Have you ever seen applications which are not pretty or trendy but are so simple and handy for solving your tasks? What makes people continue using them when there are a lot of other, nicer looking, “up to visual trends” applications on the market? The answer is their usability.
What is usability?
Usability is the ease of access or use of an application (web/mobile). There are 5 criteria of usability:
1. The app should be easy to learn. New users should start to use the application easily with no additional instructions or documentation. Complicated interfaces are in the past, and now users expect simple and minimalistic applications.
2. It should be efficient. How quickly the customer will understand how to perform the action he needs and complete the objectives is an important consideration.
3. It should be memorable. The customer has already spent some energy on learning how to use the product. One question to consider is “How easy the usage may continue after some break in time (several months, for example)?
4. Then, there are user errors. How well does the product prevent the customer from making errors? How many are allowed, and what are the nature of those errors?
5. Let’s not forget customer satisfaction. Are the customers satisfied with the website functionality and its representation?
If the usability criteria are not met, I.e., the product is difficult to use, then customers will not continue using it. Instead, they will search for other alternatives. If the product is not specific and has many competitors, customers will choose the option that provides a better experience. So, the big takeaway here is that customers will not try to understand how to use a bad product.
How to improve the website usability
To start improving usability, we need to understand what is wrong. Often, we may come to a conclusion about the points for improvement, but mostly, that is subjective. We may not see what are the most critical pinpoints for the customers and instead, choose to concentrate on secondary problems.
The feedback about your app in popular social networks and/or the feedback form on the website itself are good channels to understanding what problems customers face. And this feedback is pretty cheap. Another way is to handle the situation is through usability testing. Usability testing is the most effective way to get feedback from real users and plan further enhancements.
A typical usability testing scenario consists of 4 phases:
Prepare a list of known problems or scenarios you would like the customers to follow. List those hypothesis that needs to be checked. For example, a problem may be "the sales are falling", and a hypothesis would be "because customers have problems providing a delivery address".
Prepare a list of scenarios/tasks to complete. For example, register, place an order, create a subscription, etc. Note the questions to be clarified during the testing and the behaviour expected from the customers.
Based on the list of problems/hypotheses, figure out the target audience for the research. The audience may be located at the same location or remotely. This decision often depends on the testing type (i.e., a focus-group, interview, moderated or immoderate online testing, etc.).
Give the tasks to the customers and watch. The testing may include eye-tracking and other technologies which help analyse the testing results later. Write down all the problems the customers experienced and how solve them. If the testing is moderated, clarify what the expectations were, what affected their behavior, what were the feelings.
Again, based on the usability testing type and its goals, the researcher may participate in the process and help the customer, clarifying the related questions and getting more insider information. Alternatively, the researcher might not interrupt the testing process at all to simulate the same “alone” situation the customer is faced with at home.
In complicated cases and especially when additional behavioural information gathered with eye trackers, heat maps and other technologies is needed, it is recommended to use a specialised customer testing agency. Additionally, this agency will be able to help analyse all the information.
Usability and conversion
Usability can be measured through conversion. For example, what percentage of the website visitors performed the target action? In most cases, usability is defined as order purchase and average order value (which gets affected through multiple points - the navigation, search, content, etc.). The usability cost is low if the customer does not spend extra energy when working with the product.
To improve the conversion, designers and engineers work on the following topics:
- Decreasing the click count needed to complete customer objectives by make them simpler and more obvious;
- Increasing the page loading speed;
- Removing redundant elements and functionality to make the design minimalistic and understandable.
The product usability must be considered at all stages of the product development. That is why the tests should be simple, quick, and inexpensive. By working accordingly to the Agile methodology, the vector of development is constantly corrected, and the usability testing is the key process in that. Do not forget about this while working on the product.