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Usability Testing

Paul Reinheimer Mar 21, 2011 UX

Several weeks ago while attending the fantastic Webstock conference I also attended a full day tutorial by Christine Perfetti of Perfetti Media on Usability Testing. The tutorial was fantastic, I’ve been interested in usability for years, and my shelf has several books on the subject (Designing Web Usability, Prioritizing Web Usability, and Don’t make me think) but I learned a lot.

During the tutorial we performed actual usability tests on our fellow attendees on our own websites. One of the tasks I assigned to my victims/volunteers was simple (or so I thought):

You work for a small company with a total of 5 developers and testers and require access to seven servers, mostly in the US but one or two in Europe would be great. Which plan will meet your needs?

Having developed the site, this is a question I can answer in seconds. It took the testers however several frustrating tries to actually find the information, generally they found it by exhausting all other options. The problem I discovered was the text of the link to the details page:

The testers read that link as being a "checkout" link, as opposed to a way to get more information. Thinking about it more critically, it was rather silly. The process of links you follow to actually purchase read: Sign Up -> Details -> Buy Now. The intermediate step seems like a step in the wrong direction. Placing Sign Up on the front page is a great call to action, but it’s not what the link does, and it hides critical details from enquiring minds.

Accordingly, we’ve now changed the text of the link to "Service Plans" (and tragically lost the snowman which has been with us since the start). This provides a much more sensible series of links "Service Plans" -> Details -> Buy Now. The Details button itself is still quite ugly, but that’s a problem for a future post.

I don't expect this to have a radical and immediate affect on sales, but I hope I have made the site less confusing for the prospective client. I’d highly recommend usability testing (and Christine in particular as a trainer/facilitator) for any developer seeking to improve their site.


Paul Reinheimer

Developer, support engineer, and occasional manager. I enjoy working on new products, listening to customers, and forgetting to bill them. Also: co-founder.