18th December 2014

Cost-effective UX validation

Mike Jongbloet
Head of Design and UX

UX testing is sometimes perceived as an expensive and time consuming activity and can often be the part of the project that gets cut when budgets are tight. However, the value of validating assumptions and testing throughout the design process to result in a better user experience shouldn’t be ignored.

There are many ways we can test a site from quick, inexpensive tests to thorough, in-depth studies, here we aim to outline the different options available.

UX Validation

First click analysis

In a first click analysis we test a single screen, posing a question to the participant such as “Where would you click to view special offers?” and measuring where they click and how quickly they click. This gives us some quantitative data to understand how users behave for that particular task.

A recent example saw us test a site to understand if the route back to the homepage was clear enough. Our testing showed that adding “Home” as an item in navigation greatly increased the usability of getting back to the homepage.

Effort: X
Cost: £

Impression testing

In an impression test we show users a screenshot of a site page for 5 seconds and then ask a series of questions to understand what their initial impression was. For example, “What does this company sell?” or “What was the first thing that caught your eye about this site?”.

The data gained from these tests can help improve or validate our wireframe and design decisions.

Effort: X
Cost: £

Navigation flow testing

This type of test is a multi-step click test and allows us to test a particular navigation flow on the site, for example “Homepage”, “Product listing”, “Product page”, “Basket”, “Checkout”. We use a series of screenshots and the test tells us where the user clicks at each step so we can determine if any particular step is causing issues.

Effort: XX
Cost: £

Unmoderated usability testing

Whilst the above methods tell us where a user has gone wrong, they don’t always tell us why. This all important question often reveals deep insights into what issues a user is facing when trying to complete tasks on your site. Usability testing provides this data.

A usability test is set up by posing a set of tasks to a user. They then attempt these tasks on the site, whilst their screen and audio is recorded. They are asked to use the “think out loud” protocol so we hear what they are thinking whilst also seeing what they are doing.

The chances are that your users are an unpredictable group and the nature of usability tests can often uncover issues that other methods will not. According to leading usability expert Jakob Nielsen, five tests will uncover 85% of usability issues so on a large project it is affordable to run multiple iterations.

Effort: XX
Cost: £££


The great news about all of the above is:

  • Tests can be run remotely online and therefore take only a small amount of effort to set up, the results are also provided in an easy to understand format.
  • They test real users, so the data is based on actual use cases. In most cases you can even invite your own list of testers to have more control.
  • The relative low cost and effort means you can constantly test through multiple iterations without blowing your budget.

Naturally the more time consuming research methods provide deeper insight, however the above are a variety of efficient testing activities we can employ to allow us to validate assumptions and test iterations and improve the structure and design of your site.