When conducting a usability test it is important to have a clear list of tasks for the user to execute. These tasks should be the same as what the site’s typical users would encounter. Then, you will need to clearly define the ways to measure the success of those tasks.
There are several ways that you can conduct a usability test moderated in person and moderated remote are two. The facilitator is often watching the test user as they perform the given tasks. The tester can speak aloud as they navigate the site and make decisions in order for the facilitator to understand the process in which the user is going through. The facilitator will note where the test user gets confused or chooses the wrong option due to labeling, design elements etc. This allows the facilitator to both see and hear the task completion.
In addition to the facilitator watching and taking notes there are also tools that can be utilized in web testing, such as eye tracking software. This type of tool helps to understand where the users are looking at the screen in comparison to where they click. They are similar but not the same. Data may also be collected by the number of clicks to complete a task or the time it takes to complete specific tasks.
The data taken from multiple users can then be assessed as a whole for example 4 out of 5 users were unable to locate the shopping cart. This would be an issue that would need to be addressed. It is important for the facilitator not to help or guide the user while testing.
There are dozens of ways to recruit test users, ask friends, co-workers or classmates. You could take out an ad on Craig’s List (or something similar) You could entice recruits with cash or a gift card… I would just beg my closest friends.
When the test users arrive I would explain that they are there to participate in testing a web site. Their purpose is to help identify problem areas within the site and that they are not being tested, the site is. The more honest and candid information they are able to provide about the experience, the better the site will become. And hey I’ll buy the pizza!