When it comes to the design part of a website project, everyone is aware of the importance of user feedback. You must test your design drafts with different user groups, conduct usability tests and create user stories.
However, most website projects and small businesses do not have the resources to execute an extensive user testing phase.
Want to make your user testing a real priority? Think of it as a crucial part in your web design workflows.
Analyze, test and optimize
Performing user testing requires you to have clear goals of your new website project.
Before we take an explicit look at the the role of user testing in web design, we need to take a step back at user feedback & user testing.
What is user testing?
Basically, the term “user testing” refers to the technique of usability testing which is used to help discover and solve problems in your web design.
There are different types of user tests, such as User Acceptance Testing or Usability testing.
User tests should be conducted in every phase of a website project as they enable you to examine if your website is correctly aligned with your target audience’s needs.
User testing is a process of verifying that a solution works for the user.
What does user testing mean in the context of web design?
As a web designer you might wonder how user testing affects your responsibilities and why it’s important to conduct user tests overall.
User testing is a technique used to evaluate if the selected web design actually works for your target audience. You can do this by testing your design with the same group of people.
User tests as the middleman between designers and users
Those tests are conducted with a very small and select audience, preferably in a strict and observable environment. From a web design perspective you’re trying to verify the designed solutions and test how they work in real-life scenarios.
More iterations – Better user experience
At an early stage of your web design, the website is tested for its usability and ease of operation. These tests involve a group of users who are asked to perform certain tasks when being put in a certain situation.
In a perfect world, you do not only test finished design drafts, but start testing your sketches and wireframes as well.
The key of every design process is to find a great timing from sketch to low-fidelity, to high-fidelity mockups. Considering user tests at even very low-fi level will prevent you from failing with your completed prototype on a high-fi level.
User testing tools for web designers
There are comprehensive tests suits out there which guide you through the entire usability testing workflows. However, those might be a bit overwhelming for web designers who are just looking for a quick and simple way to get into user testing.
Therefore, I’d like to focus on tools, checklists and templates which offer a quick start kit.
Google Forms for sketch testing
When starting out with a new website idea, pen and paper are still a prefered way to sketch out those ideas. Chances are high that there’s not a low-fi draft or anything else which can be shown to your users.
In this project stage it’s important to verify your hypothesis on your users’ thought processes and conceptual understanding. Explorative testing helps you to asses the effectiveness of your first sketches and ideas.
Google Forms (or similar survey tools) help you to bring light into your users’ thought processes and verify your hypothesis.
Screenshot: Google Forms
Marvelapp for moderated Wireframe testing
As soon as you have some first low-fi wireframes to show users, user tests become more sophisticated. One of the first things you have to decide on is whether you prefer moderated or unmoderated user tests.
On the one hand, an unmoderated test allows you to get a better idea on how your design is perceived out in the wild. However, moderated user tests allow you to control the user’s environment and therefore is absolutely recommended in such early design stages.
Marvelapp is a great alternative for collaborating on wireframes and getting first user feedback.
Invision for Mockups
Invision is one of the most popular prototyping and design tools for UX designers out there. We love it too. And it’s great if you perform remote user tests as it allows users to walk through various stories and design drafts.
With quick comment- and annotation features it’s also great to collect unstructured user feedback and iterate your design drafts.
Invision works best for high-fi mockups, and finished click dummies.
Usersnap for working prototypes
At some point in your design iteration phase, you probably end up working on clickable prototypes, which run inside your browser.
Having already collected a lot of user feedback beforehand, gathering feedback doesn’t stop here. At this stage in your project, user feedback is more important than ever before. It’s the time when your users will experience the website under real conditions.
With Usersnap it’s super-easy to view your prototype through your users’ eyes. All user feedback is sent in form of annotated screenshots which allow you to grasp your user’s thought process and experiences.
Your action plan for user testing
User tests are a widely overlooked instrument to craft better web designs. As a well-conducted user test enables you to gather in-depth insights on your target audiences’ thought processes, we advocate to consider them for your next web design project.
And getting started with user testing during your design stage, I’d like to suggest carrying out the following actions:
- Set up a test plan (and think about scope, budget, and limitations)
- Create a list of goals and deliverables
- Check out the mentioned tools and sign up for the ones which seems to be the best fit for you
- Start embedding first user tests during your design phase
When it comes to the web design of a new project, designers need to be aware of the advantages of fast and easy user feedback cycles. With the mentioned user testing tools design drafts can be tested easily among different user groups, and qualitative data for design iterations are gathered quickly.
Making user testing a priority in your web design projects will not only help you create more beautiful designs, but also better user experiences.
About the author:
Thomas Peham is a tech marketer at Usersnap. He also runs bugtrackers.io, showcasing the life of developers and CTOs. In his free time he writes about the latest design & development trends for sites like scotch.io, t3n.de, and webdesignerdepot.com.