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My 3 Eureka Moments in Mobile Design Usability Testing Image
Diff Blog

My 3 Eureka Moments in Mobile Design Usability Testing

Written by Matt Humphreys, Chief Experience Officer, Diff Agency

Usability testing is an absolutely vital part of our mobile design process. By having real people use our design prototypes, we can inform decisions and challenge our assumptions on existing concepts. Often the learnings are very beneficial, and sometimes they border on shocking.

Cumulative learning

Most of the time the learning is cumulative, and an exciting ride that proves to be well worth the time and investment. We learn common patterns of user behaviours and motivations that are overarching enough to contribute to future projects. If you regularly create experiences with similar conventions, the user behaviours you observe should be similar...well, until they aren’t of course. Even with cumulative learning, contextual changes demand that we’re always re-evaluating our assumptions.

Best practices aren’t always the best

It’s the lack of predictability that is the main reason WHY we test. You can put a group of people from the same demographic segment in front of a computer to test a website, but the results you get will be drastically different if the users are placed in front of a different website. We can’t assume what worked for the last website we designed will work well for the next one, EVEN if the users are the same. Which begs the question, is best practice really always BEST? (that’s another article in itself).

What we’ve learned from usability testing mobile designs

Over the last few years we’ve tested a LOT, with almost 100 sessions in 2018 alone. The qualitative and quantitative data we have is priceless, and because mobile use usually accounts for 80% of our clients’ traffic, we did most of our testing on mobile prototypes.

I’m excited to share with you the 3 biggest mobile design learnings from our usability testing sessions in 2018:

1. Mobile design carousels don’t work

Mobile users don’t sit still, they scroll. And if you have a carousel on your mobile homepage, unless it’s a sequential and informative flow, the user will NEVER see the second slide in your carousel. The click-through rate lower down your page is usually much higher as a result. The users who DON’T scroll usually jump right into the mobile menu or search right after absorbing your main marketing message or value proposition (which I hope you have prominently displayed in your hero banner).

2. Mobile users gravitate to search often

This one probably isn’t a big surprise, but no matter how well we design the mobile menu, users love to search. There are a few main reasons why users turn to search:

1. It's behavioural
2. They have a specific end in mind
3. They're lost

Users have the expectation of findability based on their experience with search engines. They expect your mobile website design to be just as great. And on mobile devices with less available pixels to display actionable keywords, they gravitate towards a self-service approach by engaging with your search field. If this happens and the user’s search doesn’t return a relevant result, the potential for abandonment escalates significantly. In fact, I’m seeing more and more large CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) companies putting search and data accuracy at the top of their “innovation” lists for 2019 (not artificial intelligence and augmented reality as you might expect). It really doesn’t matter how beautiful your experience is if users can’t find what they’re looking for.

3. Users over 40 don’t use the menu

While there are a few exceptions in our data, users over 40 don’t use the menu was the general conclusion. And as someone who fits in that age group, I can understand why.

The use of mobile phones wasn’t common among my peers until I was in my twenties. Mobile computing wasn’t even a thing until my thirties. Which means I didn’t start to learn mobile conventions until I was well past what I would consider my “learning years”. Those in the generation following mine likely had the advantage of experiencing mobile devices in high school, and the advent of the smartphone in college.In our research, younger users performing the same tasks gravitated immediately towards the hamburger navigation icon (the 3 lines) while their slightly older counterparts scrolled down the page until they found an appropriate call to action. While this didn’t occur 100% of the time, it was quite common.

Mobile design top takeaways

In very simple terms, mobile usability testing is really about understanding your users and how they try to accomplish actual tasks on mobile products. With the increasing use of mobile apps and websites, there’s a stronger need than ever to understand how your users are adapting to the changing context of mobile. Can your potential customers find what they’re looking for easily? Is your content resonating with end users? Do they understand how your product works? The best benefit of mobile website design usability testing is getting real-time feedback and insights from real users who can change the course of your company’s communication efforts and provide tremendous value.

If you have any questions about mobile website design at Diff, feel free to drop us a line at: hello@diffagency.com. We love smart design, intuitive navigation, and ensuring users achieve a seamless flow through to their conversion point, that’s clear, concise and leaves a lasting impression of their brand.

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