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Quick And Easy Usability Tests Part 1

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Last week I wrote about what a usability test is and why it is a great tool anyone and everyone should use.  Usability tests can be real eye-openers, revealing things about your website that you never realized.  These revelations can be the difference between having a successful website and an unsuccessful site or the difference between having a good site and a great site.  It may even be the difference between whether your online company thrives or fails.

In spite of all the benefits that usability testing can provide, most organizations don’t perform usability tests.  This is either because they don’t think about usability testing in general or they believe they aren’t able to do usability testing because of cost, time, or because they just don’t know how.  Usability tests can cost thousands of dollars, require weeks or preparation, include lots of participants, and involve hiring a professional consultant.  But since many small businesses and ministries don’t have the resources for that, I’m going to write about how any company or organization can perform usability tests quickly, cheaply, and effectively.

What Will You Need?
For your usability test you will need:

  • 2 quiet rooms with chairs, desks, computers with a webcam, and an Internet connection
  • video camera
  • 3-4 test participants
  • 2+ staff
  • 4-5 hours
  • $150 – $400

2 Quiet Rooms: Any organization that has an office will probably have the two quiet rooms.  If your organization does not have an office, you can either rent a couple of office rooms for a day, see if you can use some rooms at your church, or even use your house.  It’s preferable that you have a more professional office setting, but if you don’t have an office available and don’t have the money to rent a space for a day, then a house will do just fine.  It’s more important to do the test then have a “professional” location.

Video Camera: For the video camera, you can use a regular camcorder that either your organization owns or one of your staff brings from home.  The camcorder is optional if you are using a webcam, but most people have access to one these days, so you might as well.

3-4 Test Participants: The test participants can be just about anyone who isn’t involved with the development of your website.  This includes church members, friends, family, neighbors, etc.  If the website or section of website you are testing is targeting a specific demographic, then it’s preferable that the participants be from that demographic.  So, if you are a company launching a new line of teen products, find teens for the test.  If you’re a church testing the new seniors’ ministry website, bring in seniors for the test.  If you can’t get people from your target demographic or you don’t have a specific target demographic, then you can choose anyone who isn’t already familiar with what you are testing.

2+ Staff Members: I recommend having at least two staff members participating in the test so one can be giving the test and the other(s) can be observing the test and taking notes.  It’s best if the test giver does not need to take notes while giving the test.  Also, anyone who is involved in the project can benefit from observing the test.  So, try to get as many people to observe as possible.  It will help with the changes later.

$150-$400: The money is to pay the test participants for their time.  Each test should take about 45 minutes to an hour.  They will also have travel time and you are asking them to take time out of their day, so it’s good to offer $50-$100.  They will be happy to receive the money and it will be easier to get participants.

In the second part of this article I will go through the process of performing the usability test.

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    About the author

    Kurt Steinbrueck

    Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .