Don’t make assumptions about the user, have her test your website or app! It’s easy, quickly done and cheap. Trust me.
When it comes to usability and providing the best solution for the user, I have seen lots of mind-numbing, long and - in the end - pointless discussions.
People tend to project their own behaviour onto the users of their application - and often this turns into discussions about the user as if she was an alien, yet to be discovered life form from outer space.
I did that as well, but I learnt my lesson: I’m not the user. You’re not the user user either.
You know how your application is supposed to work. You know what feature can be found where - your users may think differently. And they may be different from what you think they are.
A brilliant example was one of my websites: I put a big, prominent “Sign in with twitter” button on the homepage, but the conversion rate was poor. So I decided to do a very simple, quick and cheap way of usability testing:
The 5 second test
In this case, you take a screenshot of a prototype, your website, your app, your design and upload it to Usability Hub (which is free, when you do other peoples tests - or you can pay for answers) and asked the question “where can you become a user of that service” and asked for 10 answers.
Now this picture is shown to different participants for 5 seconds each. Afterwards my question will appear and they can answer. The answers were surprising and shocking: Only 2 people got it right. The others answered along the lines “I see, where I can sign in after sign up, but where do I sign up?”.
This was interesting, because with Twitter login, there are no concepts such as “sign up” and “login” - you hit “sign in” the first time and get signed up, you hit it the next time you’re on the website and you get logged in.
Knowing the struggles of my users, I re-captioned the button “Sign up with twitter” and added a little “Sign in with twitter” on the top right corner et voila: Conversion rate rocketed.
UsabilityHub also offers other tests, like
The click test, where you ask your users a question like “Where would you click to sign up” and see a) where they actually click b) how long it takes them to spot it.
The nav flow test, where you upload multiple screens and ask the user to carry out a task that should take them from one screen to another - you’ll learn if your navigation concept works from this test type.
Test early & test often
This shows: Testing early is possible and valuable! All it takes is a few minutes and a screenshot, a design, or even a picture of a sketch on paper. This allows you to check, if your users “get it” on the many different levels:
- Does the wording make sense?
- Does the layout structure and content hiearchy make sense?
- Is the visual design confusing people?
For all this, you don’t need a working prototype, you need nothing “done” or “shiny” - but you can already learn about your users. It takes minutes and is cheap (or free).
With services such as BetaPunch or YouEye it’s very easy to get real users to do a couple of tasks on your app or website and get a recording with them saying what they think while carrying out the tasks you gave them as well as their inputs and mouse movements.
BetaPunch, for example, offers one free test to get you started.
There is also a user test light version, where you can only get recordings of your website / app users using your app and see their mouse movements and inputs - see here for more details on that.