Gwen Davies

Test – make sure you do what you set out to do on your website

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I have a friend who makes bracelets for her friends. (Lucky us.) One day she decided to test how well she chose bracelets for particular friends. She created a few bracelets, invited friends over, and asked them to choose the one they liked best. Not one chose the bracelet she would have chosen for them.

You may not always want to hear like the results of your test, but you will be happy in the long run. When you have something written, and before you are attached to it, test it to make sure it does what you want.

Can people follow the way you want them to move through the site? What instructions or pieces of information do people most need to understand? If your site includes any forms, make sure you test them.

Testing is a form of planning – a process that leads you to do something that works rather than something else.

On the subject of planning, Sir John Harvey, a British Actor and Manager who died in 1944 once said, “Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.” The same holds for testing.

There are a few principles you need to know to make testing give you reliable information. The 5 Keys book gives you several ways to test that cost little or nothing and take only a small amount of time to do.

Next week, we’ll look at how to run a test, and details on the types of tests and what you can get from running them. Until then, think about what you would like to test. Hint – you want to make sure all the instructions you give people are ones they can follow. For example, many more than half the people who try to fill out forms give up, or make up information just to get the form finished. Testing takes the nervous twitch out of the process.

Before you jump into testing, decide what you want the test to tell you. For example, can people follow instructions you have given? Do they define particular words you use the same way you define them? If you use graphics, do people get the information from the graphics that you are trying to give?

You can test language, design, and how logically things are organized. You can test forms, graphics – everything on your site.

Anyone have any stories about informal testing experiences?

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