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How do I evaluate my website from a usability standpoint?

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I think you'll be asked for more specifics, but it couldn't hurt to try this question over at uxexchange.com –  danlefree Aug 15 '10 at 15:10
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Loaded Question! You will need to conduct user tests. Try reading "Don't make me Think" and "Rocket Surgery Made Easy" by Steve Krug.

These book are a must read for this topic and will show you how to do the testing.

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"Don't make me Think" looks for sure as a great book, that book is still in reservation for the few months at the BANQ (biggest library in Quebec). That's the first book in programming that I have seen with so long delay and so much reservation. –  HoLyVieR Jul 9 '10 at 16:47
    
+1. You can go to Barnes & Noble, order a coffee, sit down and read "Don't Make Me Think" and you'll be finished before your coffee is cold. –  jessegavin Jul 9 '10 at 18:33
    
Don't make me think is great: you might edit to include links: sensible.com/dmmt.html and sensible.com/rocketsurgery –  artlung Jul 9 '10 at 18:40
    
Steve Krug took out all the user testing stuff from 'Don't MMT' for the 2nd edition and expanded it into 'Rocket Surgery'. The missing chapters from the 1st edition can be downloaded for free from his site (sensible.com/dmmt.html) –  pelms Jul 11 '10 at 16:26
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Have your mother use it. I'm not kidding. Ask her to visit it then tell you what it does, make sure you are nowhere in the vicinity when she tries it.

Doesn't have to be mom, just someone who doesn't have a technical background and who uses their browser for only a few basic tasks.

"Hallway testing" is important, but most people in the hallway (if at your office) aren't going to be the people actually using the app. Of course, that does depend on your target audience.

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Target audience is critical. My mother, while otherwise a good example of a user, does not care about the new expense reporting application I wrote. –  Andres Jaan Tack Jul 9 '10 at 15:54
    
Target audience indeed. Caring about the web app isn't enough. I care about it, but I'm not the target audience. –  Rebecca Chernoff Jul 9 '10 at 16:15
    
Have your mother, friend & significant other test it out and you'll get 3/4 of the way there. –  jessegavin Jul 9 '10 at 18:34
    
@jessegavin - half the battle is just signing up :) –  Tim Post Jul 9 '10 at 20:23
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The best way to find out how user friendly your site is, is to run usability tests.

This is a very big area, and for very high profiled webpages, is done in special created usability testing labs, that can track eye movement, while recording the session.

The test

But you can make your own usability tests yourself, cheap and useful. More cheap tests is usually better than one expensive test. And you want to test your website before it's all done, so you can alter design and functionality that users don't understand early in the process. what's important to get a useful test, is to give your subject a task, and ask him or her to explain what they are thinking, and why they are doing what they are doing. You will sometimes be very surprised how people react in a way you didn't anticipate. Remember to take notes, if you don't record the test.

The subjects

For most websites, ordinary people will be the best audience. If you make something that require a special knowledge, like a statistical analysis tool, you should try to hand pick the subjects. If you have trouble finding people, you can hire them to come in and test your website and pay them $20-50.

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I haven't tried them, but I have considered using UserTesting

For $39 you get:

· Video of a visitor speaking their thoughts as they use your site

· Written summary describing the problems they encountered

http://www.usertesting.com/

Does anyone have any experience with them?

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I have recently come across UserFly (haven't tried it myself). You probably should also consider getting feedback from websites like ConceptFeedback

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