User-Research Methods & Benefits


User-Research: Quantifying Usability

The normal question most people ask is, "How do you know is a site is usable?"

The answer is user research. At aU we make use of numerous usability testing methods and user-research methods to test our designs and interfaces.

User research is the act of testing a design with actual users. User research allows us to; see first hand how users interact with websites, determine where users run into problems, and gleam information on how user experience can be improved.

These methods include; user observation, task analysis, questionnaires, and interviews.

In Jared Spool's study of 15 large commercial sites, users could only find information 42% of the time even though they were taken to the correct home page before they were given the test tasks.
- Nielsen, October 1998

User-Research Testing Methods

Some of the methods used during the planning and requirements stage of the website design process.

  • Think Aloud Protocol- A method of testing that encourages users to say what they are thinking and why they are taking certain actions while working through defined tasks.
  • Co-Discovery - Similar to think aloud protocol, except with two users interacting with each other to complete tasks.
  • Screen Capture and Eye-Tracking - All of the users mouse actions comments and eye movements are recorded while they complete tasks. This can be done in combination with any other testing method.
  • Heuristic Evaluation - Experts check a website to determine if it follows established usability guidelines.
  • Cognitive Walkthroughs - Members of the design team work through predetermined tasks to test the usability of the website design.
  • Checklists - Usability experts work through the website design to ensure that it meets a predetermined set of goals.