New tools for conducting and analyzing usability tests seem to be cropping up every week. These tools basically enable "unmoderated tests" where you don't need a moderator to run and observe the test. In the unmoderated version, participants typically go to a site from their own computer, read the task associated to a page, click on the page, and then move onto the next question. In some cases, participants can also provide open-ended feedback or comments.
The key benefits of unmoderated usability tests are:
- The user is in a familiar environment.
- The test is quick to setup and analyze.
- The tests may be cheaper per participant (the same setup cost still applies to prepare the pages and tasks).
- It is easy to open up the test to more people, especially for remote audiences, etc.
Most of the tools are focused on testing external websites. Some tools have options to help you with recruiting, and some provide advanced analytical tools for the results. An overview of some of the more popular tools are in this article.
Recently though, I wanted to find a quick way to test intranet concepts online. I was looking for:
- a private test that is sent to a specific group of users
- capability for participants to provide open-ended comments / notes
- wrap-up survey at the end
- encrypted site (nice to have)
- free or relatively inexpensive to run the test
IntuitionHQ has a good demo, and a sample test to give you a feel of how a test looks. This was a nice touch because I didn't have to go through and create an account, upload images, etc. It is pretty simple to setup a test, and to publish you pay $9 US.
The key limitation it had is that it only supports simple tasks (i.e. "Where would you click to...") As soon as a user clicks, they go to the next question. There isn't an opportunity to get richer feedback through notes, comments, etc. For me, that was the deal-breaker for this tool.
Usabillla seemed to have most of what I was looking for: task-based and open-ended questions, a link to send out the test, tracking for participants, and as a bonus, a pretty reasonable free pricing model.
Ironically though, I had usability issues setting up a test for the first time. It is a bit tedious to remove all the default tasks, edit tasks, and there are several unfriendly error messages you could encounter. I got this one when I had exceeded the free plan.
It's also not intuitive for a participant to add comments to the pointers. They have to know to hit the '+' symbol, which in my experience, most people miss unless you explicitly tell them.
The Usabilla folks are very responsive on Get Satisfaction, and I know they are working out the kinks in their system, but just be prepared to take some time to learn how to add tasks, manage tests, etc.
I haven't started analyzing a test yet, but I hope to do so very shortly! If anyone has other tools they use, I'd love to learn about them.