When you're building a new website or redesigning a website, you'll want to take the time to standardize your testing methodology. By standardizing on one testing methodology, you have a more accurate means of evaluating the test results. In addition, you can delegate the testing to a few people on the team. Here’s a checklist to help you build your own testing methodology:

  • Target audience. Before you recruit a bunch of people to be your test subjects, you must know what kind of people to go after. For example, a shopping site with books, music, and videos may target Internet-savvy 30- to 45-year-old professionals.

  • Number of users. The more users you test, the better your results. Testing more than a few people is critical because you can minimize the effects of each individual’s bias.

    For example, if five out of the six people have the same complaint, you know you have a genuine problem. A good number of people to shoot for is seven to ten people. Make sure to cast a good sampling of your target demographic.

  • Testing style. Because you can test in more than one way, you should decide which style of testing you want to use. The serious, lab-coat style of testing involves setting people up in a room by themselves behind a one-way mirror and videotaping their actions as they work through the task list.

    The other, more casual way is to sit down with them one on one, asking questions and taking notes as they respond. This method is more empowering, and users are generally pretty honest with you. You can still videotape the session. Videotaping enables you to see where the mouse pointer goes on the screen as a user works through the tasks, and record any feedback in case you can’t keep up with notes.