test is happening remotely, the participants will likely share screens with the moderator so that the test can occur in real time. This testing method could prove to be effective if you intend to record real-time customer interactions and the difficulties faced in the process. 

Unmoderated usability testing

This testing method would not require the presence of a moderator. The participants can perform the test in their surroundings, without any guidance or control. The unmoderated usability testing method could prove to be useful when you want to test specific parts of your website and not the whole user journey. The advantage of this method would be that the participants can do it anywhere and anytime, and businesses could save on the cost of hiring a moderator.

Best practices for how to conduct usability testing for a website

It might sometimes happen that while conducting usability testing, you might realise that the test is not going as you planned. In such situations, it can become difficult to start the process from the beginning. Hence —to avoid any such situation— we list some steps that could help you test your website and gain relevant user feedback.

Define the goals you want to achieve

The first step would be to determine what you want to achieve at the end of the usability testing process. For instance, as the owner of an eCommerce website, you might want to know whether users can place an order successfully and conveniently. For that, you should conduct a test to record the user response from the starting page of the website until the order has been successfully placed. 

Select the appropriate usability testing method

The next step would include choosing a usability testing method that fits best for your business and could help gain the desired results. For instance, you should ideally select moderated testing if you want a more controlled approach and also find out about the potential challenges in the whole user journey. 

Set a clear objective for the participants to attain

The next step would be to define a series of tasks that the participants would be required to complete. For example —if the visitor has landed on a grocery shopping website— the first step might be account creation, followed by selecting the required items, choosing the quantities, adding the delivery address, and then proceeding to checkout. For your usability test, you should also ideally set the order in which you want participants to complete such tasks.

Choose the number of participants

According to research by Bellomy, five to seven participants are ideal for a single usability test. The report states that utilising even five participants could reveal approximately 85% of website issues. The number of participants required to perform the test can also vary depending upon the development stage of your website —whether it is still being developed or has already been launched. 

Perform the test and analyse the results

The next stage is to carry out the test. You would need to ensure that the test is carried out keeping in mind all the set objectives and that the instructions given to the participants are correctly followed. After completing the test, you should analyse the results and make an organised report based on the participants’ feedback and behaviour patterns. After you complete the analysis, you should ideally implement the recommended changes to enhance the user experience of your website. 

To conclude

Usability testing could be an effective way to enhance the user experience and to know how to improve your website. With the help of such testing, you could identify any possible flaws and issues with your website. A website with effective usability could not only help drive more user traffic but could also likely help in customer retention. Moreover, better usability and a good customer experience could be contributing factors in positively impacting the growth of your business.

Looking for user testing tools? Check out our catalogue!

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the authors

Ojasvini is a content analyst for Software Advic. She shares insights about software technologies critical to SMEs. Inspired by growing tech trends and how these help SMEs to grow.

Ojasvini is a content analyst for Software Advic. She shares insights about software technologies critical to SMEs. Inspired by growing tech trends and how these help SMEs to grow.

Andrew is a Content Analyst for Software Advice, giving SMEs insights into tech, software and business trends. Interest in entrepreneurship, furthering projects and startups.

Andrew is a Content Analyst for Software Advice, giving SMEs insights into tech, software and business trends. Interest in entrepreneurship, furthering projects and startups.