Simple Testing

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Each semester I get in front of 20 or so Bethel students and teach a class on usability testing. I take the opportunity to model a usability test right in front of them and then ask them to perform tests of their own.

Just before I taught the usability class this spring we launched a new site for visual and performing arts events. One of the concerns expressed after launch was that people wouldn’t be able to find it. Some were pushing for a link on the homepage, but we weren’t convinced this was necessary. We already had a link to an events landing page with performing and visual arts sitting on prime real estate.

This was a perfect testing opportunity. I wrote a test case to see if the class could find our new performing and visual arts site. Take a look at one of the tests:

Turns out that the events link worked for this group of students. Now, I know there are many other audiences–prospective students, parents, alumni, and others–but the fact of the matter is that most of us don’t test at all because we get paralyzed by the multitude of options and our growing lists of pressing priorities. Sometimes we also spend more time defending our decisions than testing them.

But each time I teach this class, I’m amazed at what I learn from carrying out a few simple tests. So remember, keep your eyes open and look for areas to test. You don’t have to test everything and you don’t have to test everyone. Go simple, straightforward, and do it often. Who knows what you’ll learn.