Website Usability Testing Tools

Over the last decade or so, we have gotten used to websites designed to provide dynamic content and a rich user experience, viewed on a range different of devices like mobile phones, tablets or computers.

Website usability was considered an important part in the design stage, but that has changed. Now it has taken on a different role, as an essential part of the user experience (UX) testing.

What Is Website Usability?

Simply put, website usability can be summed up as the ease of use of a particular website.

Website usability actually defines and calls for a user-centered design and functionality of a website. That is why it’s still very relevant in UX design and testing.

In order to ensure good usability, it is essential developers and designers provide website users with access to the content they are looking for in an effortless way. If visitors have to spend a lot of time exploring the website in search of the content they need, they are likely to leave.

Remember, websites do not come with a user manual. Users either find what they are looking for, or leave. That’s why it is crucial to provide a good user experience, with easily accessible content and a user interface people will understand intuitively.

Creating a Usable Website

In trying to create a user-centered website, many aspects have to be considered. For example: placing the controls in the right part of the UI, keeping the UI simple and clear, using a logical hierarchy of the content, and so on. All these help the end user in finding what they are looking for, and this obviously means a lot for user retention.

Website usability focuses on both the design and development stage, and uses different processes to create an efficient and easy to use website.

The key point in making a website usable is getting feedback from the users. Most website usability tools focus on testing the UI of a website and gathering user feedback. UX testing is a bit more subjective and can take on different forms, ranging from purely technical checks to focus group testing and other, costlier methods.

Tools for Website Usability Testing

Automatic website usability testing is usually accomplished using one or more specialized tools. These tools usually resemble a survey: users are presented with graphics or UI mock-ups from a website, and are required to answer specific targeted questions about the UI.

User feedback is gathered and processed statistically, providing accurate results about the questions asked.

Features

Some of these tools also support tracking swipes on mobile devices, or creating click heat maps, which provides you with great insight into user interactions with your website. More advanced website usability testing tools can also provide you with a video showing the user’s actions on the screen while using your website, and you can hear the user’s comments about the tasks they performs.

A/B testing is a very popular method for testing two different variations of a web page. In this testing mode, the testing tool presents one half of the users with the A variation and the other half with the B variation of the webpage, so you can compare the user feedback for these variations and choose what is best for your website.

Website usability tools use different testing base approaches, some tools require you to recruit your own testers using integrated support for posting to social media, while other tools already have an established network of testers that will check out your website and provide you with feedback.

Many tools offer basic features as a time-limited free trial, while top notch features are only available with a paid subscription.

Testing Tools

Intuition HQ used to offer one of the standard usability testing tools for free, with some of the advanced features available with a paid subscription. However, Intuition HQ disappeared in early 2017 without explanation, and is no longer available online.

Let’s take a look at a few website usability testing tools that are available:

  • Helio is designed in a way that makes it easy to test your design screenshots with users. Helio provides you with 100,000 global testers ready to check out your work, and you can even select the demographics of the testers to suite your target audience. Using this tool you can get your test results in a couple of hours, speeding up your workflow. Helio offers a nice suite of reports, so presenting the test data is flexible and easier.
  • UsabilityHub offers a rich suite of website usability tests. Some of the services are free, but if you use the free edition, you need to find your own testers. A paid membership provides you with the testers.
  • CanvasFlip offers a basic free plan, and advanced paid plans as well. You can upload your designs and test them out with your own testers. Heatmap user videos are also supported.
  • TestLab seems to be perfectly tailored for mobile devices, with support for swipe tracking and click heat maps. You can use your own testers, or use the TestLab test panel where you can pick the demographics of the testers that will review your project.

Further Reading

If you would like to learn more, we suggest that you to check out some of the following resources on website usability, UI usability in general, and UX testing:

  • Usability.gov has a collection of interesting resources about website usability testing, user research and the user-centered design process. Usability.gov is the leading resource for user experience (UX) best practices and guidelines.
  • Website Usability Introduction and Resources: this is our own page that discusses usability in a general sense and provides links to different resources that will help you in your work.

Books

If you would rather sit back, relax and read a book, take a look at a few website usability books:

  • Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug is very practical, and it is one of the most recommended books on website usability.
  • Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen is the definitive guide to usability from Jakob Nielsen, the world's leading authority on the matter. Many internet professionals around the world have turned to this landmark book, in which Nielsen shares the full weight of his wisdom and experience. From content and page design to designing for ease of navigation and users with disabilities, he delivers complete direction on how to connect with any web user, in any situation.

Summary

Usability is an often overlooked part of website design. But it can be the difference between a website that people use again and again and one they soon forget about, even if they like the features. Pay close attention to the usability of your website. You will be rewarded for the effort.