How User Testing
Shapes a Website Redesign
Before launching a
redesign, be sure to test the user experience and match that against your
By Matt Curtin
youíve decided to redesign your website, you may be tempted to jump right into
compositions and get that new design launched. Not so fast. Throughout the
redesign process, there are several steps along the way where you should
leverage user experience testing to ensure the redesign is effective and meets
its stated goals.
1. First and
Foremost: Be Prepared
first step in the redesign should be discovery. Before a single design concept
is created, you should go through an entire discovery process and understand
what the expectation is of the redesign, including usability, user interactions
by device, what expectations there are per device, where things change, what
priorities exist for visitors, and what information must appear and be
important at this stage to explicitly state what a conversion means. Is a
conversion a new member? An order? A download? A visit to another page? It must
also be understood what conversion means per device Ė you might want someone on
their mobile device to call you and someone on a desktop to fill out a longer
form, for instance. Understanding which goals you want your visitors to
accomplish will help you to lay the groundwork for the correct features to
2. User Testing
the discovery phase is complete, you should have a clear understanding of what
you want your website visitors to experience. Itís always a good idea before
something is built to conduct some user testing. Find a few trusted advisors
outside of the organization to see if they can easily identify key elements in
the initial compositions. This can be achieved through a simple survey by
asking users to find search or identify certain elements in the navigation, for
instance. Even if you know your visitors well, this sort of testing can be
useful to identify any unexpected issues. Sometimes, things that make sense to
you and your designer wonít make sense to your end user. Identifying potential
issues at this stage saves many headaches in the future.
3. Mobile User
the site is ready for development, developers and designers should work closely
to create the site. Quality assurance will not take place toward the end of
development, but prior to launch to find bugs and alert the developers of
issues as they arise.
design and development, itís always a good idea to use device emulators for UX
testing. Most modern browsers have extensions that allow you to switch the user
agent to an iPad, Google Nexus, whatever device you like so that you can test.
This will help the developer and designer ensure the site they build will
generally work well and function on the physical devices that will be tested at
the end of the process.
device emulators donít give you the exact layout and functionality, they can
give you a good idea of what things on your site will look like on mobile
devices. During the final quality assurance check is when physical devices are
also used. Some devices, for example Windows phones, are special cases that
require special coding and testing for a design and development team to prevent
usability issues. These usability issues wouldnít be discovered without special
device emulation and physical device testing.
4. Final Quality
Assurance for Optimal User Experience
documents should also be reviewed before launch to ensure usability is upheld
according to the initial plan and that the end goals were achieved as outlined
in the document. For example, with a nonprofit responsive site, the main
element to test for would be purchasing a membership or subscription from any
device. The goals and objectives will change by site, and you as the site owner
will typically know which actions you want your site visitors to take and
should then test that those are easily accomplished.
should also relay the list of important processes and objectives for the users
to test. Heavy client internal testing is also important because there may be
elements of the site that may not have been defined or outlined well in the
development brief. You and internal team members should review the site for
bugs alongside your developers.
itís important to test throughout the redesign process to ensure that not only
is the website functioning as it should, but also that the design is achieving
the user experience goals you set out to achieve.
Matt Curtin is a web designer with Association Media & Publishing member Unleashed