Website UX/UI Testing Parameters Part II

In this post, I will discuss compatibility, performance and security testing as important parameters of UX website testing.

In the previous post, I covered the first group of website testing parameters. In this article, I will discuss compatibility, performance and security testing.

website testing

  • Check how your website is rendered through different browsers and if the website functionality is maintained. You surely do not need to cover all existing browsers, however, the website should be compatible with the essential browsers and browser versions. In case you have visitor statistics from the past, you will know which browsers your visitors use (this may differ e.g. depending on the business you are in). Otherwise, you can use available statistics, such as by W3 (https://www.w3counter.com/globalstats.php). By the way, instead of installing all the browsers, you can just turn to one of browser testing tools (Browser Sandbox, Ghostlab, etc.)
  • Device compatibility at a higher level means mobile-friendly layout and functionality. At a more granular level, it means compatibility with most often used devices, in particular with their screen sizes and resolutions.
  • Statistics on operating systems (device platforms) can also be found in your previous web analytics reports, or, in the absence of those, on the Web (here you can also refer to W3 website).
  • The last point on compatibility refers to the most common OS, browser and device combinations. Also, here you can use professional testing tools without having to buy hundreds of devices.
  • Load testing examines how a site would perform at peak loads (extremely high user activity), stress testing may stretch the site beyond its limits or well beyond an expected peak load.
  • Take preventive measures in order for a website crash not to happen  (use a reliable hosting company, cautiously make code changes)  or to restore your website quickly in case it does crash (making a backup).
  • Website speed greatly influences not only user experience but also how your website is ranked in the search engines. For determining the site speed you can again turn to Google Search Console, but there are a lot of other tools out there.
  • Login security guarantees that only logged-in users can view certain areas of your site, but also that each user may only use their unique username and password.
  • Form validation means that only valid information can be entered. It is essential that your website’s code cannot be manipulated through form fields.
  • Internal website files should not be available to external viewers unless you want some of them to be accessible (such as .pdf files for download). Also, be careful about any transactions involving file uploads to prevent visitors from uploading executable files.
  • SSL enables secure file transfer between a server and a client and is a crucial feature of any up-to-date website. Using SSL causes that the links in the browser appear as https://. In case SSL is not present, website visitors will get a warning from most browsers.
  • This is by no means a full list of measures to protect your website from hackers’ attacks, so check logs of important transactions and error messages to identify any security breach attempts. Abnormal user behavior can sometimes be identified through your web analytics data.

Using the framework shown above, you will be able to test the most important UX/UI parameters of your website before or just after it goes live.

Share this post

Website UX/UI Testing Parameters Part I

UX/UI testing is an essential step in website development. You should plan for testing early in the process and decide what will be tested in addition to the tools you will use. Remember that you cannot test everything, so prioritization should also take place.

This post is based on my own experience as well as the UX and Web Design Masters course and provides a basic framework for website testing.

This table structures testing parameters into several categories. Below I will explain the first three groups of criteria. My next post will cover the rest of the parameters.

website testing

 

  • Links to and from pages on the site should point to a correct destination. This includes mailto: and social media links. While you will not be able to control all the incoming links (links coming from other domains), bear in mind that changing your URLs without a redirect will cause them to become invalid. Pay special attention to internal links, that is cross-linking between the site’s pages.
  • Things to check on the forms are default form values, required data format, entry validation and storing entered information.
  • Apart from including a privacy statement, test what happens if cookies get rejected, blocked or deleted by users. Also check that all information is encrypted and that cookies are not stored longer than required.
  • CSS styles render the design of the page, such as fonts, colors, etc. HTML is the “carcass” of the page, while JavaScript is used for interactivity features. There are various code validators, for example https://validator.w3.org/.
  • The capability to be indexed by search engines is an aspect less related to the UI/UX of the page, however, it directly affects if and how your website appears in Google Search results. A popular tool to use is Google Search Console. This tool additionally checks the site usability on mobile devices.
  • Database connections include correct execution of database queries, reliable data storage and retrieval and correct updating of stored information in case of any changes.
  • Navigation clarity means that users should be able to find what they need on the site using the navigation. Furthermore, the navigation should stand out from the rest of the content and its elements should be labeled clearly.
  • Ideally, the content of the website should match website visitors’ expectations, but in any case it should be understandable and actionable.
  • Distraction in the desired user journeys, such as a number of pop-ups or multiple CTAs should be avoided.
  • Calls-to-action express the purpose of your website or, in other words, what you want users to do. In my post on CTAs I covered how they should be formulated and designed.
  • The main benchmark of your website’s usability is the ability of users to complete their tasks. Users should be satisfied both with the results and the process.
  • Beside the correct rendering of fonts and colors, it is important that the overall readability and visibility of the content are not impacted (an example of bad usability is using light font colors over white background). In addition, consider emotional aspects of the website colors and how they match your brand.
  • Proper handling of errors means that they are recognized and assigned to the correct category. For example, an HTTP 404 error message is generated when users try to reach a non-existent page. Other examples of errors can be form submission errors or incorrect content display.
  • Error handling also includes displaying appropriate and understandable error messages to the user. In parallel, errors should be logged into the system for review. However, make sure not to include any security-sensitive information into the displayed error messages, e.g. usernames.
  • It goes without saying that all known errors should be promptly fixed.

In the next part, I will go through testing parameters for compatibility, performance and security.

Share this post

Usability Testing: Recap Webmontag Bonn

This post is a recap of Webmontag Bonn (October 21, 2019) that was dedicated to usability testing topics. The speaker explained Think Aloud method in detail. This presentation was followed by a discussion on website usability and accessibility.

This post is a recap of Webmontag Bonn (October 21, 2019) that was dedicated to usability testing topics.

It started with a talk by the organizer, Lina D., that introduced general concepts of usability testing. Normally, it includes figuring out how intuitive a UI is, how users handle their tasks within a UI and what improvements can be possibly made. Some common methods include prototyping, benchmarking, case studies with personas, interviews, eye-tracking, etc. The speaker went into detail regarding the Think Aloud method. This method has the following parts:

  • A prototype is built (can be also done on existing software or even on a paper prototype)
  • A use case is written (i.e. a task that a user has to fulfill);
  • Users are invited for a short interview;
  • During ice-breaker, the tester tries to define what customer type the user belongs to;
  • A task is presented to the user. They have to complete the task while commenting on their actions;
  • The test completes with a short feedback round;
  • The whole test lasts about 20 minutes

The talk was followed by a lively discussion about the presented method and also about general usability problems. One question was how to select test participants, especially in the case of a very narrow target group. For example, you can try to reach them in person through industry events, etc. My suggestion was to launch the software and get feedback by analyzing analytics data or making online surveys (though from my experience a lot of people use this survey instead of customer service chat). Somebody also suggested recruiting the participants for one-on-one tests by displaying banners within the software.

There was also a lengthy discussion on accessibility. In the public sector in Germany, there exist accessibility catalogs that constitute minimum requirements for the software to be accepted. However, without proper accessibility testing, such catalogs are only partially helpful. It was noted that a lot of times users with a disability have a completely different workflow interacting with a software or a website.

The last topic that was brought up in the large discussion round was about how to onboard users to new software. For example, through instructional videos, FAQs, pop-up windows within the user interface (UI), or an overlay with explanations of different elements on the first login.

After this, the discussions of the Webmontag continued in smaller groups accompanied by pizza and cold drinks.

Share this post

It Starts with a Z: Visual Hierarchy in Banner Design

Visual hierarchy defines the arrangement or presentation of elements on a screen by importance. More important elements are supposed to draw the attention of a website visitor first. UX designers use a variety of methods to assign visual hierarchy to design elements (also see my post on UX design principles). In this post, I will explain how UX design principle of visual hierarchy applies to designing website banners.

  • Color contrast
    • Light colors (less important elements) vs dark colors (more important elements)
    • Unsaturated colors (less important elements) to colors with high saturation (more important elements)
    • Use of complementary colors to highlight an important element (e.g. a red button on a blue background)
  • Shape (e.g. grouping important elements by placing them close to each other (proximity) or putting a boundary around them)
  • Size (more important elements are larger than less important ones)
  • Perspective (foreground vs background), also figure-ground relationship

For a banner, a common pattern for organizing content is called ‘Z-pattern’. It can be explained as follows: the eye movement starts in the upper left-hand corner, then the focus shifts to the right (where normally teaser text is placed), then moves to the left-hand side (e.g. with a visual) and then goes to the right-hand corner, mostly to a CTA.

Below we will look at how these principles are utilized in banners on websites of several skincare companies.

The first banner (LUSH) does not follow the Z-pattern, but arranges the information vertically and centered. This works for headlines, however, if the text was longer, aligning it to the left would achieve better readability. We also see that the color of the teaser text and the CTA are low contrast compared to the background, so they can barely be read. The navigation bar, however, achieves a high contrast compared to the banner. The text (especially the sub-headline and the CTA) is relatively small compared to the background elements, thus, there is no contrast by size.  Shape or perspective are also not used. When visiting the page, the user would notice the background and the navigation bar first.

banner lush

The next banner is by The Body Shop. We can see the Z-pattern being used in this banner, with the CTA placed in the bottom left corner. The teaser text has good contrast in color (white on a dark purple background) and in size. We can also see that the products’ visual and the text elements are arranged in groups that allows for better visual separation (proximity principle). However, the CTA has lower contrast in color and size than the headline, it is also not separated from the text by a boundary but only underlined (as with hyperlinks).

bodyshop banner

The next banner by Yves Rocher also incorporates the  Z-pattern. Red is used as complementary color to green to highlight more important elements on the screen. The visual hierarchy is supported by grouping the elements of the visual and the text against the background. The background is also less saturated than the visual and the text. Additionally, important parts are highlighted by a boundary (marketing claim: Limited Edition and the CTA)  by color contrast (CTA and price) and by size (price).  The text is also aligned to the left, which allows for better readability. However, the header is designed in pale yellow, the same as background elements, which makes it stand out less.

yvesrocher

The last banner I would like to have a look at is L’Occitaine, also with the Z-pattern. A good point in the design of this banner is that the text and the CTA are not only grouped together and surrounded by a boundary but are also put against a white background, different to that of the visual. CTA in yellow, however, has middle contrast to the background. The teaser text is rather long and is aligned to the center, which makes it more difficult to read. Although yellow is the main branding color of L’Occitaine, it is perceived by the brain as a signal color and its overuse in the design as well as in visuals causes the page to look a bit “busy”.

loccitaine banner

In this post, we have had a look at how visual hierarchy can be realized in banner design. We saw that not only corporate identity, design guidelines or aesthetics play a role, but also UX/UI factors, that is how users perceive the banner and get motivated to take a desired action.

Share this post

Six UX Design Principles in Action

This post outlines some important UX design principles and will provide some examples. The principles covered in this post are: affordance, continuation, consistency, figure-ground relationships, progressive disclosure and error avoidance.

Appropriate UX design should not only differentiate your brand but first and foremost be appropriate for your audience.  It should reflect their needs and expectations of the website and provide them with visual cues for interacting with the site.

Below I will outline some important UX design principles (based on UX & Web Design Masters Course) and will provide some examples using mymuesli site (mymuesli is a German provider of customized muesli mixes as well as other related products).

  1. Affordance in UX design means that all elements of a Web page should imply their intended functions (e.g. clickable- and non-clickable elements should be recognized as such).  It is important to remember that design elements such as buttons, arrows, etc. already have their established function and users instinctively interact with them in a certain way.
    In the muesli mixer below, ingredient choices are presented as buttons (clickable), additional filtering parameters as radio buttons (selectable), more Info as a down-arrow (expandable), whereas the introductory text is contains no links or highlighted elements and thus perceived as not clickable.muesli_mixer.PNG
  2. Continuation implies that elements grouped or aligned together should perform the same kind of function. In our example, top navigation has three levels, the first one being brands (top level), the second one is navigating by product (second level) and the third one is navigating within muesli mixer (third level). All these levels differ from each other in design and position. At the same time, buttons at each level are aligned and grouped together.
  3. Consistency is extremely important since it helps site users to recognize similar patterns and complete their intended task more quickly.  In mymuesli example, once you switch between different ingredient groups, the navigation buttons and the visual representation of ingredients remain the same.muesli_mixer_berries
  4. Figure-ground relationship means that there should be a clear distinction between the background and the actual objects on a page. The aim should be to focus users’ attention on the key actionable elements without distracting them with background color, design etc. This is also the reason why sites with dark or pattered background, as a rule, have worse usability.  In the example above, key elements, such as current process steps, are highlighted with color, whereas the background stays white all the time.
  5. Progressive disclosure is probably the most important principle of UX design. It states that only necessary or requested information should be displayed on a page at the same time. For example, if you navigate to muesli mixer from the top navigation, the mixer itself is displayed, and additional information, such as mixer tips, is shifted to another tab.  Also, CTAs such as Remove Ingredients or Finish are first shown after the ingredient is selected.
  6. Error avoidance means that good UX design should help users to avoid errors. In the muesli mixer, it is always possible to remove or double any ingredient in the muesli jar by clicking on it as well as to remove all ingredients by clicking the corresponding button. Furthermore, after the customer clicks on Finish, there is a very detailed confirmation screen with a product preview. Also here it is possible to go to the previous step and change the ingredients. Additional information, e.g. taste flower, ingredients list and nutritional value helps users to make a decision in the presence of multiple combination possibilities. Adding the product to cart and proceeding to the checkout are additional steps that help to prevent order errors.muesli_confirmation

 

To summarize, in this article we have looked at six common UX design principles and how they can be put into practice. Applying these principles will help you to avoid common design failures, improve the usability of your website and, ultimately, achieve your business goals.

Share this post