Usability Testing: Are you positive about that?

Usability expert Rolf Molich, as part of his Comparative Usability Evaluation (CUE) research, conducted a usability test on the website with nine teams of participants in November and December 1998.

His findings reported that of the 310 different usability problems reported by the participants, the most frequently reported problem was reported by seven of the nine teams. Only six problems were reported by more than half of the teams, while 232 problems (75%) were reported only once. Many of the problems that were classified as “serious” were only reported by a single team. He also found that many of the participants had mixed in their personal opinions into what should be an objective finding, rendering them biased.

Based on this, Rolf Molich debunked the belief that results arising from usability tests are scientific—they aren’t, and in fact, most of the feedbacks fell short of being even useful. Why then should web developers today still conduct usability testing for their websites?

Case Study

British online fashion and beauty store is one of the many businesses that benefitted from usability testing. In order to reduce the number of abandoned baskets (incomplete/dropped purchases), the web developers conducted a usability testing for the website to find out the cause. Many of their participants commented on the Call to Action (CTA) button being the problem. Based on the result from the test, ASOS changed the CTA button for new customers from saying ‘create your account’ to ‘continue’.

What is interesting is that the web developers only changed the wording and not the content—customers still has to fill in the registration form upon clicking the button.

The change, although minor, proved successful, with ASOS successfully reducing the number of abandoned basket by 50%.


The old design. Customers tend to associate creating an account with having to fill in a form requiring many details, which was probably why customers, finding it a hassle, terminate their purchase upon seeing the CTA button. The web developers took this into consideration, and changed the wording for the CTA button.

asos2The new design. Note that the CTA button looks more simple and clean now. It doesn’t “nag” in your face to create an account before checking out the items.

This is not a standalone case—companies such as Google, Samsung and Sony continue to engage themselves in usability testing to evaluate their new and upcoming products. For example, Google conducted the widely known usability test on its Google Glass with some 8,000 participants. Although the date for consumer release is not announced yet, it is apparent that the feedbacks from the participants have helped Google in furthering development for the Google Glass.

 Why should usability testing be conducted?

As mentioned in the ASOS case study, a user-centered website means a better user experience, which in turns benefits the business. Usability testing should therefore be done whenever possible because:

  1. Without users, you cannot—by definition—do user-centered design.

Without users, a web developer can only design based on what he thinks is nice, and he/she will never know if it actually works. The web developers are NOT the only audiences. Only by engaging real audiences can they get real feedback.

  1. Web developers may ‘unsee’ the flaws in their design

Known as the IKEA effect, which states that ‘labour leads to love’, web developers may fail to see what is lacking in their design—their work of labour. By employing usability testing, participants will act as a pair of ‘fresh eyes’ to website, possibly pointing out flaws that the developers may not have noticed.

  1. Usability testing is fulfilling

Nothing beats having people tell you that your design works, right?


Usability testing is probably the best method there is out there to evaluate the usability of a website. Precisely because websites are designed for humans, web developers should not be complacent when it comes to finding out what people want.

Although usability testing has its flaws, it should not deter a web developer from conducting one— As limited as it may seem, the advantages that stem from conducting one should not be ignored.


CUE-2- Hotmail. (n.d.) Retrieved February 11, 2015, from:

Google Glass. (n.d.) Retrieved February 12, 2015, from:

Janet M. Six. (2014). Persuading Clients That the Need for User Research and Usability Testing Is Real. Retrieved from UX Matters:

Moth, D. (2012). Eight user testing case studies that achieved amazing results. Retrieved from E-consultancy:

Perfetti, C. (2003). Usability Testing Best Practices: An Interview with Rolf Molich. Retrieved from User Interface Engineering:

Vedantam, S. (2013). Why you love that IKEA table, even if it’s crooked. Retrieved from NPR:

Interested in participating in usability tests for Google? Click here to find out more!

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