In my previous piece on DIY usability testing, I reviewed the steps to conducting your own testing, and in this segment, I will review the steps to hiring on a third-party resource to conduct your usability testing. The administration of hiring a third-party firm to conduct your usability testing means that you will have to interview and compare several companies during the selection process, select the firm and establish your expectations, making sure that you and the selected firm are on the same page, and then allow them to conduct the testing. Once their testing is completed, you should receive the report with data and recommendations. In some cases, hiring out the services of a usability tester can cost less than $200, and some others offer a subscription service for a little as $49 a month.
Compare and select
- having the testing participants video-recorded as they perform the tasks
- being able to pick the participant profile
- the ability to chat with the participants after the testing
- communicating how quickly feedback will be supplied
- the ability to create your own test scenarios
- ability to share results to clients and team members.
A sample selection matrix is displayed below; feel free to add your own elements based on your needs.
Usability Testing Provider Selection Matrix
|Elements and Features Required||Provider A||Provider B||Provider C|
|Participants match target audience|
|Browser history recorded|
|Participant chat available after sessions|
|Feedback and results time-frame|
|Custom test scenario creation|
|Share results with clients and team members|
|Number of participants allowed|
|Browsers supported in testing|
As you review each testing provider's services, check off their features and elements from your matrix list, and then review them to find out which provider meets all or most of your expected elements. Select the one that meets your needs and is still within your budget.
Third-party usability testing organizations
I have listed three third-party testing organizations that provide cost-effective means to getting initial usability testing on your website; some of them provide plan options to meet just about any budget.
User Testing has many options to choose from, including a 5-participant plan at $39 per participant (with a $30 discount), which comes to about $165 dollars. You get a video of the participants speaking their thoughts as they browse your site; you also get a written response to questions that you provide. The test can be set up for personal computer or mobile devices.
Open Hallway allows you to create your own test scenarios, record the participants remotely or locally, and watch the video results from your own browser. The basic plan at $49 per month gives you unlimited tests within a 1 GB storage limit, or 3 hours of video, and enhanced security with SSL data transmission.
Beta Breakers is a software quality assurance lab that tests more than websites, and usability testing is their niche. The purpose of Beta Breakers website testing is to reveal, document, and eventually resolve issues that compromise the user's experience. Based on customer requests, an experienced Beta Breakers QA team will test the selected website for functional compliance and/or compatibility compliance with various supported platforms.
Other resources for usability testing
Usability.gov is a one-stop source for web designers to learn how to make websites more usable, useful, and accessible. The site addresses a broad range of factors that go into web design and development. The site will help you to plan and design usable sites by collecting data on what users need, developing prototypes, conducting usability tests and writing up results, and measuring trends and demographics.
Usability Testing Demystified: This is an informative article by Dana Chisnell from A List Apart.com on the classic process of website usability testing.
Web Usability Best Practices: Tuft's University's best practices focus on web design, and not on writing or creating content for the web.
General check list for testing websites and web applications: Highlights key points and considerations while testing web site and web applications usability.
Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal government.