Usability testing is all about collecting real data from real people. In a typical usability test, participants will interact with an app, website or other product while attempting to complete assigned tasks. The goal of these tests is to identify any usability issues, and collect qualitative and quantitative data. Ultimately, this data will help a team determine user satisfaction with the product and what needs to be improved or refined.

In this blog post, let’s take a look at how this method can be used to improve a local salon’s websites.

The Tasks & Participants

The bulk of the usability tests is to lead participants through a series of tasks. For the best results, the tasks should be framed up within a larger scenario to provide context to the participant. The tasks should be designed so that the development team can see where people have difficulties within the process and start ideating various solutions. Because the website I was using was extremely bare-bones and simplistic. The tasks I created were very typical for a standard website:

Task 1: You hear of Salon Elan from a friend in town. They seem to have enjoyed their experience and you’ve been looking for someplace new. Curious, you go to check them out online. You’re interested in getting a perm. Find the list of services offered at Salon Elan.

Task 2: Your wedding is coming up. In six months, you will be married to the love of your life. Looking good on your big day is important. Hoping to find a place that will do both hair and makeup, you research local salons. Find out if Salon Elan does bridal consultations.

Task 3: You’re new in town and need to find a place for a haircut. A colleague at work suggested Salon Elan as a place to go. They said the building is right off of 206, but you’re unsure where. Find the address and directions to the salon.

Task 4: On the way home from work, you pass Salon Elan and throw around the idea of booking an appointment. You pull over only to find that the salon is closed. Interested in learning more, you go to their website to get contact information. Find Salon Elan’s email form.

To conduct my tests, members of my immediate family were solicited due to COVID-19 and the inability to meet other people in person. Consisting of my father, mother, and sister, this small group allowed me to get an idea of what was working and what was not. While they do share common ties (besides being related), there are distinct differences in their personal needs and how they prefer to use computers and the internet.

What I Found

After conducting my usability testing, I found that my participants overall felt that the website was rather ineffective because it didn’t act like a true website. It felt more like an online repository of information rather than a place users would come to in the hopes to interact with the company.

Below are what I discovered per task and short video snippets from my sister’s session of usability session.

Sister’s Task 1 Recording

Task 1 Results: All participants were able to cleanly navigate from the homepage to the services tab to find the full list of services and the “permanent waving” bullet.

Sister’s Task 2 Recording

Task 2 Results: Participants had varied results here. Two returned to the services list, while the third went to the “About” page. On the “About” page, they saw the “wedding hair” hyperlink and clicked it leading back to the “Services” page. From these findings, we can see that there is a break in how participants thought information should be organized. 

There also was a consensus that there was not enough information about the bridal offerings. Just saying “wedding hair and makeup” in different areas of the site gave the user enough information about what is included and why they should go to Salon Elan for their supposed specialized services.

Sister’s Task 3 Recording

Task 3 Results: This task was interesting as it definitely showed the differences in how age and experience with websites comes into play. My sister scrolled immediately down from the homepage to find the information in the website footer, while both my father and mother went to the “About” page. 

It is commonplace for most retail websites to have a sticky footer that has key pieces of information like the address, etc. My sister, experienced with online retail/service websites, had the instinct that the task could be completed in that simple way. My parents, on the other hand, used their more logical approach to find the same information.

Sister’s Task 4 Recording

Task 4 Results: For this task, each participant went directly to the “Contact” page. Upon initial confusion, one participant thought the hyperlink in the footer that said “Email” would link to the email form. Upon finding that it did not, they got frustrated.

After discovering the “Contact” page did not contain the form, they eventually navigated to the “Inquiries” tab to find the form. All participants felt that the information on the two similar pages could be condensed into one “Contact” page as “Inquiries” was a confusing term to find on a salon website.

How Can they Improve?

So what can Salon Elan do to snip those proverbial “split ends” in their website’s usability?

  • Conduct a content audit to improve information and visuals
  • Use a website hosting platform like WordPress or SquareSpace to add in features that the typical customer expects from a digital experience
  • Remove hyperlinks from the website if they lead to other internal pages
  • Update the aesthetic to appeal to users and mobile devices
  • Make special offers and packages easier to find, whether that be somewhere on the homepage or “Services” page

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