The Value of Usability Testing: More than just a test.

So, you’re building out your new website. You’ve organized all of your content, built wireframes for all of your pages and you’ve got your talented team of graphic designers working on branding and finding good images for the site. But when launch rolls around, you realize that you’ve forgotten the most important part of the user experience, usability.

What is usability?

Usability is how easy it is to use an object. The object can be virtually anything. Tools, machines, books, software applications and websites are all objects that require some form of usability testing. Usability testing for websites and software applications helps to assess whether or not a user is able to easily achieve their goals while they are using the site or application.

How do we test usability?

There are many methods to test usability. Our experience in building intranets and public facing websites have led us to test using proven practices that help us determine whether or not users can find what they are looking for on a website and how long it might take for them to achieve their goals. We look at the paths users choose, navigation cues they gravitate to and ultimately how they found (or didn’t find) the information they were looking for. These usability tests are critical in creating an effective information architecture and a quality user experience.

When evaluating the usability of a site, we also inspect how fast pages are loaded on the page. There are a number of tools that can be used to measure the speed of a site. If your page is slow to load, it’s likely users will leave your site and never return. We found a cool site that tests the speed of your site called GTmetrix. Feel free to test it out!

Our team also digs deep into determining site usability by leveraging in-page analytics, assessing the visual design of the site, testing site performance on different platforms, and comparative testing.

We are really big fans of the Google toolkit. Analytics, Mobile-Friendly Tests and PageSpeed Tools. These tools will be very helpful if you are optimizing for site for improved usability.

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Understanding Treejack.

We use a usability testing product called Treejack by Optimal Workshop. Treejack allows us to evaluate using a method that delivers two scores, a Success Score and a Directness Score. We look at these two scores to determine whether or not users found what they were looking for. Here is a summary of what we evaluate:

Treejack from Optimal Workshop screenshot of a usability test
Treejack from Optimal Workshop screenshot of a usability test

Success Score:

  • How many participants chose a correct answer?
  • The Success Score refers to the percentage of participants who selected a correct answer, regardless of whether or not they had to jump around the tree a few times before doing so.
  • A Success Score of around 80% or more is considered a good score for a task.
  • The Success Score is also broken down into Direct and Indirect.

Directness Score: 

  • How many participants went directly to an answer (correct or incorrect) without going back?
  • The Directness Score is the percentage of participants who did not backtrack at all when selecting an answer, whether their answer was correct or incorrect. It attempts to measure how certain participants were in selecting their answer, though it’s important to not assume too much about what your participants were thinking.
  • If a participant considers that they have gone the wrong way at any point and backtracks to go down a different branch, they will be excluded from the Directness Score.

Making usability a priority.

Unfortunately, a single lousy user experience and poor usability could push audiences away forever. In our usability testing approach, we look to create a fast and intuitive experience that allows users to achieve their goals on the site at launch. We have made usability and usability testing a priority by testing site behavior and performance on different web browsers and on mobile devices. We have also invested in a broad set of proven the tools that allow us to test and validate user behavior.

Your investments in an intranet or public facing site are too great to be wasted on a poorly performing website that doesn’t deliver on the expectations of the user. If you are building a website using SharePoint or any other platform, usability testing should be a top priority. Contact Kiefer if you’d like us to help you in building a high-performing public-facing website or intranet. We can be reached at (916) 932-7220 or at


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