Posts in Usability
Usability study: beliefs are more important than requirements
Have you ever heard "no one would do that"..."every user knows that" types of answers? You knew it's wrong. You've dealt with it.

And now here's a great article by Jakob Nielsen in today's tip: Mental Models.

Please read the entire article via the link provided, I put here just a few lines (per author's copyright requirements).

  • What users believe they know about a UI strongly impacts how they use it.

  • Individual users each have their own mental model.

  • Many of the usability problems we observe in studies stem from users having mixed-up mental models that confuse different parts of the system.

Before I thought of "role-based testing" in terms of user access type roles and security settings. I see now how to enrich my exploratory testing scenarios based on mental model simulation: a newbie user, a "quick-clicker", a multitasker, came-from-competitor user,... list goes on.

Share your experience with us.
Ten 20 Years Old Usability Heuristics
Jakob Nielsen, one of the world's top experts in user interface design and application usability, was once already referred in Quick Testing Tips.

In today's tip I want to bring readers' attention to Usability Heuristics as ready-to-use test oracles. Please read entire list via the link provided, I put here just one as an example (per author's copyright requirements).
User control and freedom
Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.
I've just spent a few minutes playing around with fivesecondtest. It's a bit addictive. It's an online tool for usability testing. From the site:
People use five second test to locate calls to action, optimize landing pages, and run A/B tests. You can use them for whatever you like.

You can either submit content for testing, or you can be a tester. There are two test scenarios: five second memory test and five second click test. With the memory test, you see an image for five seconds and then you're asked to list five things you remember. With the click test, you're asked to click on things you notice in five seconds, then describe what they are.

The memory test is hard. Five seconds is a lot of time, and I noticed the following patterns with my testing:

  • The more text a site had, the less I remembered

  • The more detailed the graphics the site had, the less I remembered

  • The larger the images, the less I remembered

  • The more correlated the logo and site look and feel were to the product, the more I remembered

  • The less fancy the font, the more I remembered

  • The fewer headings the site had, the more I remembered

The click test was much easier, and for me, more fun. I noticed the following:

  • I clicked on contact information when it was there

  • I clicked on headings when they were there

  • I clicked on social media links when they were there

  • I clicked on forms (submit a question, etc...) when they were there

  • I clicked on user ratings when they were there

I like the idea of using something like this to gauge if a call to action is effective. I also suspect it can help you easily determine if your site might be too busy. I know I froze up on the more complex sites. I both couldn't remember anything and I couldn't focus on anything long enough to click on it before time expired. It became apparent to me what types of designs "worked" for me.

If you need some simple usability feedback, give it a try. If you're a tester and just want something fun to practice on, I found this a nice short diversion. I suspect I'll check back from time to time to test other designs.
Testing website content
UX Booth (and author Matthew Kammerer) posted a fantastic article on user friendly content. In the article he covers a couple of topics that I think work well as test heuristics:

  • Avoid using abbreviation

  • Make headlines and opening sentences "scanable" by making them your most informative content

  • Make paragraphs smaller

  • Check the reading level of the content

  • Use active voice

In the article he provides some good links to related content.
Quick tests for landing pages
Mary Flaherty wrote an article recently titled Are Your Landing Pages Driving Clients Away? In the article, she provides some great tips, that I think also make great test ideas. Here's a quick summary:

  • Does the landing page have a clear call to action? In her words, "Where's the doorbell?" Test ideas around this might include asking users if they know what they're suppose to do next once they hit the landing page. Or watching where they go and seeing if there's convergence or not.

  • Does the landing page present all the options in a manageable way? That is, can you quickly see what the options are, and find what you might need? In her words, "Which door is which?" Test ideas around this might include asking users to find specific information and seeing how long it takes for them to find it from landing - again looking for convergence. I might also ask users to write down what they think the site contains without navigating past the landing, and time how long it takes them to do it.

  • If you collect visitor information, only ask for what's absolutely necessary.  Test ideas include looking at the business process being served by collecting the information and evaluating how it would change if something wasn't collected. Is that ok? Less might be more at this early stage...

  • How is information laid out and what's the quality of the copy editing. She identifies this as the risk of "TMI." Test ideas include making sure the site has copy guidelines (and they are followed), ensuring the writing is appropriate for the audience (jargon, concepts, structure, etc...), and making sure the layout is visually appealing. Mary also talks about dumping unneeded animations, choosing relevant images, and keeping information up to date and relavent. All of these are possible tests and/or heuristics for possible problems with the site.

Check out the full article for more ideas.