“Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process” (Nielsen, 2012).

For those of you who know me, you’ll remember that I spent a period of years performing web-based work. It’s not my main gig anymore, but I still believe it’s a fascinating career and I enjoy watching it evolve exponentially.

These days I’m focusing more on user experience, or UX, which allows me to get more involved with the human aspect of web design. To that end, I recently had the opportunity to conduct a usability test on a site that’s near and dear to my heart:

Website usability studies involve recruiting participants to perform specific tasks on a site, allowing them to provide observations and feedback on their experience. (TBTG) has been in business since 2003. They’re the original portable tiki bar company, and they’re still the best. They also have a solid website.

So if their site is good, why do a study?

Why Usability Works

In his book Rocket surgery made easy: The do-it-yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems, usability expert Steve Krug gives three primary reasons usability studies work:

  1. All sites have problems.
  2. Most of the serious problems tend to be easy to find.
  3. Watching users makes you a better designer (Krug, 2010).

The concept is simple; if you give your users the chance to provide feedback, you can see your website through their eyes. Long story short, I was able to see things my “trained eye” would have missed.

A Little Help From My Participants

To conduct my study I recruited five friends to help me analyze the TBTG site. They were required to attempt five tasks, and also asked to provide feedback on their experience, both pros and cons. Here’s a list of their basic demographics.

TBTG Usability Participant List

Here’s Some Things We Discovered

  1. Everyone loved the logo!
  2. The photos were also well received, but we definitely need to add some more diversity (people as well as how many ways the bar can be used).
  3. Navigation categories need to be realigned for optimal search functionality.
  4. Several broken images were identified in the add-on section.
  5. Users requested that more information about portability should be featured on the homepage; ideally in photographic form.
  6. For tiki bar rentals, the majority of my participants said they would prefer a fill-in contact form; that way they could make a rental request without invoking their email application.
  7. The site is too “text-heavy.” Participants believed the information to be important but would like it to be broken down into smaller, bite-sized chunks.
  8. The fact that the bars are built in the USA (New Jersey) should be more prominently featured on the home page as that is highly important to a variety of potential buyers.
  9. The set-up video was also a winner, but adding some music would make the experience more engaging.
  10. Overall, kicking up the fun tiki vibe would be beneficial for the site and for the social media presence as well.

A Positive Experience

Usability studies do require significant planning, and you really have to put some thought into crafting your questions carefully. Your work will pay off, however, because the rewards are great. You’ll also find that some of the issues are relatively easy to fix.

Sound like too much work? I disagree. And most of my participants said they actually enjoyed the experience. That’s good, because I think I owe them all a pizza and beer night when this pandemic is over!

It’s definitely a worthwhile experience; and don’t forget — “rocket surgery made easy” can be a springboard to making a good website more enjoyable and easier to use. (Krug, 2010).

until nxt time …

A special thanks to all my participants (you know who you are). You rock!


Krug, S. (2010). Rocket surgery made easy: The do-it-yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems. New Riders.

Nielsen, J. (2012, January 3). Usability 101: Introduction to Usability. Nielsen Norman Group.

Header image by Maike und Björn Bröskamp from Pixabay

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