In the modern reality of advanced technologies and strong competition on the IT market, it is obvious that the basic condition for a product to function is its usability. You don’t have a useful page – you don’t exist.
Users, accustomed to the easy and efficient use of applications, will certainly not be patient in solving problems that arise in them. On the contrary, if they find it difficult to use the application, they will quickly leave it and look for a more convenient, easier-to-use product. Ensuring a high level of usability of the website seems to be the main task of website creators and managers.
Usability is determined by several aspects.
First, it is worth considering what this magical usability is. Jakob Nielsen defined it as a set of 5 elements that allow to define:
- How easy it is to complete simple tasks the first time you use the product – learnable.
- How quickly the product is used by users who already know it – efficiency.
- How easy it is to remember how to use the product after a long break – rememberability.
- How often mistakes are made and how easy it is to get out of them – mistakes.
- How pleasant the product is to use – satisfaction.
In order to assess the degree of usefulness of the website, one should therefore answer the above questions. You can’t do it honestly by relying solely on your own perceptions and intuition. It is worth using proven research tools to test usability. The basic ones are usability audit and usability tests.
A properly conducted usability audit helps to identify key problems.
Usability audit, also known as expert analysis, is a detailed analysis and comprehensive evaluation of a website or web application in terms of their usability. It usually covers the following areas:
- navigation system
- the structure of the home page
- the composition and method of conveying information
- understandability of the information
- usability of forms
Usability audit can be carried out using various methods, the most important of which are:
- heuristic evaluation
- cognitive walkthrough
- usability checklist
As a result of the audit, a report is prepared containing a list of identified problems, errors (along with their description and gradation) and recommended proposed changes.
Usability tests allow to detect difficulties encountered by users while using the website or application.
Usability tests are tests carried out with the participation of users in order to determine the degree of usability of websites or applications. Current or potential users participate in them. Under the guidance of the teacher, they perform various interactions with the interface according to a previously developed scenario. Observation of users’ reactions to individual tasks allows to detect difficulties they face and to determine overall user satisfaction. The entire research session is recorded and then thoroughly analyzed by the researcher in terms of the types and causes of errors made while using the product. The test results (quantitative and qualitative) help identify those elements that positively affect user satisfaction and those that need to be modified.
Usability audit or user tests? What to choose?
Each method has its pros and cons. In the case of an audit, it is worth remembering that an expert is not the same as a user and therefore is not able to fully assume his role. It is especially important when a given website operates in a very specific industry. Then the expert may not notice nuances important from the user’s point of view. In some cases, on the other hand, a specialist may turn out to be too detailed and point out mistakes that are irrelevant to the user.
On the other hand, it is worth noting that the audit also covers those elements that are not able to be indicated by ordinary users, such as e.g. technical features of the product that can be determined by a specialist. Additionally, user research requires more time and can be expensive. In such a situation, it is worth choosing an audit. The most optimal solution seems to be a combination of both techniques. So an audit supported by usability tests.