Part 3 of 4 Law firm website redesigns - how to get it right

Law firm website redesigns can be a challenge, here are a few tips to make your task easier.

In this four part guide we at Web explore some of the challenges facing a Law firm website redesign. We will help you with online strategy, emotional engagement, simple usability testing and how to measure your success with Google Analytics.

Part 3 of 4 – Testing.

Users’ computer Skills are Worse than you think

Research tells us, across 33 rich countries only 5% of the population has high computer related abilities and only a third can complete medium complexity tasks.

It’s worth remembering one of usability’s hard earned lessons - you are not the user. This is why it’s not a good idea to guess what your users need. Since we are likely to be different from your target audience, it’s often misleading to rely on what you like or what you think is easy to use.

Definition of Usability

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 is defined by 5 quality components:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter your website?
  • 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 re-establish 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?


Thinking aloud usability tests.

Definition: In a thinking aloud test, you ask test participants to use the system while continuously thinking out loud - that is, simply verbalising their thoughts as they move through your user interface.

Simple usability tests where users think out loud, they are cheap, robust, flexible and easy to learn. To run a basic thinking aloud usability study, you need to do just 3 things:

  1. Recruit representative users.
  2. Give them representative tasks to perform.
  3. Shut up and let the users do the talking.


Think Aloud Benefits

The method has a host of advantages. Most important, it serves as a window on the soul, letting you discover what users really think about your design. In particular, you hear their misconceptions, which usually turn into actionable redesign recommendations: when users misinterpret design elements, you need to change them. Even better, you usually learn why users guess wrong about some parts of the UI and why they find others easy to use.

The thinking aloud method also offers the benefits of being:

  • Cheap. No special equipment is needed; you simply sit next to a user and take notes as he or she talks.
  • Robust. Most people are poor facilitators and don't run the study exactly according to the proper methodology. But, unless you blatantly bias users by putting words into their mouths, you'll still get reasonably good findings.
  • Flexible. You can use the method at any stage in the development lifecycle, from early paper prototypes to fully implemented, running systems.
  • Convincing. Getting the rest of your team (and management) to sit in on a few thinking-aloud sessions doesn't take a lot of their time and is the best way to motivate them to pay attention to usability.


Think Aloud Downsides

Being cheap and robust are huge upsides of qualitative methods such as thinking aloud. But the flip side is that the method doesn't lend itself to detailed statistics, unless you run a huge, expensive study. Other problems:

  • Unnatural situation. Unless they're a bit weird, most people don't sit and talk to themselves all day. This makes it hard for test participants to keep up the required monologue.
  • Filtered statements (vs. brain dump). Users are supposed to say things as soon as they come to mind rather than reflect on their experience and provide an edited commentary after the fact. However, most people want to appear smart, and thus there's a risk that they won't speak until they've thought through the situation in detail.
  • Biasing user behavior. Prompts and clarifying questions are usually necessary, but from an untrained facilitator, such interruptions can very easily change user behaviour.


How Many Test Users in a Usability Study?

The answer is 5. This lets you find almost as many usability problems as you'd find using many more test participants.

Involving Stakeholders in User Testing

Besides usability specialists, all design team members should observe usability. It's also good to invite executives. Although biased conclusions are possible, they're far outweighed by the benefits of increased buy in and empathy.


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