Usability/Accessibility Testing

The WCAG 1.0 guidelines, published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are widely regarded as the definitive guidelines on how to create accessible websites. 

A level of compliance to the guidelines can be covered by using automated accessibility checking tools. But the best way to check the usability/accessibility of your site is to carry out some form of end-user testing throughout its various development stages e.g., early designs, actual built HTML pages, pre-launch and when the site is live.

Why test?

  • To see your site through fresh eyes. The needs of your audience should determine the content and design of your site.
  • To understand how visitors use your site.
  • To uncover new ideas.
  • To improve your website.
  • Because Oxford University has made a commitment to providing an accessible web presence - see University Accessibility Standard for more details.

Testing tips

  • The widely accepted methods of end-user testing are to set a selection of testers a series of tasks, using either paper prototypes or on-screen pages from which to work.
  • Before testing begins, reassure the users that they are testing the site, not themselves.
  • Ask them to think out loud as they carry out the tasks, as this can result in some interesting observations.
  • Each tester should carry out the same set of tasks and the session should be monitored by one or more observers, who should take notes throughout.
  • You may also want to create a feedback form, to be completed at the end of testing, for more general comments.
  • Ideally testing shouldn't take more than 1 hour.

It is essential to know what you hope to discover each time you test. In a general test you may want to know:

  • how users interact with your website
  • what they find difficult to achieve
  • where they get lost
  • what makes sense to them
  • what are their likes and dislikes

In a specific test you might want to know, for example:

  • can the users accomplish a key task?
  • can the users find something specific?

At the end of testing, gather all the notes from the Observers.

  • Write up a detailed report of all feedback.
  • Analyse results and create a list of possible actions.
  • Prioritise this list; some will be essential, others desirable and others just opinions that may need no further action.