Testing the Usability of a Website Hassle Free

It’s commonly believed that testing the usability of a website is a major pain, more so than that of traditional software, mobile apps or any other technological design out there. That actually used to be pretty true, but with the refinements to web design languages and protocols, and with the better testing tools, hardware of course, the growing embrace of web design as a very serious platform, this has changed.

It’s possible to test the usability of a website quite easily, with minimal headache now. You still have to gather some diverse resources to truly test a website’s usability fully, but it’s not the insurmountable challenge it once was.

The biggest challenge in testing a website is ensuring compliance with a multitude of devices. This is what has always made proper, full-reaching tests a real pain. It required having access to, or knowing a willing participant with access to these devices, and then drilling all the repeated interactions of general usability testing through this logistical nightmare.

Well, you still need to test these devices, but now, it’s not so bad. Emulators are programs which enable the operation of software that runs on foreign hardware. It does this by translating the instructions intended for this other hardware, into ones that your hardware understands. This was first applied to running game console binaries on PCs, which is of legal ambiguity at best. However, with the beefiness of modern computers, it helps with usability testing, legally.

So, to test how well the website runs on Mac only browsers, in mobile interfaces and a number of console browsers is simple, by running virtual machines or emulators provided by the producers of this hardware, and then running this stage of usability testing from one machine if need be. How convenient is that?

But, that’s not the end of how easy these tests are now, because multi-browser and multi-device compliance isn’t all there is to testing website usability, now is it? You need real analytics from real users, “in the wild”. Only then will you be able to tell if the design makes sense and is comfortable to them, and if the efficiency and speed of the site complies with the frequency of queries and requests the users throw at it. Also, this is the only way to know where the lowest speeds used will begin to hamper the load and response times of heftier designs.

Well, in the past, this called for agonizing tests requiring tons of reports and surveys being filled by users testing the site – often voluntary submissions during “beta” phase which half the users would neglect to submit, as they moved on with their web surfing.

Now, you can capture these analytics without them manually submitting them, using an onboarding system like WalkMe. WalkMe was originally designed as a tutorial creation program which can integrate directly into web designs, where it can be aware of user interaction through monitoring the website elements directly.

WalkMe can then spot where problems with the user’s interaction are happening – where the site is lagging, or patterns indicating when the user is wandering aimlessly because the navigation or presentation confuses them, or other such things.

WalkMe can be point-and-click scripted, requiring no programming skill, to then submit all this data to a central location, where you can see where users are getting lost, having speed issues, or even trouble understanding it.

Now, it’s super easy to test the usability of a website. That happened quietly and suddenly, didn’t it? It seems like only yesterday, this was a nightmare to work with!

Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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