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Usability Testing: Getting surprised by our users

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Since Oct. 2010, my team has conducted four usability tests on our government website. What we have found astounded us. I’m now convinced that usability testing for all government websites should be required because:

1. Our users did not read our homepage to navigate or follow links. Instead, they just searched. We’ve spent so much of our resources on crafting navigation paths and menus. Our users want only quality search results.

2.  When our users searched, the search results were not optimal. We need to reallocate our resources to ensure our search results help our users complete their tasks.  Now that we know how important search is – we need immediate resources dedicated to ensuring search engine optimization.

3.  Users scanned our pages, looking for keywords that made sense to them. Their keywords were not our keywords. We assumed that users used our jargon but users searched using simple words and not our program names. If the information was at the bottom of the page the users questioned why it had been put there – it seemed that they thought important information (to them) belonged in only one place – at the top of the page.

4.  Users sometimes didn’t trust the links on our pages even when it seemed that it was the correct one for them to select to complete the task. They would look at us and ask if they should click it. Why wouldn’t they just follow the link? Why were they hesitant? We don’t know the answer to this question.

So we’ve learned a lot from our users, and need to put the information together in a presentation for our program managers. I’ll write more about that in my next blog.