In my recent post about Responsive Design, I received an interesting comment from one reader. He said that my point is misleading, has no technological merit, I have no idea what I am writing about, and I should delete my post.
Despite this not so favorable response (LOL), I also had another comment, which gave me the idea for this post. It also reminded me why I post, as I like the ideas that come from getting and giving feedback to these posts.
Regarding Usability Testing, I am sure it works well for many, but it does not work well for me, and here is why.
There is a big difference between a real user, and a usability expert viewing my website.
A real user might spend hundreds of hours or years on my website analyzing properties, and this makes sense. With the high price of homes, this is their biggest purchase. There is no money back guarantee, so they really need to do their homework.
A usability expert is only spending 20 minutes or so on my website, and they are not spending hundreds of thousands or millions on a new home. Their goal is to record about 20 minutes of video (or spend 20 minutes with me if we do it live), giving me suggestions on how they see my website. A lot of time is spent on the homepage, and the overall feel of the website, without ever doing any intensive searches or analyzing the results.
In my most recent try, the expert did not even know what my site was about when he landed on it. That really does not reflect a real user, because real users come to your website from a Google Search, an ad, or word of mouth. They know exactly why they are going there, and what they hope to find.
I also have had feedback from users that have a lot of experience with Real Estate sites, and they essentially want my site to look like other Real Estate sites that they like. While these other sites look good, it does not mean my objective should be to copy their look. I want my site to be unique, to stand out from the competition, rather than blend in with the competition.
I can see how usability testing works well for Walmart.com and Amazon.com and other similar sites. Their buyers don’t want to spend a lot of time on their website, they want to find what they need, buy it, and get on with their day. The purchases are normally under $500, and the risk is small, as they usually offer a money back guarantee.
The best suggestions I receive are from my actual users, and I encourage them to make suggestions, and let me know if they see a bug.
That being said you still might want to do Usability Testing, but keep in mind the points above when you get your test results.