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What you need to know about usability testing for online courses

The success of any landing page, retail site, app, and even e-learning module is very much connected to the quality of the user experience — or UX. Today’s internet user is a very discerning customer, so it is paramount that course designers make sure the experience is up to (and, if possible, exceeding) expectations.

To ensure that the UX design of your online course is good enough and the end product will be met with good reviews and willingness to recommend it to others, usability testing is required. UX is obviously about the user, not about going through an established checklist, so they should be front and center at all times.

What’s the point of usability testing?

When you test for UX, you are doing more than validating your premises and knowledge of the targeted audience. First of all, you are trying to find out the issues (bugs, as they are often referred to) and sort them out. Once that part is settled, you can learn more about how you can improve the UX, so it gets even better results.

Then, lastly, but equally important, this process is fantastic for gathering precious information about your target audience. Whether this information is about their preferences, online behaviors, or the buying process, it’s all very relevant for the final design and the marketing of your product.

Read more: How to improve the customer experience of your online learners

Does UX testing cost an arm and a leg?

If you are outsourcing UX testing to a specialized contractor, yes, it might be rather pricey. I’m not saying they are not doing a fantastic job, but even they know their target customer base comprises big corporate clients with budgets that can afford such intricate services and can justify the expense.

Read more: PROs and CONs of online course outsourcing

Luckily, you can do UX testing without putting aside a lot of monetary resources for it. The key to doing it right and getting truly relevant results that you can use is to have a good process in place before you start. Keeping organized and aware of what each step is and what it is for will ensure you develop an applicable set of findings.

What are the steps for UX testing?

Figure out what testing method works for you. At the current time, it’s a bit difficult to do in-person testing so you can monitor the activity yourself, so it’s probably advisable to go for remote testing. Whether it’s with you still logged on and monitoring the process or with the user doing it individually and then sending you the feedback, it’s just as relevant.

Know the items you are testing for. If at the end of the session the tester just says something like “that was great,” it may be good for your ego but not at all relevant for what you are trying to do: improve your course’s UX. That’s why you must be clear on what is being monitored: the design elements, the navigation, the interactivity, or whatever is important to you.

Read more: Things to keep in mind if you want to make your online course more interactive

Set up specific tasks for the testers to perform. This is a continuation of the previous point. Once you know precisely what you want to test, the next logical step is to think of the most appropriate ways to do so. Keep in mind that whatever you ask the testers to do, it must feel natural in the environment you created.

Find the testers. There are several ways of going about this. Friends and existing customers are easiest to approach but not particularly prone to critical feedback since they already know you or your products. That familiarity could be detrimental to bug-hunting. You can also reach out (via social media, for example) and find testers among your target customers. Whichever avenue you choose to pursue, make sure they are keen to participate and know what is required of them very clearly.

Run the tests. This step is self-explanatory. It is essential here to find the right method (or platform) to run the simulations and record their results. The recordings will need to contain the relevant interactions, and if there’s software that permits you also to get direct feedback or ask questions during the process, it can’t but be helpful to the final findings.

Make the most of the results. Analyzing the data gathered ought to give you a clear overall image of how well your product performs in terms of UX. You should see both what the strong points and the weaknesses are. You will need to have enough tests done by different users to see if there are recurring patterns.

Read more: 5 Marketing metrics every solopreneur should keep an eye on

Improve and test again. This is the last step of the process and the first step of a new one. The whole point of doing UX testing is to improve it, and you won’t know for sure you did unless you test it all over again.

Closing thoughts

Constant optimization is a necessity on a market that is as demanding and dynamic as the online one. Potential customers abandon sales sites a lot easier than they used to leave physical stores in the past (when politeness dictated to at least exchange pleasantries with the salesperson). As a result, it is very important not to give them reasons to close the window. And where e-learning design is concerned, a good UX makes the difference between high engagement and good information retention and merely clicking through some screens to get to the end.

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