Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

We had a security audit and it was brilliant. Are there companies that do web usability audit?

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by gnat, Dynamic, MichaelT, Dan Pichelman, Martijn Pieters Jun 15 '13 at 7:20

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Try posting this question to or -- Cheers! – blunders Apr 5 '11 at 4:32

Been through a few of these. There are really several kinds, depending on what you are looking for and what your site does. Depending on how much you want to pay, it can involve single third parties writing paid critiques to live user testing observation.

Overall, I've found the process quite interesting and it more often than not improves the site or web application if properly applied. Even in cases when we found out we didn't need to change how we were doing things.

share|improve this answer
Finding out that you are doing everything perfectly is just as valuable as finding out you did x, y and z wrong. – Matthew Scharley Mar 31 '11 at 1:30

We've done that as part of the development process for products we built for our clients. Our clients are end users who have problems to solve. Building for an analyst when you aren't one yourself can be difficult. It's important to get these built in to the cost of the contract, though.

There are several ways of going about the usability testing, depending on what you want to find out.

  • Eye tracking, useful for more basic usability. Essentially, are people looking where you want them to look? Where are their eyes drawn that you didn't expect? This is more useful when you have a basic site and you simply want to make the best of the screen real estate.
  • Newbie usability testing, get people who have never seen the site before or done the type of work the site is used for. This is useful for the base question of how much online help do I really need? Catering to this crowd is only useful if a large part of your business is attracting newbie users. In short, it makes more sense for a site like Flickr than the analyst tools that I worked on.
  • Veteran usability testing, get people who are good at doing the type of work the site is for, preferably with a mix of people who have seen the work in progress and those who haven't. This is useful for answering the hard questions of whether you are making it easier for the power users to do their jobs. Is your site making the formerly impossible possible, and the formerly possible easy? This is most useful for sites where the majority of the users are going to be power users, i.e. analyst tools.

Each of the options has a user sitting in front of a computer and they are given tasks to perform. The questions you are trying to get answers to are:

  • Can the person complete the task without any training?
  • How long does it take to complete? (there is a maximum time permitted for planning's sake)
  • Does the user have any suggestions?
  • What was their reaction?

Of course, all these questions you want answers to are applied to who that user is. Not by name, but by skill level or any other demographic you want to break the results into.

For just about all of my clients, we stick with veteran usability testing. The others would be nice to haves, but they aren't critical for the type of work I do.

share|improve this answer

We also did this with one of our products. We brought in about 12 college students, 6 girls and 6 guys, sat them down with their own computers and gave them a list of tasks to complete using our web app. We were there to answer questions about any bugs they ran into, but they were on their own to figure out how to to use the app. It was pretty illuminating - we found a lot of issues that seemed obvious to us but after seeing them use it, it was pretty clear that we had a bit of tunnel vision regarding our interface. Our study took about an hour of time, each student got $20, a free lunch from Jimmy Johns and a couple free t-shirts, and everyone left happy. More importantly, we got valuable testing data for less than $500 total that we used to improve our app. I highly recommend usability testing - it is one of Joel's 12 steps.

share|improve this answer

Don't Make Me Think has good instructions for how to do an effective one on the cheap.

People won't use your web site if they can't find their way around it. Whether you call it usability, ease-of-use, or just good design, companies staking their fortunes and their futures on their Web sites are starting to recognize that it's a bottom-line issue. In Don't Make Me Think, usability expert Steve Krug distills his years of experience and observation into clear, practical--and often amusing--common sense advice for the people in the trenches (the designers, programmers, writers, editors, and Webmasters), the people who tell them what to do (project managers, business planners, and marketing people), and even the people who sign the checks...

share|improve this answer