Get the Usability Test Results You Need

Are your usability testing responses actually giving you the actionable information you need?

Not if you haven’t designed the right test!

In order to get the information you’re after, you need to determine:

1.  What you want to know

2.  What questions to ask to get the right answers

Figure Out the Usability Info You Need

Have you already identified problems with your platform? Are users routinely aborting at a specific point, or do you get a lot of queries about the same functions or processes? Then this first job is easy—you need to figure out what users are finding difficult, and possibly to test different options for making things easier.

If you’re beta testing or still in the early development phase, the information you’re after might be more general—how are various processes perceived, how quickly can users find what they need and accomplish specific tasks, what design elements are enhancing or inhibiting usability?

Get as specific as possible in identifying the information you need from your usability test, and you’ll make designing your test much easier while making the test far more effective, too.

Ask Your Usability Testers the Right Questions

The questions you need to be asking depend entirely on the information you want to receive but there are some general rules you need to follow.

When there are specific problem areas you’ve identified, or new features/design elements you’d like feedback on, be sure to identify those areas and ask your testers what you want to know.

Keep in mind, though, that when you identify a specific element you’re calling attention to it, and this might alter responses—if you want to see whether or not an element is noticeable or problematic on its own, ask questions that might allow users to identify the element on their own, without explicitly mentioning it yourself.

For more general feedback on usability, ask testers open-ended questions that allow them to not only to identify the specific elements or processes that caught their attention, but also the qualities they perceived in those elements.

“Which parts of the platform did you find most appealing?” is open-ended to a degree, but it still asks users to identify positive elements of the platform—a good thing to know, but not complete in and of itself.

“Which features did you find most noticeable?” allows users to give both positive and negative experiences. While this question is probably too nonspecific to be very useful, it can be tailored to your specific device or software platform in a way that yields more useful results.

Improve Your Emails for Better Usability Test Responses

Conducting usability tests requires usability testers—a group of people that matches your ideal user as closely as possible in terms of demographics and knowledge level.

Identifying those potential testers can be tough (and we’ll have some tips on how to do that coming out shortly), but even after you know who they are there’s still an additional challenge: getting them to respond.

Here are a few tips for improving your usability test request emails, getting you a better response rate and more accurate, actionable results.

1. Craft a Subject Line That Piques User Interest

You’ll never get a response if people don’t open your email, so make sure the subject line is catchy, relevant, and clearly shows that your request isn’t spam or fluff. It should also be short enough that it displays completely on mobile devices.

Something as simple as “Can We Do Better?” can be very effective, if you’re sending to a list that will recognize who you are from the “From” field. If you’re a company they’ve worked with before, that subject line is an offer—a way to add value to your users, and that explicitly seeks their input.

And that’s what usability testing is all about, right?

2. Give Before You Ask

All business communication is (or should be) about creating value. Don’t start your email body asking for people to help you with your usability testing; start by telling them what you want to do for them.

Again, this is easier if your recipients are already familiar with you and what you do, but it’s easy to make a “cold” email to a well-identified target work just fine in this regard.

Start by offering a discount or free trial to your service, a free report you have, or anything that will create value for the recipient, and then ask them to take your usability test in return. Show them you’re interested in helping them first and foremost, and they’ll want to help you in return.

3. Be Available to Users and Testers Alike

Always close with an invitation to contact you with questions or suggestions, and be there when they do.

Again, let them know that your purpose is being able to serve them better, and make sure you’re sincere about that. There’s no point in conducting usability testing if you’re not going to listen to your users, so make yourself available.

The more you want to create value for your users, and the more you make that clear in your communications, the more eager your usability testers will be to help you out.

Demographics are Key to Unlocking Usability Test Returns

As explained in a previous post, finding usability testers who best represent the target users of your software or app is an essential first step in making sure your usability test delivers useful results. Finding testers with the right knowledge level and experience gives you far more accurate results, and the more specialized your target niche is the more important a well-matched group becomes.

Expertise is just one element of your usability group that needs to match your target audience, though. Demographics—age, culture, and in some cases gender and more—are also important considerations.

All User Experience is Interpreted, and Different Demographics Interpret Differently

There is no such thing as a “good” design.

There are designs that are more navigable than others, and that tends to be relatively universal in broad strokes, but when it comes to making things aesthetically pleasing there is no “right” way to do things. The best design is the one that the majority of your users find pleasing and easy to use, and that can vary considerably based on demographic features.

It isn’t just design interpretation that varies from culture to culture and age group to age group, either. Direct functionality and ease of use can be differently interpreted/experienced by different users with different demographic backgrounds.

Research has shown that our unique cultural experiences can influence everything from the colors we’re able to perceive to the way physical diseases progress in the body.

The complex factors at work in usability assessments are no different.

As with levels of expertise, demographic matching in your usability test group becomes more important as your target demographic grows more narrow. A simple phone-based game might be targeted to anyone above a certain age, while a customizable fitness app might target North American women over the age of 25 with a college education (for example).

Get specific, and get usability testers who match your intended audience when it comes to demographics. Your testing will be far more useful and efficient.

More info on getting the right usability testers to work with you is on its way, so stay tuned!

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