Responsive design, in the context of website use, simply refers to the how a website adapts to the display it is being viewed on. The objective of good responsive design is to make sure that the website restructures itself to provide a consistent user experience across all devices. But, how do developers make sure that their website is as responsive as it needs to be?
Well, the only way to figure that out is through testing. However, when it comes to testing website responsiveness, there are generally two options – technical testing and user testing.
Technical testing involves testing the website’s responsiveness by actually accessing it via multiple devices and applying other factors such as changing bandwidths etc.
User testing, on the other hand, involves observing real users access the website and collecting their valuable feedback. In this article, we’re going to look at user testing.
Why User Testing?
As developers, we are well versed with how a product must work and despite having that kind of an experience; we are likely to be biased. With user testing, the chances of bias are significantly lower. After all, you’re relying on the feedback of your actual target demographic. Who better than them to tell you how your website needs to behave?
Now, user testing isn’t a process that involves a blanket approach. It’s highly detailed and there are different types of user testing. You need to apply most of them in order to gain a clear picture of what’s missing and what isn’t.
Let’s take a look at all the various user testing methods you need to apply.
Task -based Testing
In this form of user testing, the user is asked to execute a series of tasks on the website. The user is monitored when executing these tasks to see if he/she is successful in completing them or not. If a task isn’t completed as intended or left incomplete, it indicates a problem with the design.
For example, this could involve making a purchase from an e-commerce site. In this case, the entire process is monitored; right from product browsing to payment.
In order for task-based testing to be effective, it is ideal to have at least 5 users working on multiple tasks.
Controlled Testing Vs. Free Exploration
Here, the testing process is divided into two scenarios. The first scenario involves users being told exactly what to do by the tester. This results in the collection of relevant feedback at every step of the process. Users may also be asked about their expectations before moving onto the next step of the process.
In a free exploration test, the user is asked to use the website in a more natural manner and feedback is collected along the way. The benefit here is that the feedback here is more genuine. In controlled testing, the feedback is more detailed.
Before you begin user testing, there are a few considerations to be made. You have to first determine who your target users are. Demographics play a key role here. For instance, a younger demographic is likely to use the site from a mobile platform.
Determining your ideal demographic goes a long way in collecting relevant feedback.
Speaking of demographics, make sure your testing is conducted on devices that are familiar to your users. So, always have multiple options available; iOS, Android, Windows or whatever it may be. If possible, you can also have the test conducted on the devices owned by the users. This helps provide feedback that is specific to how they use your product. Unfamiliar devices will bring in their own issues, which can skew the findings.
In order to receive proper feedback, you must observe every interaction possible, especially when mobile devices are involved. People tend to be more intimate in their interactions when using mobile devices. To make things easier, you can try capturing the interactions on video. There are also screencast applications that can record each move the user makes.
In some cases, developers even attach head cams to get a perspective of what the user is actually doing. This method provides better insights on what the user is actually looking at or searching for.