Usability & Accessibility Service
You want to know how real users feel about your website...
You (or others in your organization) might believe your website is perfect, or maybe you know users aren’t able to easily accomplish their goals but don’t know exactly where the problems might be. Getting data based on real users of the website, and not just from the people involved in the design or development, can help provide clarity about what really happens when visitors hit your website.
Structured walkthroughs or thinking aloud evaluations may be the single most valuable usability engineering method available to assess how a website works with its intended visitors.
Basically, a thinking-aloud test involves having a test participant use the website to accomplish specific goals while continuously thinking aloud. By verbalizing their thoughts, the participant enables the human factors engineers who are facilitating the test to understand how users view the website:
- How users react to the visual design—their first impression of the organization
- Where users find the navigation is confusing and where it’s helpful—how easy it is for users to “learn” their way around the website
- What terms or labels work and what ones don’t
- Where users struggle to accomplish a task and where they soar
We work with you to understand your goals and target visitor demographics, recruit and schedule participants, and conduct the test sessions. The results of the evaluation include:
- A list of the strengths and weaknesses of the website
- A prioritized set of recommendations to make the website more effective, usable, and accessible
The Usability Testing Process
We work with you to understand the target audience of your site and then recruit and schedule test participants that meet the desired demographic distribution. Test sessions are conducted face-to-face. In many cases, we’re able to conduct the sessions at our office in Columbus, Ohio. Our working relationship with the Ohio State School for the Blind provides an added dimension to accessibility testing as needed. If your target audience is from a specific location, we’ll work with you to arrange to conduct tests in that area.
The lead facilitator prepares for each session by organizing demographic questionnaires, identifying the scenarios that will be covered at each session, identifying data to drive the scenarios, and arranging session logistics. Test participants are asked to complete the questionnaire and, then, are guided through the website and asked to think aloud as they work through each task.
Sessions are limited to one hour per user. Beyond an hour, test participants may tire or lose interest in the process. A 30-minute break between sessions is scheduled to reset the test environment, review notes, and prepare for the next session. Typically, test participants are given a small gift to thank them for their time.
It takes only five users to uncover 80 percent of high-level usability problems, according to Jakob Nielsen, the author of Usability Engineering.
Two human factors engineers are usually present; one guides the user through the walkthrough while the other sits quietly and takes notes.