Lesson 1: Testing the Usability of Navigational Systems
Usability testing is a way of evaluating how target users are using a website.
This is a necessary step in the design process, because often users do not
approach a website in the same way that its designers do. Usability testing
helps to identify areas where your site navigation isn't working as you intended
it to, and may reveal other user behaviors that you hadn't anticipated.
At the completion of this exercise:
- you will be able to describe four common steps in a usability test
- you will have an opportunity to conduct your own usability test on a website of your choosing
A Typical Usability Test
A typical usability test will involve these four steps:
- Find representative users
from the target population. For example, if the
site is a company's online shopping site, represenative target users
be consumers who shop for the types of products sold by that company.
- Ask the users to perform representative tasks
on the website. For example,
represenative tasks on an online shopping site might include:
- Find a particular product (as the tester, you would specify the product)
- Place that product in your shopping cart and proceed to checkout
- Find a phone number to call a customer service representative
- Observe what the users do.
Write down all the steps they take, and whether
they succeed or fail in performing the requested task. Don't provide any assistance
to the users - just let them solve any problems on their own and write down
how they go about doing so.
- Summarize your results.
By observing several users, what have you learned
about the design of this website? How might it be improved?
- Read Usability 101, by Jakob Nielsen.
- Your teacher will assign you to a group. The other students in your group
will be the subjects in your usability test, and you will be theirs.
- Select a large website on which
to conduct a usability test.
- Write down who the target audience is for this website.
- Write down three
representative tasks for this website.
- Work with your other group members to decide upon an order of usability
To conduct a usability test, you must watch each of your other group members,
one at a time, as they perform the three representative
tasks that you've identified. When you're testing one subject, the other
subjects should not be present since this will affect the results.
- Assign the subject one task at a time, and watch them perform this task.
Record your observations in detail. Document all steps that each subject
took, as well as anything else you might have noticed, including comments
made by the subject, evidence of confusion, etc. Don't help the
subject. Just observe.
- Open the file unit5.htm. You will use this file to show
completion of all lessons in Unit 5, just as you did in Unit 4. In the previous lesson, you should
have added a banner to the top of this web page. Now, just beneath the
banner, add a main heading (using <h1>
tags). The heading should be "Unit 5: Overall Site Design and
- Beneath the main heading, add a sub-heading "Usability
Study Report". Beside the heading place an anchor like this
On your portfolio home page, make the text
referencing this lesson a hyperlink to this new section, as you did
throughout Unit 4.
- After all subjects have completed the tasks, write a report to post on your portfolio. In
your report summarize what you learned from the usability test.
At a minimum, the report should include the following three sections,
identified using <h3> subheadings:
Format your results using any XHTML you feel is appropriate,
such as paragraphs, lists, and/or another level of subheadings.
- Method - What website did you study? Who is the
target audience? What three tasks did you assign to your subjects?
- Results - Were subjects able to complete the
tasks you assigned them? Was it easy for them? How much time, or how many
steps, did it take to complete the tasks?
- Discussion - What did you learn from this
study about the website? Is the current design effective? Why or why not?
How might the site be designed differently so that users
could more easily perform the representative tasks?
Show your instructor the written results of your usability test. The proceed to
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