Usability testing is a quick, valuable and affordable method of testing and evaluating any interface. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t require renting an expensive usability lab with one-way mirror, acoustic room and eye-tracking implants. Usability testing for a web site can be done virtually anywhere with a laptop and a reasonably priced screen recording software.
Anything can be tested, from a one-pager paper sketch, to a production ready news portal, to a touch screen car console (yes, we’ve done that, too).
The testing is usually conducted in multiple rounds with 3-10 participants per round. Each participant is observed and recorded while they are trying to complete a list of predetermined tasks. Video and notes are then analyzed to set priorities and provide guidelines for fixing problems with focus on cost-effective tweaks first and costly major redesign later.
Usability testing can help with any particular task oriented process, such as a registration or a web shop checkout, but it can also be used to evaluate readability, memorability or findability on a content-driven web site.