Usability Testing

Designing web content and navigation systems is increasingly complex. The typical arts website has doubled the amount of content it holds every three years for the last decade. And now we're using web apps, mobile apps and social media to distribute and collect ever more content to engage our audiences.

Usability testing is not new and 'standard' testing is a service often nominally included by web developers. But over the past few years the way that audiences actually use web and digital media resources has changed radically, so the old 'standard' testing assumptions no longer apply.

Old-fashioned usability testing focused on efficiency as its objective. It measured how easily and quickly a user could find what they were looking for. It was assumed that the goal was to get the user in (and back out) in the fewest clicks possible.

MHM's usability testing is different. We focus on effectiveness. Yes, we want users to find what they are looking for, but we also want them to find all the rich related content that is buried elsewhere on the site or app. We measure success not by the fewest clicks but by the depth of visitors' engagement and the site or app's 'stickiness'.

In short, we want the user to find not just what they need but also discover what they want. And in finding this rich content, we want them to lose themselves, creating a segmentation of users by motivation for visiting. We make our testing as real-world as possible rather than turn users into lab rats.

Instead of simply tracking mechanical clicks and scrolls, we use our sector-leading understanding of audience psychology to explore how users are actually interacting: their intellectual and emotional responses to the content and the process of accessing that content.

We also explore whether the site or app is 'on-brand'. Yes, it works fine, but does it feel like you? What impression does it give of your organisation? Is that the reaction you were hoping for?

We also test everything in the fast-moving context of what else is out there. Your site or app might efficiently do what it says on the tin. It might even be effective and on-brand. But it might not be as good as the venue down the road, or the one they use from Google, or the app they have on their phone.

Users' expectations of design and functionality are growing exponentially. Best practice races ahead and common practice is not far behind. But what your developer thinks is a cool, must-have feature, users might see as an annoying gimmick.

We've helped many of our clients, including Tate, V&A, Imperial War Museum and the National Gallery navigate this tricky territory. We work in an open, collaborative and creative way: we don't deliver verdicts on your plan, but work with you and your designers and developers to find the best user-focused solutions.

At MHM, we believe that your web content should be as audience-focused as you want your organisation to be.

A co-founder of Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, Andrew is one of the UK’s leading authorities on...