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Abolish the Designer-User Disconnect with Click Tests

By on Feb 2, 2011 in Web Applications, Web Design, Web Engineering

There are many teams out there developing products from inside a box. These teams emerge from this box with a new product and say, “TADA!!…” And when they find out the people don’t like it, they go back into the box and try to make tweaks; rinse, repeat. It’s hard to find out what users want and need when we work in isolation. There’s a huge lack of understanding of what users need and what we can provide for them. It’s called the designer-user disconnect.

Usability testing can bring user and designer closer together and abolish this disconnect. In web design, usability testing is about finding out what the user wants in a website experience and delivering that in the end design. Usability tests tell us where the user tends to click most. It tells us if information is easy to find or even what elements on a page leave impressions with the user. It gives us, as designers and developers, a chance acquire a concrete direction towards design improvement.

Effective Usability Testing

Usability testing can be expensive and turtle-slow. Traditional tests require an administer who guides a user through different tasks and notes verbal and non-verbal data in-person. This often requires more manpower and a full, working prototype. Developing a fully functional website – even a prototype – can be resource and budget intensive.

We use a method called “click testing”, which is based on screenshots and not functional pages. The user is prompted on screen an instruction to click somewhere on the website mockup and the testing app would record where that particular user chose to click. Taking this data, we can find if elements of the design are truly effective or not.

For instance, a sample test would be, “Click where you can find more about Loud Dog.” A click heat map would show where users would click when prompted this question.

Sample click-test for http://www.louddog.com/

We use a web application called Verify App to do our click-tests. They even provide a whole slew of other screenshot-based usability tests that can give us more insight to our users’ experiences. We can show them two different mock-ups of the same page and content, and the user can pick their preference and type in the reason for their choice. Other info that can be harvested is how they feel about certain parts of the screen shot or even give them free reign over what they want to comment about what they liked or disliked.

These tests take seconds for a user to complete! Just tweet a test and you’ll get all the information you need to move onto the next steps of the design phase. This method is about being quick, effective with time, and making improvements early in the game.

In Conclusion

Just keep testing! Ask your mom! Ask your neighbor! Ask the post man! You don’t even have to show them a Photoshop mock-up, just a pen and paper sketch! Keep gathering feedback on your work so you can constantly improve! There’s no sense in working in a box. Abolish the designer-user disconnect!

Hey! This wasn't written by a scope of pelicans! It was written by , who does awesome work at Loud Dog, a digital branding firm in San Francisco that helps businesses express themselves authentically via identities, websites, and marketing collateral.

If you want us to do awesome work for you, if you have a question, or if you're just feeling lonely and want to chat, we want to hear from you!

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