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Author Archives: Annese

The Difference Between Focus Groups and Usability Testing

Basically a focus group is just that, a group – brought together to voice their opinions on what you are presenting. Usability testing, on the other hand, is singular. One test at a time.

So which is better? Well, the focus group question provides a group mentality answer. Your group of people, whether it be 3 or 30, will feed off each other. It will become more of a group dynamic, with each person falling into roles (the quiet one, the loud one, the laugher, the sideliner, etc).

Why is this bad? Well…as an example…lets say 15/30 people in your group didn’t understand your navigation bar. Are they likely to speak up while the other half discuss the how and why they dislike the color scheme of your sight? Probably not. They’re most likely going to sit back and listen to the others until they understand what is being talked about. Then maybe they will agree that green would look better than pink.

And there it is. The vital piece of information you needed was passed over. Though it is good to know that the user prefers green to pink, it’s not a make or break discovery. With focus group testing, the loudest voice usually gets the most focus. The quiet ones are never even made visible.

Usability testing allows one user at a time to preview and comment on the effectiveness of your design. There is no pressure to fit in or understand or even to agree or disagree. A single user on their own has the right to say and do whatever comes to mind, and that’s what you want.

While focus groups are good for learning about the abstract qualities of your site – your design, your logo, your name, your competitor, etc. Usability testing will focus your user to the quality of your site – revealing what works for them and, more importantly, what doesn’t.

Little Tips & Tricks vol.2: Make It Clickable.

When you’re thinking about what to provide your user when designing your website/software or mobile app – you often think up a large list of data. Compiling all of this information on one simple and effective page is often where things go awry. They are rarely simple and even more rarely effective. (And yet another reason why usability testing is so important).

The tendency to over-think things – especially when they are important to your success, is as human as it gets. We often lose sight of those things that are basic and necessary. So here is one to remember.


While we were dreaming up lists of things we so wanted to provide the user we lost sight of what the average user looks for when their eye scans our page. Something to further elaborate on what they were hoping to find. Something to show them to the next destination. Something to click.

A page with too many fonts, too many colors, or too much media will distract the user from what is clickable. Too often when testing we find many things that are clickable that the user is completely unaware of – because they don’t stand out the way they should. The more your user has to decipher – the less usable your design becomes. And the less patience your user will have.

Try to have only 2 – 3 font colors on a page at the same time, and make one of them your “clickable” link color. Underlining links is the standard across the internet, and following that standard that will help as well. It also allows you to keep font & link color the same with different font characteristics dividing them (bold, italic, or underlined will work if you wish).

Make it obvious. Keep it simple. And, as always, keep it consistent.


Little Tips & Tricks vol.1: The Search Bar

Looking for better SEO and overall knowledge of your users? There are a few simple things you can do that can improve your website/software drastically. And they’re really not so hard.

First on the list: ADD A SEARCH BAR.

Maybe you have no need for a search bar. Your website is clean and efficient – your header bar has all your pages right in front of the user…it’s not as though you have a glossary or anything for someone to sift through. So why would you add a search bar to your home page?

Understanding your users’ wants and needs is your number one priority when designing your website/software. Usability dictates that all options and paths be not only visible but so obvious the user doesn’t even need to think. But any good usability tester will tell you – even after all of that work your message may not be the one getting through. Sometimes it’s something as basic as font color or size that misleads your user – it could be any number of things. (This is why usability testing is so important).

As a good practice – do yourself a favor and add a search bar to your home page. Not only will it help to ease frustration your user might develop while trying to find something, it takes the guesswork out of your frustration as well.

“What are users looking for that they can’t find?”
“What are users looking for that I don’t have?”
“Is there something being missed that I am unaware of?”

Generally your search bar will give you hints as to what needs to be improved on your page. Or what your user wants that you are not providing. I am not saying it can solve all your problems (and if it could, I probably wouldn’t be telling you) but it can help.

Oh, and if you put a search bar – make sure to top it off with the basic search “logo”. (You know, the magnifying glass?). Consistency is key.