Usability Test Report

Writing for the Web


Assignment Purpose

Any one can build a web site. Building a usable web site? That's another matter.

In this assignment you will demonstrate your understanding of usability by designing and conducting a usability test for your web site, by writing a report explaining the test findings, and by implementing the test results in revising your web site.

Usability Defined

An excellent reference for this assignment is Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines.

According to Nielsen ("Usability 101"):

"Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word 'usability' also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.

Usability has five quality components:

    Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?

    Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?

    Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?

    Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?

    Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?"

General Methods

Again referring to Nielsen:

" ... [U]ser testing .... has three components:

    Get hold of some representative users such as customers for an e-commerce site (or potential users of the content or potential employers for example);

    Ask the users to perform representative tasks with the design;

    Observe what the users do, where they succeed, and where they have difficulties with the user interface. Let the users do the talking. Test users individually and let them solve any problems on their own. If you help them or direct their attention to any particular part of the screen, you have contaminated the test results.

To identify a design's most important usability problems, testing five users is typically enough ... Iterative design is the best way to increase the quality of user experience. The more versions and interface ideas you test with users, the better.

...[T]o evaluate interaction designs you must closely observe individual users as they perform tasks with the user interface. Listening to what people say is misleading: you have to watch what they actually do."

Specific Methods

Usability.gov outlines 6 methods for usability testing. Given the types of sites being constructed, and the constraints of the class, either one, or a combination of contextual interviews or individual interviews would be appropriate. However should you wish to design another, or more appropriate type of test, please run your idea by me and we can work out the specifics.

Report Format

Recommendations regarding, and examples of, usability test reports:

The following is a general template for the usability report. Here are two examples — Usability Report, Usability Report 1 (document files) — from previous students. Optional sections can be included as you desire but are not required:

    Title Page.

    Executive Summary (Repors Abstracts and Executive Summaries)

    Introduction.

    Web Site Description.

    Test Objectives.

    Method.

      Participants.
      Tasks.
      Participant's Computing Environment.
      Test Administrator Tools.
      Experimental Design.
      Procedure.
      Participant General Instructions.
      Participant Task Instructions.

    Results.

    Data Analysis.

    Conclusions.

    Appendices. Optional

    References. Optional

To complete this assignment:

    • Devise a usability test for your web site;
    • Find appropriate test subjects;
    • Conduct the usability test with no fewer than three subjects;
    • Provide a usability test report.

Due by midnight 7 December:
A 5 to 7 page (1250 to 1750 words) usability test report (not including appendices). Please send the report to me — jim.collier@vt.edu — by e-mail as a document attachment in either .doc or .pdf format.

Web Writing