Website performance is measured via user-related metrics. Load times, access to information, page behavior, all these things affect the user experience. When it comes time to improve these features you’ll get the most benefit from drafting a strategic plan.
Problem solving for usability is a deep topic. But you don’t need to be an expert to gain value from this process.
The following tips should help everyone from designers to developers pinpoint serious usability issues. Every website can use a bit of TLC and the best place to start is with performance. When your users are happy your site runs smoother and you’re in a position to draw even more traffic.
Run Targeted User Tests
A good place to start testing is with yourself and others whom you trust. Gather a list of “problem areas” that relate to actions or behavior. If 4-5 different people say something doesn’t feel right, then there’s probably something wrong.
From here you can try even larger tests on a group of users. You’ll learn a lot more from a wide audience of anonymous participants because they don’t know anything about your website. These user tests run scenarios that an average Internet user might face.
Learn and study results from a wide audience to understand your problem. After all, how can you fix what you don’t understand?
Through this process you may learn about some areas that actually work better than you expected. Always good to know that a site has redeeming qualities, but in truth you should mostly focus on the negative areas.
Content & Structural Problems
The most frequent patterns that emerge from user testing are structural issues. These arise from a poorly-constructed website layout where buttons, links, and main page elements are disorganized.
Perhaps your navigation links are too small or don’t use enough contrast to stand out. User testing won’t always solve the problem by itself. It’s vital to use critical thinking and seek out the root of certain issues.
Try lumping together common results and consider why they occur. It may help if you see different people following the same exact paths. From here you can make note of where they go off-course and what causes the transition.
Through this process you’ll come to a deeper understanding of your goals. Really these goals are your user’s goals and it’s your job to guide them along the way.
Linearity is important for usability testing. Think about specific actions and how X leads to Y then Z. Also consider the thought patterns and mindset of your visitors and what drives them to behave in a certain manner.
Work to improve goals based on linear action. If possible, develop a few prototypes and test them out. You should notice which interfaces feel cleaner & easier within just a few minutes.
A/B Testing Specific Ideas
Split testing, otherwise known as A/B testing, is common practice for usability. These tests define 2 or more varied options for a page and dish them out in equal ratios to a test audience. The results from these tests can help you solve and implement solutions at the same time.
Many designers and developers are familiar with the science of A/B testing and how it works in the real world. They honestly work great but also require that you do some research on your own.
Once you have an idea of problematic areas you can try coming up with solutions. But you won’t know which solution(s) work without testing. This is why A/B split tests are so important.
Ultimately each test should have a final goal or metric worth testing. Are you trying to guide more visitors to signup for your website? Do you want to keep readers on blog posts for longer? Each problem requires different solutions and tests for different metrics.
Keep in mind that A/B testing doesn’t just focus on websites. Mobile A/B testing is a perfectly valid way of checking an application’s value in a particular audience.
Learn from the Best
There’s no better way to study than from an expert. Every skilled craft or trade usually offers some type of apprenticeship. Unfortunately this is rare for usability so you’ll have to make your own.
Find other websites related to your project and study their layout. Go through the actions you want implemented on your own site and rate the experience. Was their site easier to use? Why or why not?
Another way to learn is by studying market-specific pages. Landing pages especially deal with usability and user interaction at the highest level. Take a look at online galleries such as Land Book to gather ideas you might implement on your own.
The key here is to rebuild ideas from your imagination. Startups, networks, and landing pages follow similar goals to create a direct experience for the end user. Take note of your favorite examples and write down ideas that catch your attention.
If you want to learn from other professionals then case studies are your greatest asset. These are written by UI/UX design teams or usability consulting firms that share client results in the form of blog posts.
Visual Website Optimizer dedicates a full section of their site to case studies. The initial problem is presented along with VWO’s tweaks through A/B testing. You’ll be given statistics on the final results and ideas for how this case study may impact your own A/B testing.
The point is to reach out for help when you need it. Plenty of designers, marketers, and usability experts have written online expounding their results from years of UI/UX mastery.
- Usability 101: Introduction to Usability
- Top Usability Testing Myths
- Creative ways to solve usability problems
- 9 Common Usability Mistakes In Web Design
- Mobile Web Problems and How to Avoid Them
There’s no better way to learn usability than with hands-on experience. I hope these tips light a spark in anyone who wants to practice more usability design techniques. Again you don’t need to be an expert to gain some insight into the field. Just run some tests and keep an open mind because it seems like resolutions only appear when we’re not desperate for them.