Testing Your Web Project — Part 3 of 3


Testing Your Web Project — Part 3 of 3

May 06, 2014By Kylie Stanley


In recent weeks I covered two crucial questions to ask before you conduct testing as part of a website redesign: 1) what do I want to test? and 2) how do I plan to use the results? Today, I am going to talk about why you should consider conducting testing in coordination with a partner firm and how to communicate your expectations with that firm.

Many of our website redesign clients partner with us for testing because in the grand scheme of a large project it seems like a good idea and it is relatively inexpensive. I think project teams undergoing a website redesign should absolutely conduct testing, but I also think there are benefits to partnering with a vendor for testing even when a larger project isn’t underway. Here’s why a partner firm is a good idea:

  • Neutral party recommendations often carry more weight. If you’re trying to generate buy-in for a project refresh or redesign, other campus community members assume you have a bias or that you’re looking through one particular lens. A vendor firm is more likely to appear as a neutral party and is not associated with internal politics, which may help critics see this as a campus project rather than a department project.
  • Experienced firms have the benefit of past clients and closely follow “what’s next” in the web. Like all things in life, experience is the best teacher. Bringing in a firm could help your project team dig deeper and ask questions previously unconsidered. Further, it’s a vendor firm’s job to be on top of the latest web trends and patterns. Constructing protocols with the past and future in mind helps get your team more powerful results.
  • Your team is small and mighty, but you still only have 24 hours in the day. Testing takes a lot of time and partnering with a firm ensures you can construct, conduct, and analyze testing in a short time frame.
  • Firms have access to powerful testing tools. Most campuses can conduct small-scale card sorting or a survey via Survey Monkey on their own. If your team is looking to step it up a notch, though, a firm likely has access and experience with other tools.
  • Test participants are more likely to speak freely if they aren’t afraid to offend someone. If you’re testing your IA and participants know or believe you built it, they may be cautious about criticizing the work, hampering your efforts to improve.

So, you know you want to work with a vendor firm, you know what you want to test, and you know how you want to use the results. If all of the above is true, you are way ahead of the curve, my friend. Now you need to be sure to communicate your expectations with your partner firm. Some tips:

  • Earlier is better. As I said above, testing takes time. If we understand expectations early on, we are less likely to experience project delays.
  • Ask questions and check your assumptions. The best part about connecting with a firm is that you have someone to bounce ideas off of and we can suggest alternatives. Maybe you think a large survey is the way to go, but tell us why and see if we agree or have other ideas to accomplish the same result.
  • Be certain you have an experienced tester in the room. First of all, make sure the firm you’re partnering with has done this before (lots of times). Secondly, make sure the team member they assign has done this before (lots of times). You’re paying for their experience. Make sure you’re getting it.
  • Ask for a mock session if you have concerns or questions. If you’ve never seen a testing session before and you’re not entirely clear on the protocol, ask for a live preview of the test/survey or a mock one-on-one session.

The goal for this testing series was to ensure you understand what to expect and how to get what you want in your testing scope. Are there other questions out there we can help answer?