Authors Posts by Craig Tomlin

Craig Tomlin

I've been improving revenue with online marketing, usability & conversion optimization for start-ups, small businesses and Fortune 500 firms since 1996. I'm a Certified Usability Analyst and multi-award winning marketer. Contact me for website usability testing and audits! Review a Mobile UX User Recording Tool is a mobile UX user recording tool that captures screen interaction, voice and video of the user directly from his or her device. Recordings are hosted on and can be downloaded for use in UX research and usability testing. is a good tool for mobile UX & usability research, but with a few issues to be aware of.

This review includes a video that displays in action. UX and usability practitioners should consider for their mobile UX research needs.

The Review by Craig Tomlin is an interesting tool for capturing mobile interactivity, including the screen interaction, voice and even the face of the tester. This is a good choice in tools for conducting UX and usability research on mobile websites, apps and related interactions. As with any tool, there are a few minor issues, but overall this is a great solution for UX researchers who need to capture and record the full range of user experience on mobile devices.

Video Review of

This video review of will demonstrate how effective this tool is in easily capturing the mobile user experience across devices. includes the ability to record all screen interactions on the mobile phone, plus the voice and even the face of the tester as they interact with their cell phone. This makes it an extremely valuable tool for capturing the full range of user experience on mobile devices. It’s a MUCH better choice than using clunky old-school approaches of mounting a mobile device to a stand and placing a camera over it. home includes several nice features, including a very simple and easy interface for the tester, the fact that it’s an all-in-one app so no extra 3rd party apps or functions are required and the ability for the tester to control whether the voice and video are recorded, or not (handy for those testers who do not like their face being recorded).

On the UX researcher side, the interface was for me a bit confusing at first as I struggled a bit to find my video. But once I had sorted out how to find my tester, invite them to my group and then add his video to my group it all became much easier.

I love that you can download the recording for editing purposes, and I appreciate the ability for multiple people in your group to be able to share and comment on the recording in the interface. Devices Supported devices supported include all your favorites including iPhones, OS X and Android devices. However, you should be aware of a few minor issues. requires the more recent OS versions of these devices, currently it supports:

  • iOS 8+
  • OS X 10.10+
  • Android 5.0+

Another issue to be aware of is that for iOS you do need to have a jailbroke phone, this will definitely be an issue for testers who are not comfortable doing that to their iPhones. also requires that the tester upload the video to the website after the recording is complete. The bad news is this can take a very long time, depending on how much you are recording. The good news is the app enables upload of the video when wifi is present, meaning you won’t have an irate tester who used all their month’s bandwidth trying to upload the recording. is a Good Way to Record Mobile UX is a very good way to record your mobile UX when conducting research into mobile websites, applications or functions and features that you need feedback on. I tested it and found the ease of use for both me and my testers to be very good.

If you are conducting mobile UX or usability research I recommend you go check out and test

Go ahead and give it a try, and let me and the rest of the UsefulUsability fans know what you think about it in the comments below!


0 131

UX Personas Introduction Video for UX Design or Research.

UX-Personas-Introduction-UsefulUsability-326x235UX Personas introduction video explains what a Persona is, the types of Personas, and why Personas are so absolutely critical to UX designers, developers and researchers.

The UX Personas introduction video by Craig Tomlin will explain why Personas are critical for any design, development or research projects. This brief video provides an introduction into what a Persona is, the general types of Personas, and why Personas matter. This is a perfect video for UX beginners or those interested in expanding their knowledge of Personas.

What’s a Persona?

In this video you will learn that a Persona is a fictional representation of the most common users, based on a shared set of common critical tasks. The video will explain why critical tasks are so important to Personas, and to you.

With a good Persona, you should be able to answer any questions in designing or researching UX to align the user’s critical task needs to the functions or features of the project.

Personas that are too general (or too specific) will make it hard or impossible to answer those questions, which means the Persona is not as good as it should be.

Watch the UX Personas Introduction Video

Types of Personas:

There are two general types of Personas.  If you search on Google for UX Personas and review the images in the results pages you will see thousands and thousands of varying versions of Personas, of which no two seem to be identical. This can be very confusing, but in fact there are generally only two types of Personas.

The first type of the two general types of Personas include UX or Usability critical task-based personas. This type of Persona will have critical tasks specified. We will see in the video why this is so important to this type of Persona.

The other general type of Personas include marketing or product development Personas, which are almost identical except for the fact that those Personas typically do not include critical tasks. A Persona in this group may also be based more on demographic and related aggregate data versus actual field research and observation of actual users (which is more common with UX Personas).

The biggest mistake UX teams make when testing and optimizing the usability or the user experience of a website or application is NOT having a carefully defined UX Persona or set of Personas. Without that Persona, any UX research or testing will almost always be flawed to some degree.

Why Personas Matter:

In the video we will identify why Personas should matter so much to you, and why you need a Persona. This is probably the most important point of this video so definitely watch this part. The fact is that Personas are critical to design and UX research success.

There are three main reasons why UX Personas are so very important for you, and they include;

  1. Design Decisions. To make the hundreds and thousands of user experience design decisions that need to be made with any UX project. By evaluating each decision against the yes/no of whether it helps the Persona achieve their goals, all those decisions become easier. This is also true for UX research in which the Persona is critical for finding valid test participants for your research project.
  2. Quality Checks. The Persona is your tool for pre-emptive quality checks, especially for those of you using an Agile development approach. If the team cannot confidently look at a function or design and agree that it benefits the Persona, then that function or design should be re-evaluated immediately.
  3. Scope Creep. The Persona ensures that everyone agrees on the final destination and so it can greatly help reduce scope creep or potentially negative changes in the design as the program is developed.

UX Personas Introduction Video in Conclusion:

UX Personas introduction video is a great video for UX beginners or seasoned experts. In this brief video, you will learn exactly what a UX Persona is, the types of Personas, and why Personas matter.

Watch this video to learn that by focusing on Personas, you focus your design or UX activity on the single most important thing, which is the people who will use your service, device or app.

For more information on Personas visit:

7 Signs You May Have a Problem Persona – This article provides a diagnosis for defining what a good Persona is versus a bad Persona, and the seven signs that can help you be aware you may have a problem Persona.

Personas – Persona research from Forrester that evaluates the state of Personas and the usage among firms. This is very helpful for providing a better understanding of what a good Persona contains.

Interview with Andrew Mayfield, CEO of UX Research Firm Optimal Workshop

Interview-Andrew-Mayfield-CEO-Optimal-Workshop-from-UsefulUsabilityThis is one in the continuing series of interviews with UX and Usability thought-leaders. This series focuses on bringing you up close and personal to individuals in our industry who are responsible for moving user experience, usability and design in a new and exciting direction.

Andrew Mayfield is the CEO of Optimal Workshop. Optimal Workshop provides a variety of UX and usability research tools designed to quickly and efficiently gather large amounts of user input for data-driven design decisions.

Q1. What’s your background? Where did you go to school, what subjects interested you?

I live in Wellington, New Zealand. I’ve wanted to run a business since I was twelve.  In primary school I sold computer games to the other kids at school, creating catalogues using MS Paint and placing orders through my father’s computer rental business. And I studied accounting, computer science, marketing, and e-commerce at Victoria University in Wellington.

Q2. How did you get into usability and the UX testing field?

I started a software company with a good friend in 2002. Neither of us had UX experience but we thought it made good sense to watch people using the software that we built. So we tutored a class at university together, and for 5 minutes at the end of our weekly tutorials we’d show our students what we’d been working on and give them a task to complete.

Then we just watched and took notes. We learned so much from doing this that I wondered at the time — and wonder still — how anyone ever designs anything useful without user research. It was years before I realized that what we were doing was so very rare.

Q3. What is it about UX and usability that you most enjoy, or find most rewarding?

I love working in UX and usability because it seems to attract a lot of other people who want to do right by those they’re designing for. Good people with good intentions abound.

It’s also great knowing that the work you do will save so many people from needless confusion and frustration because our research ensures they’ll actually find what they’re looking for — and enjoy the experience too.

Plus it’s good business, and good fun.

Q4. You are the CEO for the usability and UX research service Optimal Workshop, what was the inspiration for developing it?

All of the user research tools we’ve built are inspired by the needs of our consulting team at Optimal Experience (now part of PwC). We needed tools for doing more user research, more quickly, and more comprehensively. Thus, Optimal Workshop was born.

We’ve grown since then (more people, more tools), but our ethos has been the same the whole time: we want to create a world in which people don’t have to feel lost, confused, or frustrated while trying to find and do things online or when using digital products.

All the things in all the right places, essentially.

Q5. As a business owner and UX leader, what do you find were pitfalls with creating your business and finding clients interested in usability testing?

Andrew-Mayfield-CEO-Optimal-Workshop-from-UsefulUsabilityIf the globe had a corner, New Zealand would be it. It’s both good and bad being so far away from everywhere. Good because it means we have to be exceptional at practicing the remote research techniques that we preach, and bad because we spend a lot of time in the air when we want to connect with people (though that doesn’t stop us).

I haven’t had any trouble finding people who are interested in usability testing, even people who don’t call it that. Pretty much everyone I’ve met is interested in having a more effective website, intranet, or app.

Q6. Optimal Workshop contains several tools including a content tree testing tool (Treejack), a card sorting tool (OptimalSort), a first click analysis tool (Chalkmark), and a qualitative research tool (Reframer). Why these particular tools, what was the reason for creating them?

All our tools were built as solutions to problems we saw designers grappling with all the time.

We built OptimalSort, our card sorting tool, because our enterprise consulting clients wanted to see bigger numbers in our research. This made a lot of sense to us:  when it comes to making decisions based on user research, it’d be difficult for any company with 5 million customers to trust data from 5 people. So rather than fight against a culture of evidence based decision making, we built a tool designed to support it.

OptimalSort was built as a tool for quick remote card sorting, and efficient quantitative analysis. We’ve since added features to support qualitative insight gathering too, not least of which is the ability to print out the cards and do your card sorts the way it used to be done, on paper and in person, and to scan the cards back in for analysis.

Treejack came next. We coined the term ‘tree testing’ to capture a method pioneered by Donna Spencer, known then as ‘card based classification testing’. At first, we thought Treejack was ideal for validating the choices you make after conducting a card sort. But we now think the best approach is to benchmark your design with tree testing at the start of a project, to compare and rank different options against each other, and find out where the problems actually are so you can focus your next steps.

We built Chalkmark after research was published on the critical importance of first clicks in a person’s task success: an 87% task success rate for people who got the first click correct, compared 46% for those who did not. We wanted a tool that would effectively measure first clicks in response to tasks — and now it’s an indispensable tool for lots of people. Great to see!

Our latest addition to the Optimal Workshop suite is Reframer, a tool for collecting and analyzing observer notes from user research. Project teams can take notes during user tests and user interviews, add tags before and after sessions, explore relationships between observations alongside each other, spot themes quickly and easily, and so on. It’s in beta, and so far people are loving it.

Q7. Usability and UX researchers have a lot of tools to choose from, why Optimal Workshop?

Optimal Workshop’s tools are a joy to use—our primary differentiator will be your experience using them. Somewhat surprisingly, I’m quite sure you won’t hear this about most of the other options available. Of course we have all the features you need for effective tree testing, card sorting, first-click testing and observer note-taking.

The results you get from an Optimal Workshop study will be beautiful and ready to show to your stakeholders in a format they can understand and enjoy.

Our customer support is second to none. You can run studies in any of 70 languages and we can help you recruit quality participants. You’ll be in very good company with many of the the biggest enterprises and the smartest researchers in the world.

Q8. When you think about the changes to usability and UX over the past 2-3 years, what do you think the next 2 to 3 years has in store? What may be the ‘next big thing’ in your opinion?

People will stop thinking UX is special. The terminology is starting to settle, the taxonomists have almost finished arguing, and the jargon is becoming commonplace.

UX is really just considerate design.

Users are people. If this is true, then UX is design for people. As UX practitioners we know this already, of course, but the rest of the world is realizing there is no secret sauce too. Anyone can make a product better through research and design.

Everyone is doing it. And if they’re not, in 2-3 years they will be.

Q9. What’s next for you personally in your career, and for Optimal Workshop in the next year or two, what would you like to focus on?

Optimal Workshop has an exciting roadmap ahead, with new features and new products laid out as far as I can see. We also have a couple of fun R&D initiatives involving robotics and the psychology of emotion going on at the moment too. Stay tuned on our blog to hear about whether anything comes from these projects.

Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the role of design, and how best to involve user research in projects involving real world objects and experiences over time that may or may not involve screens and/or what we traditionally think of as computers and phones. I’m interested in finding actionable answers to questions like:

  • What things are too difficult, expensive or tedious for user researchers and experience designers?
  • What about projects involving the internet of things (IoT), bio-computing, personal manufacturing, and robotics?
  • How can we ensure this new world is better than the last?

Q10. Finally, what advice do you have for those who want to get into the usability and UX field?

Jump on in. You can do it. One of the most exciting things about this young industry is that so many people come from such different backgrounds. This brings a wealth of perspective and a rich diversity of practice.

Everyone here is trying to make an aspect of the world better for the people in it, in their own way. You’ll meet some amazing people, both the users you’re working for, and the peers you’re working with. Welcome!

Thank you Andrew!

Note: Companies mentioned in this article may or may not be sponsors of this site. However, in no way does their sponsorship or lack thereof impact the results of this or any other editorial content on the site. The editorial content of this and all other articles written by the Editorial team is determined without regard to whether a company is a sponsor of the site or not.

Video: How one word increased open rates 19 percent for an email newsletter campaign.

Learn what the word is and why UX and Marketing folks must know the reason it works so well.

How-One-Word-Increased-Open-Rates-19-PercentOne word increased email open rates by 19 percent?


And for any of you who are marketing or UX fans this is important news.


Because when we create our user experiences or communications, we can sometimes forget that simple things that motivate people and bring the humanity into a conversation can be attractive and even persuasive, and that it is very easy to forget this when we are designing for people.

Email Open Rates by Subject Line:

To test how well this motivation word would work, I divided my email list into two equal groups. Both groups received the exact same email. The only difference was the addition of the word in one of the two groups.

One group received the original email subject line, and one received the email line with the additional motivational word.

Here are the open rate results for the two emails:

  • A – Original email subject line without the word: 24.1% Open Rate
  • B – Test email subject line with the word: 28.7% Open Rate

The percentage point difference between the A version without the word and the B version with the word was + 4.6 percent. That means the B version had 19% more opens versus the A version.

For email campaigns an open rate 19 percent higher is a very significant increase and can easily be the difference between a successful campaign and one that fails.

And the important point here is the key concept of using this word to make the same improvement in any other communications or user experiences, not just email subject lines.

Watch this video to learn more about how to improve email open rates or any user experience or marketing communication:

Do Not Forget We Design for People

We design our experiences, websites, marketing communications and applications for people. Although this seems like a no-brainer or “duh” statement, it is amazing how many times we accidentally leave out the motivators that attract and retain the attention of the people we design for.

Case in point, examine your website or marketing communication.

Count how many times you use the words “we” “us” our “ours.” Now count the number of times you use the words “you” “your” “yours.” You may find that you are in the majority of sites and communications that use “we” words more often than “you” words.

If you are guilty of this (and I was), then you are forgetting that you are designing for people. You are forgetting that those people you are designing for are motivated when they clearly understand how your site, your app or your marketing piece can help them solve their issues, using motivational words that attract their attention.

Do not forget that we design for people.

Watch How I Increased Open Rates 19 Percent

So watch this video on how I increased open rates by 19 percent and you will have a much better sense of what it takes to motivate the people you are designing for.

For more information on using the Principles of Persuasion to help motivate people, read my article: How to Optimize Conversion with 6 Persuasion Principles.

And if you have other suggestions for motivation, add them in the comments so we can all grow more knowledgeable together!

0 187

Interview with UserZoom Co-CEO Alfonso De La Nuez with Thoughts on the Future of UX

UserZoom-CEO-Alfonso-de-la-Nuez-Interview-UsefulUsabilityThis is one in the continuing series of interviews with UX and Usability thought-leaders. This interview series focuses on bringing you up close and personal to those individuals in our industry who are responsible for moving user experience, usability and design in a new and exciting direction.

Alfonso de la Nuez is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of UX and Usability research firm UserZoom. UserZoom is an enterprise-level all-in-one set of research tools for obtaining UX data across multiple user touchpoints.

Q1. What’s your background? Where did you go to school, what subjects interested you?

I have a BA in Business Administration from San Jose State University, with emphasis on International Business with Marketing. I’ve always been fascinated by the Business world, especially with Marketing and Branding strategies.

I lived the birth of the Internet while in college so I’m really passionate about the use of technology within Marketing. I believe at the end of the day, UX is nothing but great Marketing and Branding.

Q2. How did you get into usability and the UX testing field?

Since I had already connected technology with Marketing, UX came to me really easily and spontaneously. Back in 1998 I worked at a pioneering Web Design & Consulting company called Icon Medialab, out of Sweden. Even back then, the concept of HCI was highlighted and used for pitches and, although not that often, offered as part of the service.

As a Project Manager at Icon Medialab, I actually defined the information architecture and conceptual design of many of our customers. I realized then that, no matter how great the design team, we were literally making wild decisions and totally neglecting the end consumer.

I always felt wrong about it and so I ended up leaving the company and, eventually, started my own UX Consultancy, called Xperience Consulting. Xperience Consulting became UserZoom a few years later, and here we are today!

Q3. What is it about UX and usability that you most enjoy, or find most rewarding?

Since I went through quite a lot of ‘painful work experiences’ back in the late 1990s building million-dollar websites without real focus on the end user, what I enjoy the most is the ability to test things with a target audience before making an important decision.

Today, thanks to technology and the cloud, you can do this so easily, quick and cost-effectively, that it’s almost a crime not to conduct usability testing! :-)

Q4. You founded the usability testing tool and service UserZoom, what was the inspiration for developing it?

I’ve pretty much already summarized it in the previous questions, but there is one more important thing: We needed to make usability testing and research more easy and, most importantly, we wanted to get out of the lab!

Before founding UserZoom we’d been in the Lab hundreds of times. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the ride and delivered solid value. We actually had 6 labs between 2 offices and 2 cities. However, this was not efficient, nor scalable.

We felt there had to be a way to collect data more cost-effectively, easily and also internationally.

Q5. As a business owner and start-up founder, what do you find were pitfalls with creating your business and finding clients interested in usability testing?

UserZoom has been in business since 2007. I can honestly say that, with the exception of a few power researchers who adopted this unmoderated testing method from the start, it took most of the UX community until 2012 to really go for it and adopt it in their organizations. That’s when we realized we had a real business opportunity ahead of us.

UserZoom-Team-Interview-UsefulUsabilityToday we find that a lot more people are interested in usability testing and UX measurement, not just the UX Pros. The remote testing method we offer makes it much more efficient and accessible to them.

Q6. From your experiences with managing UserZoom, what are the most important uses of your tool for businesses, how does it help them be more successful?

Without a doubt, it’s all about scaling their research. It’s all about Agile testing and REALLY making it part of the whole product development process.

It’s clear that iterative design is the best way to go, so UserZoom allows businesses to conduct multiple types of online research projects (task-based, card sorting, click testing, surveys, etc.) in a quick and cost-effective way, while having the consumers participating in their natural context.

Q7. There seem to be lots of competitors in the online UX testing and research tool category, what do you think makes UserZoom special or unique?

There are several things to consider. Starting with the fact that we’re an Enterprise-focused platform, which means you get:

  1. High-end, feature rich functionality
  2. All-in-one, multi-method approach under one single platform (again, from task-based tests, qualitative and quantitative data, card sorting, tree testing, click testing, 5-second tests, UX benchmarking, true-intent surveys and more), all pretty much for web and mobile.
  3. Lots of customization and ability to adjust according to our client’s needs. This includes recruiting with; sampling companies and custom panels, live visitor intercepts, Email links, QR codes, feedback tabs and more.
  4. Local UX research and consulting services and tech support, with offices in 4 countries
  5. Toughest data security standards in the market

Q8. What do you think the next year to two years will bring for UX and for usability research?  Do you see them growing or changing, if so why?

First of all, I see more companies than EVER doing more TESTING and EXPERIMENTATION than ever before. I see this resulting in much better overall DESIGN.

Then I also see great opportunities in mobile, and the power of testing in-the-wild.

Finally I see a lot of consolidation and convergence happening in the market. I think we’ll see a lot of Merger & Acquisition activity because the C-level executives, starting with the Chief Marketing Officer, are already valuing the strategic importance of combining business strategy with UX, CX (Customer Experience) and design strategy.

Q9. What’s next for you personally in your career, and for UserZoom in the next year or two, what would you like to focus on?

We’re building a truly GREAT business here. We’re 100% focused and more excited than ever before.

UserZoom-CEO-Alfonso-de-la-Nuez-UsefulUsabilityI personally would like to focus on doing all this pretty quickly, with the highest quality possible, and preserving the culture that’s made UserZoom a well-respected and recognized player within the space, particularly among the Enterprise market.

Q10. Finally, what advice do you have for those who want to get into the usability and UX field?

To understand that to be really great at UX today, you need to cover various areas of knowledge, including not just the classic sociology, psychology or anthropology, not just design, but also business and marketing.


Thank you Alfonso!

For more information on Alfonso’s all-in-one usability and UX research services or to request a free personalized Demo visit UserZoom.

Note: Companies mentioned in this article may or may not be sponsors of this site. However, in no way does their sponsorship or lack thereof impact the results of this or any other editorial content on the site. The editorial content of this and all other articles written by the Editorial team is determined without regard to whether a company is a sponsor of the site or not.

1 234

Should I usability test my own site is a question I am often asked.

Should-I-Usability-Test-My-Own-Website-UsefulUsability-The answer to the question “should I usability test my own site” is not as clear nor as obvious as you might think.

There are multiple reasons why a quick “yes” or “no” doesn’t necessarily apply.

In this article I will explain the issues of testing your own website so you can be more informed when it’s time for you to conduct usability testing.

Usability Testing Your Own Site Definition:

So what exactly is usability testing a website? My definition is:

What I mean by that definition is “usability testing” is conducting performance-based tests on a website’s critical tasks using people who match the website’s Personas. What’s a Persona? A Persona is a representation of the most common website visitors who all share a set of critical tasks.

It is very important to remember that it is the critical tasks that are being tested, not the tester’s opinions about those tasks.

Likewise, usability testing is not about capturing survey data, or voice of the customer information (although both of those can be helpful additions to the performance-based testing).

So when people ask me,

“Should I usability test my own website myself?”

I reply with,

“If you mean you being the test participant? No. Because you can’t usability test your own site yourself conducting performance based tasks. You probably don’t match the Persona, and you are already too biased and know the correct task flow.”

Running But Not Participating In Tests:

Some of you may be wondering a similar question, which is,

“Should I set up and run a usability test on my website only (ie. not participate in the testing)?”

Here the answer is a bit more cloudy.

In general, I would caution against usability testing your own website, there are 5 reasons why:

1. Usability Training Matters:

Unless you are trained in usability testing, it’s dangerous to assume you have the knowledge and expertise necessary to very carefully write a non-biased testing protocol.

It is amazingly easy to find tools that anyone with or without training can use to conduct usability testing. But it is also amazingly easy for those without usability training to accidentally create a biased test that provides bad data.

When I was in the process of becoming certified in usability analysis I attend many classes prior to taking and passing my certification test. I would say about half the classes were focused on helping students understand biases; where they can creep in, how to uncover them, and how to write protocols that carefully eliminate them.

Without that advanced training, conducting your own testing can introduce hidden biases in the test protocol, which could make results invalid and cause resulting website usability changes to make things worse, not better.

2. Internal Usability Teams Can Be Biased:

Although less common, I’ve come across situations in which I was surprised to find that even internal company usability teams had hidden bias’ in protocols. Not always of course, but often enough over the past 20 years of my experience that I’ve decided the longer you spend time with a website or company, the more difficult it becomes for you to remove your own biases from the process.

That’s not to say that internal company usability teams can’t write non-biased protocols. It’s just that it becomes more and more difficult as domain expertise rises AND testing patterns become standardized.

Let’s face it, as humans, we are all creatures of habit. And for internal teams this can sometimes unfortunately mean picking up biased habits and sticking to those habits when writing protocols and creating tests.

3. Usability Testing Protocols Are Mandatory:

Sadly there’s a common misconception out there that anyone can usability test simply by walking down a hallway or using software to ask people to try to do something on a website and observe them.

I’m here to tell you that’s a dangerous oversimplification of how to actually conduct non-biased tests.

To ensure that bias is not in the usability test, it’s critical that a usability testing protocol be developed AND be reviewed in advance. Without the protocol, random “guerrilla usability testing” or “agile testing” can accidentally introduce bias into the process.

Some usability practitioners, entrepreneurs and usability testing software services may disagree with me.

But I’m here to tell you the primary mission of a protocol is to ensure you’re reducing bias and that you’re testing across a standard set of criteria for each test you conduct. Without it, test results may vary due to the unintended introduction of biases.

4. Moderating Usability Testing is Harder Than It Seems:

Closely associated with needing a protocol, moderating the actual usability tests without bias is not easy.

The test participant is looking for clues (after all, it is a test). They will instinctively read a moderator’s body language and other verbal or non-verbal queues. Being on guard to not generate those clues while at the same time gathering think aloud feedback plus keeping the tester focused takes skill.

The common misconception that anyone can usability test without training or bias is false.

It is best to let trained usability professionals handle moderating usability testing, else risk bad data entering the process.

Again, entrepreneurs and do-it-yourselfers may scoff, but I’ve seen plenty of bad websites made worse by erroneous data coming from badly moderated testing sessions.

5. Analyzing and Prioritizing Usability Testing Results Requires Expertise:

Analyzing usability testing results and prioritizing them also takes skill that I caution should not be handled by untrained usability practitioners.

Here’s a common scenario:

You’ve conducted usability testing and found 8 places in a task-flow with errors causing poor performance.

What’s the severity, and thus priority, of those errors?

Analyzing issues and identifying possible solutions requires a fair amount of user experience and usability best practices knowledge.

Going with gut feelings about the best way to solve an issue can sometimes work, and sometimes not. It’s better to analyze the results and make recommendations based on extensive experience in understanding UX and usability best practices.

Associated with this, I have seen plenty of bias in prioritizing results even by internal usability teams. That’s because being so familiar with their organization, they knew what could and could not easily be worked on by developers. They also knew what would and wouldn’t be easily supported in terms of workload by business owners.

How many times did the “hard to do stuff” take a back seat to the “easy to do stuff?” And, did the “hard to do stuff” have a much greater impact on usability than the “easy to do stuff?” Often it does, but often it’s not prioritized that way due to internal bias.

Conclusion: Should I Usability Test My Own Site?

So should I test my own site?

Now that you have a clearer picture of the issues around testing your own website, I think you’ll agree a quick answer of ‘yes’ is not always appropriate.

This is NOT to say that usability testing your own site cannot or should not be done!

Instead, it’s a warning that when testing your own site it is very easy to let bias into the results, thus causing bad data and potentially bad results from subsequent optimization.

Being aware of these issues, my recommendation is to consider your resources, and if it makes sense contact a professional usability consultant like me or others in our industry anytime you’re considering usability testing on your own website.

Further Usability Testing Resources: – Usability Testing Methods – 14 Usability Testing Tools

Human Factors International – Certified Usability Analyst (CUA) Training

Nielsen Norman Group – Full Day Usability Testing Training