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What is Usability Testing? Practical Examples in Ecommerce

What is Usability Testing? Practical Examples in Ecommerce

Usability testing is a proven method to evaluate your product with real people. In ecommerce, this means learning directly from the people that your online store is targeted at – your customers – in order to craft the best user experience possible.

In this complete guide to usability testing, we’ll share the definition, benefits, and steps you need to run usability tests successfully on an ecommerce store. We will explore practical examples in ecommerce, how you can gain actionable insights, and how to create better user experiences from it. 


What is Usability Testing

Usability testing is a crucial step in the development process of any digital product, including ecommerce websites. It is a method of evaluating the user experience of a product by observing real users as they interact with it. The goal is to identify any usability issues or barriers that may prevent users from achieving their goals, and to make necessary improvements to enhance the overall user experience.

There are 3 main questions that usability testing seeks to answer:

  • Are there bugs / errors impacting the user journey?
  • Are users able to complete their task efficiently and successfully (e.g. fill in online payment details)
  • Do users understand how to navigate the website?

Here are some key concepts in usability testing:

Real users: Usability testing involves real users who match the target audience of the product. This ensures that the testing is representative of the actual user experience.

Real tasks: Users are asked to complete real tasks that they would typically perform when using the product. This helps to identify any usability issues that may arise during actual use.

Observation: Usability testing involves observing users as they complete tasks, rather than relying on self-reported data. This allows for a more accurate assessment of the user experience.

Iterative process: Usability testing is an iterative process that is usually repeated throughout the development cycle. This allows for continuous improvement of the product based on user feedback.

The Importance of Usability Testing in Ecommerce

Usability testing is often overlooked by ecommerce businesses. Nevertheless it is one of the most pivotal processes in assessing your online store user experience, which directly impacts conversion rates, customer satisfaction, and overall business performance. Let’s look at specific examples of its importance in ecommerce.

Complex flow optimization 

Usability testing helps identify and streamline complex flows, such as the checkout process. By observing how users interact with these flows, businesses can optimize navigation and minimize friction, ultimately improving conversion rates.

Error identification

Usability testing enables businesses to catch minor errors that may have been overlooked during development. Whether it’s broken links, site errors, or grammatical issues, testing with real users helps ensure a seamless and error-free user experience.

Increased conversions

A user-friendly website that is easy to navigate and use can significantly impact conversion rates. Usability testing helps identify issues that may hinder users from completing a purchase, such as complex checkout processes, unclear product information, or slow loading times. 

Prototype validation and cost savings

Usability testing allows ecommerce businesses to validate prototypes early in the development process. By testing a prototype website with real users, businesses can identify any issues or bugs before finalizing the product, saving time, resources, and avoiding costly redesigns in the future.

SEO Benefits

User experience is a key factor in search engine optimization (SEO). It is well-known that search engines like Google prioritize websites that offer a positive user experience, including fast loading times, mobile responsiveness, and easy navigation. Usability testing contributes to improving the website’s SEO performance and visibility in search results.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty

By engaging with real users, businesses can develop empathy and gain valuable insights into user needs and preferences. This understanding allows businesses to tailor their ecommerce platforms to better meet customer expectations, ultimately driving engagement and loyalty.

Types of Usability Testing

Types of Usability Testing

There are various types of usability testing methods, each serving a unique purpose:

Moderated usability testing: This type involves a facilitator guiding participants through the test and addressing their queries.

Unmoderated usability testing: Participants conduct the test independently, typically following a predefined script.

Remote usability testing: This type is conducted online, allowing participants to engage with the product remotely.

In-person usability testing: Participants and researchers are physically present in the same location.

The difference between usability testing and user testing

While often used interchangeably, usability testing and user testing differ in scope. User testing evaluates a product or service by gathering feedback and focusing on user perceptions and needs. The goal of user testing is to learn people’s opinions about a product or service, not to test how they use it. Usability testing, however, takes a more focused approach, aiming to identify functional issues and assess task efficiency.

Examples of Usability Testing in Ecommerce

What are the usability tests that can be applied for your ecommerce? While we have covered some use cases in our UX audit guide, here are some practical examples that paint a clearer picture in the context of usability testing:

Navigation testing

Navigation testing involves evaluating the effectiveness of a website’s navigation system. This can include testing the main menu, category pages, and search functionality. Tip: ensure that it is easy to use and that they help users find what they are looking for quickly.

Checkout process testing

Checkout process testing involves evaluating the steps involved in making a purchase on a website. This can include testing the shopping cart, payment gateway, and shipping options. Tip: ensure that the checkout functionalities are easy to use, secure, and provide clear shipping and return policies.

Product page testing

Product page testing involves evaluating the layout, design, and content of a product page. This can include testing the product description, images, and reviews. Tip: ensure that product pages provide clear and concise product information, high-quality images, and user-generated reviews.

Mobile optimization testing

Mobile optimization testing involves evaluating the usability of a website on mobile devices. This can include testing the layout, design, and functionality of a website on different mobile devices and operating systems. Tip: ensure that it is optimized for different mobile devices, not only in terms of the visual aspect, but also the web performance as well.

Form testing

Form testing involves evaluating the usability of forms on a website, such as contact forms, registration forms, and checkout forms. This can include testing the form fields, labels, and validation rules. Tip: ensure that the forms of your site provide clear instructions.

Webpage performance testing

Webpage performance testing involves evaluating the loading time of a website and its impact on user experience. This can include testing the website’s server response time, image compression, and caching. Valido Web Score can help you test and monitor all the factors that impact your ecommerce page loading speed, and provide recommendations for improvement.

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How to Perform Usability Testing on an Ecommerce Website

Now, let’s dive even further into the steps needed to conduct usability testing on your ecommerce website. Here’s a step-by-step guide that will help optimize your usability testing efforts and approach it strategically. 

1. Define a goal and target audience

Before you start testing, you need to know what you want to achieve and who your target audience is. Start by asking questions like:

  • What is the demographic of your users?
  • What specific tasks do you want users to accomplish on your website?
  • What are your desired timeframes for users to complete tasks and navigate the interface?

Once you have the answers, formulate a problem statement that makes it clear what insights you want to gain. For example, “We want to assess the usability of our ecommerce for the 30-50  year old demographic to complete checkout within 3 minutes.”

2. Use a tool for continuous testing

Invest in a tool that allows for continuous testing throughout the product development lifecycle, including after launch. This will help you inform design decisions, keep up with evolving user needs, and retain users. 

3. Establish evaluation criteria

Establish evaluation criteria to focus your team on specific elements of the user experience. Consider evaluating usability metrics like task completion rate, direct and indirect success, time-on-screen, time-on-task, user satisfaction score, and misclick rate. 

4. Create a usability testing script

A well-crafted usability testing script outlines the tasks to be performed, instructions to be given, and questions to be asked. It serves as a roadmap for the test participant and provides an opportunity to identify any potential problems or areas of improvement.

5. Be mindful of test length

Keep your tests short and simple. Usability tests are an average duration of 15-20 minutes with 5-10 tasks. It should be short enough to maintain participants’ focus, while giving your team sufficient time to gather meaningful insights.

6. Run a pilot test

Before running the test with actual participants, do a pilot run with someone inside your organization but not directly involved in your project. This will help you evaluate the clarity and effectiveness of your testing materials, like the script, tasks, and instructions.

7. Recruit test participants

Recruit participants that represent your target audience and have similar backgrounds, preferences, and experiences as your intended users. You can recruit participants directly from your website or browser-based products, or from your current user base.

8. Create a positive testing environment

Usability testing should feel like an interactive conversation, not an interrogation. Brief your team on how to interact with participants and reduce bias. Your researchers should avoid leading questions that might influence participants’ behavior, and each participant should feel comfortable providing honest feedback.

9. Analyze and report your findings

Transform raw data and participant feedback into actionable insights. Identify user pain points, prioritize UX improvements, and communicate them effectively within your team.

10. Iterate and repeat

Usability testing is an ongoing process that requires iteration, feedback loops, and revisions throughout the product life cycle. You can test different versions of a design and analyze the results to determine which one works best. As your product and audience grow, it’s important to re-evaluate your usability testing process and adapt it to accommodate new goals, user segments, and market conditions.

Wrapping things up

Usability testing is one of the most critical steps in improving the ecommerce user experience. There are a number of ways that it can be conducted. By leveraging Valido AI’s session recording solution, ecommerce businesses can not only gain valuable insights into user behavior, but also take immediate action to optimize their usability for improved performance. Valido’s solution offers one-click test creation from session recordings, empowering businesses to streamline the monitoring process and make data-driven decisions to enhance their ecommerce user experience.

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