Usability testing Vs. Trend Analysis

usability-vs-trendThe other day while surfing the internet I happened to realize how usability of a website could vary from cinch to complex. Browsing some of the sites was a cakewalk, while going through some others was such a task. As a usability expert I could not help but notice how usability as a concept directly impacts the customer experience. In order to keep the business running, it is essential to maintain usability of the website at its best. There are various methods of improving the usability of any website; Usability Testing, Focus Group Discussions, conducting Interviews and Surveys with the target users are some among the many. There is another approach, rather an indirect one, to analyze users’ clicks and scrolls on the webpage in order to study and analyze the user behavior. The methodology is called Trend Analysis. Categorizing this method as an indirect one can be justified by the fact that there is no direct involvement of users as is in case of Usability Testing.


The usability testing is a direct way of testing various aspects of the website. There are three basic steps in Usability Testing –

1) Gathering the target participants

2) Preparing the testing script

3) Conducting the Usability Test

The first step, being participant gathering, needs to be given special attention to so as to ensure the very start of the process is routed in the right direction. The participants should fulfill the criteria as the target users of the study, those who can do justice to the study by giving a relevant feedback. Next comes the preparation of testing script, it should be prepared such that it covers all the areas that the participants would be required to taken through on the website. It should include all the aims and objectives that complete the analysis. In the third step, participants are asked to perform the tasks according to the testing script meanwhile the observer scrutinizes the reactions of the user that come up as he performs the task.

Examining the users perform the task as per the script is an effective way of gathering feedback. It is more about observing than asking questions because observation gives a clear picture of what is going on in the mind of participants. Well, actions do speak louder than words and the same is applicable in this context. Participants may not be able to phrase very well in words what they think about the interface but observing them closely definitely helps in knowing their opinion. So it’s the observer’s job to analyze the user behavior by way of facial expressions, body language, emotions and as they think aloud while performing the task.

On the other hand, Trend analysis is more of an indirect way of gauging the usability as there is no direct participation of the users in the process. Here the users’ web browsing behavior is recorded for certain duration of time. During that period, the pages that need to be analyzed are kept under surveillance. The browsing behavior would be measured by the number of clicks and scrolls on the targeted pages. The results obtained from such observations would indicate the hot areas of the page, sections that have got the most clicks, the area of the page where the users stayed for long or got stuck for long. Moreover, trend analysis provides a report of clicks observed on the page segregated according to various parameters. The clicks are categorized on the basis of various criteria, like new or returning users, referrers, on the basis of date & time, browser, system, platforms, country, the accountable Keywords and search terms.

Usability Testing Analysis

The analysis of usability testing begins with the stage of gathering the findings. The common findings are organized together on the paper to formulate an affinity diagram. Affinity diagram suggests a common pattern of user behavior which is commonly followed by 80% of the users. When users are asked the reason behind performing a certain task or choosing an option over another, their verbal answers might not be of much help. That’s when an expert’s understanding comes to play in order to analyze and rationalize the users’ behavior. They then anticipate from it the cause and effect of such a behavior on the basis of the past experience and the knowledge of UX principles that have been followed or violated.

Trend analysis

The trend analysis begins with the observation of the user clicks and scroll reports. The expert analyzes the clicks on certain area and no-clicks on the other area to track the reasons causing this behavior. Most of the time there are clicks on certain spots though they are not clickable. Moreover, the page scrolls show more focused and the less focused areas. The analysis explains why users possess such behavior. For instance, when certain sections get more focus, it could either imply that the users were interested in that section or they got stuck up there for some reasons. The analysis aids in generating the design blueprint intended for rearranging and making the page more interesting and informative. Knowing the section of the page where users abandon the site, gives a fair idea so as to improve the information architecture of the site. The report is helpful in planning ways to promote the website for new or referrer users, on various search engines, by using the right search keywords etc. and much more. It helps to improve the overall conversion rate of the website. It helps in lifting up the overall conversion rate of the website. Eventually, such improvements are of great assistance in enhancing the overall User Experience of the website.

In conclusion, Usability Testing is a direct way of observing user behavior while they are performing tasks and trend analysis is the indirect method of analyzing user’s browsing behavior on the website. Results obtained from the above two analysis backed by appropriate HCI and UX principles helps in making good design decisions.

Evidently, the choice depends upon constraints such as time and budget allocated for the analysis. So, what is your choice?

(About the Contributor : Techved Consulting is a Leading usability & UX design service provider. The company consist a brilliant team of UX professionals to provide effective UX solutions to their clients.)

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