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.

To carry out usability testing, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Determine what you are going to test

Test the objections raised by your customers.

The majority of optimizers test their own assumptions or what their client/boss has to say about perceived customer problems. You are smarter than that. You test customer’s objections. This is the sure fire way to find and fix usability issues.

If something does not matter to your customers, then fixing it will not impact your business bottom-line. 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 your customers, 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. This is one of the best way to determine usability issues.

Step 2: Decide what you should test first

You may have discovered ‘N’ number of usability issues with your website through user feedback. But you probably do not have 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.


Step 3: Ask or hire a test participant

Ask or hire someone to be a test participant. Ask someone from another company to be your test participant or ask a friend who has never visited your website before.

You also can hire someone (online or offline) to be your test participant but bear in mind, that this is usually expensive.

Make sure that whoever you ask is not familiar with your website at all i.e. they have never visited your website before. Otherwise they may not be able to determine the most obvious usability issues as they already know how your website works.

You should aim to get five test participants for conducting your usability test in order to get optimum results. If you cannot arrange five test participants then even one test participant is better than choosing not to conduct the usability test.

Since usability test is qualitative, sample size does not really matter.


Step 4: Create a task

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

Example of a task:

Purchase car insurance from our website


Step 5: Create a scenario

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

Example of a scenario:

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

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


Step 6: Deliver instructions to your test participant

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

Deliver the following instructions:

  1. Request your test participant to speak their thoughts and actions as they browse the website.
  2. Request that they do not to ask any questions about how the website should be used during the test. For example, asking how to find a particular product on the website or how to complete the task in any other way.

Delivering instructions are very important part of the usability test.

If you help your test participant in any way during the test (even via body language) then you will skew your own test results.

So it important that you deliver the instructions and stop the test participant from expecting any help from you while using your website.


Step 7: Ask questions from the test participant but do not help them

Ask questions whenever the participant looks confused, puzzled or frustrated.

However, do not answer the participant’s questions regarding website usage and do not help them under any circumstances, in any way, shape or form (including body language such as  nodding or shaking head to show agreement or disagreement etc.) to complete your task.

Allow the test participant to figure out on their own how to use your website. After all, this is what you are testing in the first place.


Step 8: Record the screen 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 an important step, as it will later help you in taking detailed notes.


Step 9: Take notes throughout the test

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


Step 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 the website 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: rtghdu546[email protected]$JUKN
e-mail address: [email protected]
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.

What is the difference between Digital Analytics and Google Analytics?

99.99% of course creators themselves don’t know the difference between Digital analytics, Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM).

So they are teaching GA and GTM in the name of teaching Digital analytics.

They just copy each other. Monkey see, monkey do.

But Digital analytics is not about GA, GTM.

It is about analyzing and interpreting data, setting up goals, strategies and KPIs.

It’s about creating strategic roadmap for your business.

Digital Analytics is the core skill. Google Analytics is just a tool used to implement ‘Digital Analytics’.

You can also implement ‘Digital analytics’ via other tools like ‘adobe analytics’, ‘kissmetrics’ etc.

Using Google Analytics without the good understanding of ‘Digital analytics’ is like driving around in a car, in a big city without understanding the traffic rules and road signs.

You are either likely to end up somewhere other than your destination or you get involved in an accident.

You learn data analysis and interpretation from Digital analytics and not from Google Analytics.

The direction in which your analysis will move, will determine the direction in which your marketing campaigns and eventually your company will move to get the highest possible return on investment.

You get that direction from ‘Digital analytics’ and not from ‘Google Analytics’.

You learn to set up KPIs, strategies and measurement framework for your business from ‘Digital analytics’ and not from ‘Google Analytics’.

So if you are taking a course only on 'Digital Analytics’, you are learning to use one of the tools of ‘Digital analytics’. You are not learning the ‘Digital analytics’ itself.

Since any person can learn to use Google Analytics in couple of weeks, you do no get any competitive advantage in the marketplace just by knowing GA.

You need to know lot more than GA in order to work in digital analytics and marketing field.

So what I have done, if you are interested, is I have put together a completely free training that will teach you exactly how I have been able to leverage digital analytics to generate floods of news sales and customers and how you can literally copy what I have done to get similar results.

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I truly hope you find it helpful.  

My best selling books on Digital Analytics and Conversion Optimization

Maths and Stats for Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization
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Master the Essentials of Email Marketing Analytics
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Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of Optimizesmart.com

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

He has over 12 years experience in digital analytics and digital marketing.

He was nominated for the Digital Analytics Association's Awards for Excellence.

The Digital Analytics Association is a world renowned not-for-profit association which helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

He is the author of four best-selling books on analytics and conversion optimization:

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