The key function of usability testing is to witness how the average consumer interacts with your product in order to gather information about potential improvements.Usability testing is not only about ensuring that the product fulfills basic functionality requirements, but spotting changes that could be made in the design of your product in order to improve its overall function, which in turn improves user experience. In web design, website usability testing often involves examining user actions and behaviors when instructed to complete a number of tasks on the website. If you are interested in what makes web usability testing different from other kinds of usability testing, follow the link provided for an introduction to website usability testing. The web usability testing process can be greatly improved using a technology that began to take hold on web design usability testing in the late nineties, eye-tracking.
Follow the link provided for a brief history of eye-tracking.
How Does It Work?
The most common method for calculating the focus points of the user’s gaze compares the position of an infrared light (positioned nearby to reflect off of the user’s eye) to the position of their pupil within their eye. This info, when combined with the position of the user’s head, can be used to determine the coordinates on the screen that the user’s gaze is focused on. This setup can be roughly observed within the images to the right.
Why Should I Care?
Using the extrapolated data, analysts can provide web designers with the following:
- An ordered list of fixations or overlooked element.
- This highlights what the users sees or misses.
- The amount of time taken to arrive at any given fixation.
- This relates to how easy or difficult a specific element is to locate.
- The length spent on any given fixation.
- This is related to how engaging or understandable an element is.
- The number of fixations per website element.
- This is related to how distracting or useful an element may be.
All of this information can prove useful in accessing the effectiveness of your website. For example, in a recent study regarding a browser-based game, users were tasked to find their performance on previous levels. Standard usability testing indicated that roughly 50% of users were unable to do so. Eye-tracking, however, indicated that every participant held fixation points on the button needed in order to complete their task, but did not comprehend its purpose. This additional information allowed designers the knowledge that, while the button was easily found, it was not descriptive enough in its purpose. Follow the link provided if you are interested in more about the specifics of this study.
Consumer Reading Patterns
In recent years, researchers have discovered that what your audience sees within the first few seconds of loading your webpage is one of the most important factors for success, especially in the world of ecommerce.
The Golden Rule Of Vision
Additionally, an often cited Nielsen Norman Group study found that users consistently view online content in a variety of patterns, the most dominant being the F-Shaped Reading Pattern, which is comprised of three components.
Users first read following a standard horizontal movement, generally across the upper section of the content area. The first line of content holds focus the longest. This is what forms the top bar of the F.
A user’s gaze moves down the page until it makes another horizontal movement, generally covering a shorter area than the previous. Only the first few words hold focus. This forms the lower bar of the F.
Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a verticle movement. Sometimes this is a methodical scan, and others it is quick, in search of interesting content. This forms the stem of the F.
Further studies performed more recently have mimicked the findings of the original Nielsen Norman Group study, such as the comprehensive Eye Tracking and Web Experience study performed by Worcester Polytechnic Institute. From a combination of studies regarding this common phenomena arose the Gutenberg Diagram, which is the simplest image that explains the prioritization of information by consumers. When combined with the standard understanding of F-Pattern reading, the golden rule of eye-tracking online content was born.
‘F’ Isn’t For Everyone
Although the F-shaped pattern is the most dominant, consumers view content based upon their motivation, personality, and interest in the content they are reading. For this reason, there are a variety of other possible scanning patterns for online content and webpages. These may include:
- LAYER CAKE PATTERN– The eyes scan heading and subheadings while skipping the normal content below. An eye-tracking heat map of this behavior will show horizontal lines, reminiscent of a cake with alternating layers of cake (areas with high focus) and frosting (areas with little to no focus).
- SPOTTED PATTERN– Eye movements skip big chunks of text and instead scan consistently, as if looking for something specific such as links, digits, or a particular word or set of words.
- MARKING PATTERN– The eye stays focused in one place as the mouse scrolls or the finger swipes the page, leaving a consistent mark across the screen. This pattern is more often observed during mobile viewing.
- BYPASSING PATTERN– The eye deliberately skips the first words of a line when multiple lines of text begin with the same wording, such as a list.
- COMMITMENT PATTERN– The eye fixates on nearly everything on the webpage. If the consumer is highly motivated and interested in the content, they will read almost the entire page as apposed to simply scanning.
Fundamentals Of E-Commerce
Trust can be formed in a variety of ways, some of which involve the site’s design as a whole while others focus specifically on the first line of text the user will read. Design elements account for a large amount of a website’s trust (or mistrust). These elements may include:
- Visual Complexity
- Color Scheme
- Font Size
- Font Family
- Search Options
- Navigational Aids
What Does This Mean?
By the time that a website visitor’s eye has zoomed from the left to the right, they’re already working hard to determine whether the site is trustworthy or not. By placing high-priority elements in the path of their eye, you’ll appear more trustworthy. Consumers don’t want to think about about how to navigate your site, they want you to do that. Follow the link provided for more info about trust in ecommerce.
Meet The Contenders
Viewers of websites generally follow the same three-step looking process, and this is where the three “hidden gems” or contenders for consumer attention appear.
The visitor will give a disproportionate amount of attention to the hero: the headline combined with the most prominent image. This section needs to hook the visitor an immediatley confirm their trust for the site. The consumer cannot be made to feel as if they’ve clicked into the website without reward. It is crucial that your headline and image hold a consistent message and blend together ell to create a clear statement about your websites overall purpose and effectiveness.
The second place a visitor is likely to look is the header, most likely the websites navigation bar. Again, it is important to maintain a synonymous message and design, and make titles obvious. Short and easy titles help the navigation process of the user. The easier the navigation process for the consumer, the more views or sales you’re likely to garner.
The visitor is not likely to read your entire webpage in sequence, but rather to hop around, placing their attention in different fixation points across the page. These hops, however, are predictable. As the viewer seeks out relevant information, they’re likely to hop between headers first,. The second most important hop point for visitors are images and videos, however, NPPA research author Sara Quinn notes in a 2015 Poynter article that captions for images and videos are a highly underutilized yet extremely important element for website visitor experience.
For more information regarding the specifics of these ecommerce tips, visit the provided article regarding the science behind ecommerce eye-tracking.
Conducting Usability Testing
While some people may believe that usability testing is costly and complex, that could not be further from the truth. Studies show that the best results of usability testing come from running multiple tests with no more than 5 users. The image to the right indicates the percentage of usability problems found compared to the number of users tested. The curve of the graph steepens quickly and then flattens, as many of the same users will encounter the same issues over time, creating overlap.
The curve of the graph would indicate that you require 15 users to test the website to find all of the potential flaws. However, Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group would suggest that you only need to test with five users. Why is that?
Essentially, this theory explains that after testing with five users, you should opt for a redesign of the website. Since five users will generally find roughly 85% of usability issues within a website, you have enough information to make significant fixes. However, since nobody can design the pefect website, some of these fixes may lead to greater usability issues, warranting another test. Nielsen argues that by testing your website with five users at a time, you improve your website much greater than by testing it with one large study of fifteen total users, as you have potential to fix the problems you may be creating in the process.
When To Test
After original testing, you may need to test with a greater number of users. This situation is applicable if your website has a high number of highly distinct groups of users. For example, imagine an elementary school website that is intended to be easily navigated by both school children and parents. One would need to run usability testing focused on both categories to ensure their website is optimized for easy navigation and comprehension for both groups.
Follow the provided link for the basics on usability testing.