Whether you build a simple brochure style site or a dynamic socially enabled site, usability needs to be at the forefront to keep the user’s attention. So, how does one do this if there simply isn’t a budget for user testing? Do it yourself! Sounds hard and time consuming? Guess again. User testing can most definitely be expensive and daunting, but we believe in a very short time period and with some simple tools you can find the key user issues and fix them.

DIY User Testing Mottos:
– do it often, do it early
– grab anyone
– test the site, not your team’s agenda (this means no leading questions or assistance)

Here are some tips and tricks on one type of testing: the napkin test.

Before you start anything with your web developer, start with a napkin. Sketch out what your homepage or product page will look like, then grab just about anyone you can and ask them, “what do you think this is supposed to be?”

Notice how I didn’t ask “do you like this?” or “what do you think of this?” You’re asking them to determine what your site is, not give their personal opinion.

Then listen carefully.

If your site is offering online courses and you showed them the homepage, the tester may say, “this looks like a homepage and it looks like you are trying to sell an online course, and this login button shows I can get to the courses right away. But I’m not sure what this partners area is.”

This quickly shows you that you perhaps the partners area doesn’t have to be so prominent on the homepage. Maybe it needs to be renamed or removed entirely from the homepage. You can also ask a few questions to understand what the tester thinks this element means to gain more insight.

In short, with a napkin, a pen and 5 minutes of someone’s time you already have a great start to your website!

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on more DIY user testing!

* Source: Rocket Surgery Made Easy – Steve Krug