Pocket Guide to do it yourself Usability Testing


Usability testing is a technique which is used to evaluate website usability i.e. how easy it is for the visitors to use your website.

This technique should not be confused with website accessibility which measures how much accessible your website is to search engine crawlers like googlebot.

This technique should also not be confused with A/B testing in which marketers usually test their own assumptions.

All websites have got usability issues but these issues are generally not visible to the webmasters as they know how their website work or is supposed to work. In other words,

you are not the best person to determine your own website’s usability issues.

You need third party perspective.


Follow the steps below to conduct usability test on your website:

#1 Determine what you are going to test

Test the objections raised by your customers. 

Majority of marketers test their own assumptions or what their client/boss has to say. You are smarter. You test customers’ objections. This is the fire shot way to find and fix usability issues.

If something doesn’t matter to your customers then fixing it won’t impact your business bottomline. It is as simple as that. If you are regularly taking feedback from your customers/users and recording their objections then you will never be short of objections.

Record your customers’ objections regarding:

  1. navigation
  2. website design
  3. usability
  4. text readability
  5. informativeness
  6. attention span
  7. shopping cart
  8. checkout process
  9. product price
  10. shipping
  11. delivery
  12. customer service etc.

Call them, email them, give them incentives, conduct surveys, offer discounts or anything that encourage them to give you feedback.

Your target audience are your best testers and no third party testers can replace them. This is one of the best way to determine usability issues.


#2 Decide what you should test first

You have discovered ‘N’ usability issues with your website through users feedback. But nobody has the time or resources to fix them all.

So it is prudent and practical to test those usability issues first and foremost which are significantly impacting your website sales like issues with the checkout process, customer service, offering, pricing, shipping etc.


#3 Ask/hire a test participant

Ask/hire someone to be a test participant.

If you work in a building/industrial park, you can ask someone from other company to be your test participant or you can ask you friend who has never visited your website before.

If everything fails, you can hire someone (online or offline) to be your test participant but that is usually expensive.

Make sure that whoever you ask/hire is not familiar with your website at all i.e. he has never visited your website before. Otherwise he may not be able to determine the most obvious usability issues as he knows how your website works.

Aim to get at least 3 test participants for conducting your usability test to get optimum results. More the better. If you can’t arrange 3 test participants then even 1 participant is better than not choosing to conduct the usability test at all.


#4 Create a task

Create the task which you want your test participant to complete.

Example of Task

Purchase car insurance from our website


#5 Create Scenario

Write a brief description which helps your test participant in completing your task. This brief description is known as ‘Scenario’.

Example of Scenario

You are a person who needs to renew his car insurance. Determine how much car insurance you need, compare car insurance quotes and then make a purchase. Here is your account and credit card details:

Make sure that your scenario is easy to understand and provide all the necessary information to complete the task.


#6 Deliver instructions to your test participant

Handover the task and scenario to your test participant and ask him to complete the task.

#1 Request your test participant to speak his thoughts and actions as he browse the website.

#2 Tell him not to ask any question about how the website should be used during the test like how to find a particular product on the website or how to complete your task in general. 

Delivering instructions are very important part of the usability test as it will stop the test participant from taking your help while using your website.

If you help your test participant in any way during the test then you will skew your own test results.


#7 Ask questions from the test participant but don’t help him

Ask questions whenever the participant looks confused, puzzled or frustrated. However don’t answer the participant’s questions regarding website usage and don’t help him in any way to complete your task.

Allow him to figure out how to use your website. After all this is what you are testing.


#8 Record the activities of your test participant

Use a screen recording software like Camtasia to record the activities which happened on the screen and the conversation between you and the participant.

This is important step as it later will help you in taking detailed notes.


#9 Take notes throughout the test

Jot down all the objections and frustrations raised/expressed by your participant during the test. These objections are the usability issues and you need to fix them.


#10 Draw conclusions from your usability test

You can draw conclusions from the notes you took while conducting the test. Once you have drawn the conclusions then you go ahead and fix usability issues.


Sample Usability Test

Here is a sample usability test:

Task – Purchase car insurance from our website

Scenario- You are a person who needs to renew his car insurance. Determine how much car insurance you need, compare car insurance quotes and then make a purchase. Here is your account and credit card details:

username: alex3456
Password: rtghdu5463@$JUKN
e-mail address: test@vintage.com
Credit Card Number: 938494892423781
Card Expiry Date: 12/15
CVV number: 456


  • Speak your thoughts or whatever you do as much as possible as you browse the website.
  • Don’t ask any question related to website usage during the task.


  • User faced problem in finding out the car insurance calculator so he used the site search feature.
  • User is frustrated because ‘compare insurance quotes’ page take too much time to download.
  • User is not sure whether he is going to get the best deal as he is not satisfied with the insurance quotes.
  • User got frustrated as he had to enter the email address twice while checking out.
  • User doesn’t know the chassis number of his car so he can’t make the purchase.


  • Make car insurance calculator more prominent on the website.
  • Reduce the download time of the ‘compare car insurance quotes’ page.
  • Check out what quotes leading competitors are providing.
  • Work on the checkout process.
  • Find out whether it is possible to purchase car insurance without specifying the car chassis number. If yes, then eliminate this field from the checkout process.


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  • http://Website Ankur

    excellent post himanshu. thanks :)

  • http://Website Ankit Sharma

    excellent guide. You have made usability testing so simple :)

  • http://Website Dennis

    nice article

  • Cornelius Do

    Hey Himanshu,

    Cool run-down of usability testing. I’d stress how careful you have to be with asking questions. An obvious example of how not to ask questions: “do you think that the button is too small?”.

    On a different note – I’m not sure if you’ve come across similar issues, but as someone who has a psychology/science major in their background, I find that I have a lot of personal issues with certain CRO methods that are supposed to be “scientific”.

    The biggest issue I have (probably because I’ve had this drilled into me by researchers and professors) is that a lot of CRO activities (for most clients who don’t have a giant budget or time) don’t have a significant sample size. Because of this, I see a problem with drawing conclusions even from a usability test.

    I get that experience may play a part in how good your judgement is, but even then you might still be playing a guessing game with the client’s budget and revenue in your hands. I might be just be blowing useless steam here, but it’s been a worry of mine for a while. How would you rectify scientific rigour with the CRO world?

    Thanks Again!

    • optimizesmart

      Thats a great question. Conducting a good usability test does require certain skills like asking the right questions. We don’t ask any question which influence the user’s behaviour during the test. The question “do you think that the button is too small” is going to influence the test participant behaviour. Now you are asking him to focus on the button. So even if he earlier didn’t find anything wrong with the button, he now may. And this what we need to avoid at all cost.

    • optimizesmart

      The book ‘Rocket surgery made easy’ provide lot of useful tips regarding asking the right questions and drawing conclusions. If 4 or 5 people have raised objection about same website element/process, then you need to fix it.

      You don’t need to worry about the sample size. I think this is what bothering you here. How opinion of 5 people can be a good representative of all of the website traffic? The answer is, it doesn’t need to be. Please read this article: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/

      Customer driven approach is the best way to optimize a website. Whether you ask the right questions http://www.optimizesmart.com/one-tip-will-skyrocket-analytics-career/ or whether you carry out usability tests.