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How usability testing can help your nonprofit

Usability Testing in action | How usability testing can help your nonprofit

Have you ever tested how user-friendly your nonprofit website is? If you have, it was probably back when your site was built (or maybe not even then?).

Did you know that performing regular usability testing can continue to help your nonprofit website long after the launch? In this Droplet article, I'll show you how to do usability testing, and why you should.  

What is usability testing?

Usability testing is the practice of recruiting a few people to test how usable your website is, though it can also be used to test Web apps or any other product that people interact with. It is sometimes referred to as "user testing," though I prefer to avoid that term as it implies that the user is being tested rather than the website, and so can make some people reluctant to participate.

How do I do it?

To start usability testing, you need to find some users to take part. People often make the assumption that the more users you have to test the website the better, however, it turns out that three people is the magic number. In his book, Don't Make Me Think, Steve Krug points out that "the first three users are very likely to encounter many of the most significant problems related to the tasks you’re testing."

Unless they're volunteering, it's customary to pay each user a small honorarium of $50 to $100 for their time, and they should be from your target audience and not connected to your organization. As much as they may want to help, avoid recruiting staff and board members.

Once you have your users, you need to establish some tasks that you want them to perform. These should align with your nonprofit's goals for your website: the things you want your visitors to be able to do there. Some basic examples of these tasks include:

You may learn that most or all of your users run into problems in the same areas. They may have trouble locating the Donate button. Or they may do a lot of scrolling around a page before finally accomplishing a task. This is where their behaviour can also be insightful. If you're able to watch them during the testing, you can catch any brow furrowing or frustrated sighs, which can tell you a lot about their experience and which you can ask them about later. And don't forget to test your mobile layout as well!

You can also employ usability testing to learn more abstract things about your website. For example, you can ask users to describe the personality of your nonprofit based on your website. Does that align with your mission and how you want the public to perceive your organization?

Testing your website's usability only requires a computer and three people, but there are even easier ways to make it happen. Services like UserTesting.com allow you to recruit people of certain demographics (age range, income, etc.) and collect recorded videos of them using your website. If real-life tests aren't an option, this may be a suitable alternative.

Why keep doing it?

Usability testing is most useful when you're in the design phase of your website, since it allows you to make immediate changes to the design based on the results. It can continue to provide valuable information well into the future, however. Your website should always be changing and growing, so you should continue to ensure that it remains optimized for user experience as you add new features and content. And just as Web trends and technologies come and go, the way people interact with websites also changes, so you need to stay ahead of the curve.

I can help

Once you have results from usability testing, it's time to evaluate how they impact your website and what changes you may need to make. If you need assistance with this or just setting up usability testing, I'm here to help. Get in touch!

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