Rhetoric and Composition/Usability Testing

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How Your Website Should Look Like[edit]

In its simplest form, your website should drive users to logically and easily perform all the desired actions you would like them to perform (whether that be a purchase, or registration, download, etc.). For optimal usability, your website should always:

  • Present your information to the user in a clear, logical and concise way
  • Put the most important thing in the right place on a web page or a web application
  • Present the correct choices to users at the right time, in a very obvious way (with little or no room for error)
  • As much as humanly possible, remove any uncertainty regarding the outcome of an action (e.g. clicking on delete/remove/purchase buttons)

Evaluation for the Web[edit]

Usability Testing is a form of measurement taken in user-centered interactive designs to evaluate a product by testing it on the users. In web designing, designers and programmers often perform usability testing to learn about the effectiveness of the design or layout of the webpage for specific functions. Usability testing for the web is important as it allows programmers and designers to receive instant feedback from actual users and the required changes or modifications can be done almost immediately.

Goals of Usability Testing[edit]

Eye-tracker set up as a form of usability testing for the web. Image courtesy of Tobii Technology, obtained from Wikimedia Commmons.

One of the objectives of web designing is to offer error-free and excellent experience for everyday users. When conducting usability testing, there are some goals that should be kept in mind:

  • Performance: How easy or difficult is it to accomplish a goal on your website (i.e. number of steps taken to set up a user account)
  • Memorability: If the user leave the website for a long time, when s/he returns, how easy is it to continue from previous actions or does s/he need to start over to proceed through
  • Mistakes: How many mistakes does the user make, how easy is it to recover from the mistakes (e.g. does your website allow using the back button to return to previous actions)
  • User Satisfaction and Interaction: How does the user interact with the webpage, where is the cursor pointed at most of the time, where do the user's eyes look to when locating a tab, how satisfied is your user with the overall experience on the site

Testing the Copy of Your Website[edit]

Reading online is different than reading print materials. Typically web users scan the site looking for relevant words that match the information they are seeking. For web copywriters, it is important that the copy is concise and direct. The user should not find it hard to navigate the page by reading the directions. Use links and keywords to increase search-ability of your site on search engines (search engine optimization). Whenever necessary, use separate levels of heading and bullet lists to indicate the sections on the page. Don't assume user to "just know" where to go when they land onto your page.

Writing Clearly[edit]

Clear writing is simple and direct and makes you want to read more. It uses short sentences and words that are easy to understand. Use these techniques to write more clearly:[1]

  • Present the main or essential message first
  • Cut out words and watch for prepositions (e.g., “of”, “to”, “on”) because they often mark phrases you can reduce to one or two words
  • Keep paragraphs and sentences short. Use words that are familiar to your readers
  • Give examples because users love examples and will often read them instead of the text.

Methods[edit]

The aim of usability testing is to observe user behaviors in a realistic setting. The following are examples of methodologies used to perform usability testing:

Beyond Testing[edit]

Usability testing should not be a one-time activity. Many web service providers perform multiple testings at different stages of their web development. Even for existing websites, developers and programmers continue to receive feedback from active users, relying on them to report any mistakes or errors, or broken links, so they can be fixed right away. This is why many websites include a contact report form under their contact page for users to provide active feedback.

External Links[edit]