Posted by Eric Frye & filed under Conversion Optimization.

A usability study or usability test is a great way to learn from a sample of real people to provide a better user experience with your web site. When you work closely on a project, sometimes it’s difficult to take a step back and view a web page or site as a normal user would. A fresh set of eyes often sees and can identify the positives and negatives of a web page that those who work on the site every day may be too close to see. Learning the basics of usability testing can get you started thinking about how to conduct your own usability study and how it can help you make your web site better.

There are many reasons to conduct a usability study. You might be struggling between which version of a design is more aesthetically pleasing to the user. Perhaps you’re doing a full redesign and trying to determine how to best deliver your message to the end user. Or maybe you just can’t figure out why your site isn’t converting like it should and you need an opinion from someone that doesn’t stare at the site every day. In simplest terms, a usability study will help you learn if your site works, if users are completing the actions that you want them to take and how you can improve your web site. It doesn’t have to be a complex undertaking and by following a few guidelines, you can gain a lot of useful insight about your web site and how the average user views it.

Plan Your Study
Decide what questions you want answered about your site. Determine your appropriate audience and size, and how you will recruit them. You will also need to determine what you will give the participants for their time. Plan details such as where you will conduct the study and how you will observe the user as they complete tasks and comment on their experience.

Conducting the Test
When you conduct your test, you will have a set of tasks that you want to watch the user complete. The test will shed light on whether or not users are behaving as you want them to while navigating throughout your site.

Analyzing the Results
Once you’ve collected your results, the next step is the analysis. Often, it just takes a couple tests to gain valuable insights and become enlightened to ways you can fix your site to create a better user experience.

Once you find the value in such a simple study, you can take the steps to creating a more usable site. Ultimately, fixing issues found with your site can result in a higher conversion rate as you find ways to help the users complete the actions and tasks that you want them to take. Stay tuned for more in our series of blogs on usability testing and how to enlist the help of normal web users to learn how to create a better experience for them and improve conversions for you.