Usability Testing – Pocket Guide to Do it Yourself Usability Testing


I love writing pocket guides. Because just like you i am always short of time and want to learn new things in shortest possible time. So here i present to you my compact version of ‘Do it yourself Usability Testing‘. So what is usability testing? It is a technique 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 crawlers and visitors. All websites have usability problems and these problems are generally not obvious to you as you know how your website works or how it is supposed to work.

What to test?

The first thing that you need to do is to decide ‘what to test’. Here your clients and visitors can help you if you periodically take feedback from them and record their objections regarding navigation, web design, usability, text readability, informativeness, attention span, shopping cart, checkout process etc. Call them, email them, give them incentives, discounts or anything that encourage them to give 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. Another good way is your website analytics. For e.g. high goal abandonment rate or high bounce rate can be a sign of usability issue with you landing page(s).

What i should test first?

There can be tons of usability issues with your website and you can’t fix them all at once. So it is prudent and practical to test those usability issues first and foremost which are having significant impact on your conversions or site stickiness.

How to Test?

Once you have decided what to test, the next thing to decide is ‘how to test’. You can conduct test through tools like ‘Google Website Optimizer‘ or you can ask/hire someone to be a test participant. If you decide to use a test participant, then make sure he is not already familiar with your website. Otherwise he may not be able to determine most obvious usability issues as he knows how your website works.

Create a list of tasks which are troubling your target audience and which you want your test participant to complete. A task can be something like ‘Purchase car insurance’, ‘sign up for our newsletter’, ‘download our XY product video’ etc. Now write a brief description which helps in completing the task. This brief description is known as ‘Scenario’.

Make sure that your scenario is easy to understand and provide all the necessary information to complete the task. Handover the task and scenario to your participant and ask him to complete the task. Request him to speak his thoughts and actions as he browse the website. This is a very important part of the usability test as it will help you greatly in understanding the usability issues.

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 the task. Let him figure out how to use the website. After all this is what you are testing. 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 helps you in taking detailed notes. Jot down all the objections and frustrations raised by your participant during the test. These objections are the usability issues and you need to fix them. Use 3 -4 participants to get optimum results. 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:
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.

That’s how you conduct usability testing. If you wish to dive deep, then i highly recommend Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug. See You :)

If you like this post then you should subscribe to my blog and follow me on twitter.

Related Posts:

Subscribe to my blog
Join my free newsletter and learn to avoid the analytics mistakes everyone seems to be making over and over again.


About the Author:

My business thrives on referrals, so I really appreciate recommendations to people who would benefit from my help.Please feel free to endorse/forward my LinkedIn Profile to your clients, colleagues, friends and others you feel would benefit from SEO, PPC or Web Analytics.



  • 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

  • http://Website Collin

    That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://Website Jitender

    Booo. Bad post ;) So Mr. usability expert what is your opinion on using a third party testing service like

    • seo himanshu

      The problem with such services is that you can’t see the tester’s facial expressions during the test. You can’t ask him questions. This is something which i think is important for usability testing.

  • http://Website Jitender

    How tester’s facial expression is going to help me in my test?

    • seo himanshu

      Facial expressions like frustration is an objection made by the user and is a sign that something is wrong with the navigation, content, design etc.

  • kanmani

    Nice information…

  • http://Website Jane

    Good advice. Usability testing is important these days.

  • http://Website SEODragon

    Great post. We are currently doing usability testing and find it very effective.

  • http://Website Mike

    I have always enjoyed your posts but this is one of my favorites. Keep up the good work.

  • frp lining

    good post thanks for sharing it