5 myths preventing you from usability testing

As the User Experience team grows at Q2, our usability testing strategy rapidly matures with it. We partnered with 8-Bit-Bear Consulting for formal testing on our developed products every few months, which helps us detect areas of our app that are difficult to use and identify solutions to optimize those features. We are also disrupting the normal testing process by weaving in informal, in-house testing into our sprint cycles, ameliorating problems before they transition from prototyping into development.

8-Bit-Bear Consulting : http://www.8-bitbearconsulting.com/


How have these tactics helped us?

Our efforts have resulted in a significant improvement to our System Usability Scale (SUS) score, but more importantly, we’re beginning to see the trickle-up effect of account holders contacting their financial institutions about their positive online banking experience.  While Q2’s mission is to build stronger communities by strengthening their financial institutions, our design team believes we can strengthen financial institutions by creating happier account holders.


How can they help you?

Dedicating some of your project’s budget to usability testing can boost your bottom line in a powerful way: Jakob Nielsen reported that spending 10 percent of a project’s budget on usability evaluation results in a whopping 84 percent increase in conversion rates. This translates into increased revenue for e-commerce sites, and for software that doesn’t make money directly off of successfully completed tasks, it means less annoyed users, less costly development rework, less support calls, and a greater overall level of user trust in your brand.


What usability myths are keeping you from success?


Myth 1: Usability testing demands an elaborate recruiting process

It’s best practice to test users that are representative of your product’s target market.  That said, testing any users is far better than testing no users, so don’t let the hunt for the perfect user stop you from testing.  A screener, or list of carefully selected questions intended to weed out users that don’t match the profile of your target audience, can affordably optimize your recruiting process.

Infragistics Senior UX Architect Jim Ross’s tips for writing great screeners include keeping the list of questions bearably short, starting with the questions most likely to eliminate testers so as not to waste their time, and recruiting based on the behaviors and attitudes you are looking for as opposed to less meaningful demographics.


Myth 2: We’d have to test a lot of users to get meaningful results, and we don’t have the time

The number of users you need to recruit for a usability study is much smaller than you might assume.  Nielsen advocates testing only five users, as the first handful of users has been shown to uncover the majority of usability issues, and each subsequent user becomes significantly less valuable to the study.  At Q2, my design partner and I employ Nielsen’s suggestion of testing only five users, then using the results to quickly iterate on our prototype, and testing again in a few weeks.  This way, we have continual reassurance that our designs are moving towards optimized usability without wasting time and resources.


Myth 3: Testing requires costly software and recording equipment

While some high-tech testing tools purport to automatically interpret users’ facial expressions, the reality is that such software can only detect strong emotions, and we as humans can do a better job at interpreting each others’ subtle expressions.  Simple, inexpensive programs like Screencast-O-Matic are more than enough, as they allow you to record a screen capture, audio, and a video of the user for a $15/year subscription.  Smashing Magazine also provides a robust comparison of affordable user testing tools that is worth checking out.


Myth 4: We’d have to hire a third party consultant, and it’s not in our budget

There is value in performing formal summative testing with a team of experts, as Q2 does with 8-Bit-Bear.  But if your company doesn’t have room in the budget for such services—and even if you are regularly using third party consultants—I argue that you should be performing informal in-house testing on a regular basis.  Iterative, formative testing allows you to evaluate prototypes while they are in progress, stopping major issues at the design stage before developers waste their time building something that isn’t usable.

Catching issues early isn’t the only benefit to formative testing in-house; involving the project team in usability testing will help them feel more invested in fixing them.  Watching users struggle through a task in real-time has much more of an impact on designers, developers and product owners than reading (or not reading) a long usability test report.


Myth 5: We don’t have the skills to perform in-house testing

While I don’t advocate moderating a usability test without bothering to educate yourself on best practices, it’s really not rocket science.  You will need to learn how to write effective tasks, for which MeasuringU has a great list of tips.  You should also make your tester feel comfortable, assure them that there are no right or wrong answers, allow them to speak without interrupting, and refrain from leading them to solutions.  Pairing up with another moderator in your sessions (as we do at Q2) will keep you honest, and one of you can ask questions while the other takes notes.


Now what?

With a little bit of practice, anyone with listening skills and an ability to remain impartial can learn to conduct a usability testing session. And while fancy equipment and a perfect recruiting process are nice to have, you can still get meaningful results with low-budget testing. Our user experience team is passionate about this topic and we would love to hear your thoughts. Share your insights on our social media pages.

Opening the doors to more women in STEM fields

Four years ago I read Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think About Power and it changed my career. It taught me about the ways in which our ancestors fought to open doors—both professionally and personally—for women in our nation and yet many of us do not take advantage of these opportunities. Yet, statistics show that today women only make up 24 percent of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce in the U.S. I am proud to be a small representative of it, and am happy that my company continues holding open the doors that Feldt discussed.

At Q2, women compose almost half of the User Experience Design team – with numbers increasing in development, QA and C-level positions. So, I cannot help but wonder: Why aren’t more women stepping through the doors of innovative companies like Q2?

While I can’t answer this question with certainty, I would like to present reasons for businesses and employees alike to take notice.

Business Advantages in Hiring Women

1.  Improvement of complex decision-making: Diversity of all kinds increases the chances that complex decisions will be made correctly. Certainly those of us working in STEM fields face a number of complex decisions every day.

2.  Competitive talent: To remain competitive with other businesses in these fields, and for the U.S. to remain a viable member of the global economy, we must support the caliber of employees in STEM roles. An obvious and largely untapped talent pool is young women, who in 2013 were 21 percent more likely than men to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and account for almost half of all students in MBA and MD programs.

3.  Greater innovation: Different points of view generate fresh ideas—that’s just common sense. And isn’t innovation what technology is all about? It’s worthwhile to note that few women contributed to the first design of the airbag, resulting in airbags that were well-suited to protect men’s bodies, but failed to adequately protect women and children.

4.  Stronger market strategies: It may be old news that, with their increased purchasing power, women are responsible for the majority of household buys. But this applies to technology consumption as well. A study performed by OgilvyAction showed that women significantly outpaced men in their usage of mobile apps related to health, entertainment, lifestyle, social networking and gaming. A fair representation of women in technology companies could help us identify with and better serve this growing consumer base.

5.  Profitability: Last, but certainly not least, companies with the highest representation of women in senior management delivered 53 percent higher return on equity and 42 percent higher return on sales than those with the lowest numbers of female senior managers. That kind of difference in the bottom line is difficult to ignore.

Both men and women can bring awareness to this growing need of women in the workforce, not just STEM fields. Here are ways in which you can make a difference in your industry.

How to Make a Difference

1. Share knowledge of job openings with a smart woman in your network.

2. Offer to review a friend’s resume.

3. Encourage female coworkers to attend empowering seminars with you.

4. Suggest that experienced female employees adopt younger female mentees.

5. Expose these formerly unconventional fields to your daughter, niece, or other young women in your family at early ages.

It is up to us to understand the need for women in STEM fields. Acknowledging your power to incite change in these areas could alter the future of our businesses.

Our Shared Responsibility: Q2 Honors National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, National Cyber Security Awareness Month celebrated its 11th year this October. Each year, this month serves as an opportunity for not only Security professionals, but also consumers, small and medium sized businesses, corporations, and financial institutions to spread awareness and share information about Cyber Security.

The theme of National Cyber Security Awareness Month for 2014 was “Our Shared Responsibility.” As we’re constantly connected to the internet, our risk of exposure to theft, fraud, and abuse is significant. Cyber Security attacks can affect our finances, identity, and privacy making it an important national security priority.

Throughout the month, Q2 presented a weekly series of Security presentations with the goal of educating its employees of not only the risks and threats the Security team sees on a daily basis, but also countermeasures they can use to protect themselves and the company. Topics such as how to recognize social engineering attempts, information about security threats such as Heartbleed and POODLE, and a demonstration of common hacking techniques were presented to Q2 employees to increase awareness of Cyber Security protection.

By the end of the month, the Q2 Security team recognized a notable increase in the awareness of Cyber Security amongst coworkers. Employees are actively reporting suspicious emails and seeking out the Security team for advice about personal Cyber Security. By opening a dialogue with our employees about the importance of Cyber Security, Q2 is helping to protect our customers, our employees, and our company.

Cyber Security awareness doesn’t end in October. We encourage you to make security-minded thinking a part of your day-to-day routine. Talk to your account holders and employees about Cyber Security awareness and security basics. Education and information are the first steps in combatting Cyber Security threats. If you have questions about Q2’s Cyber Security recommendations and best practices, please feel free to reach out to the Q2 Security team by contacting Jean Twaddell at jean.twaddell@q2ebanking.com.

Choose Your Partners Wisely

The tendency for humans to try and do everything themselves is as old as time. Whether it stems from a desire to reap all the glory, a lack of trust in others, or simply a failure to consider asking for help, it’s been the downfall of many. In the words of Inspector Harry Callahan, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

At Q2, we create great software – that’s our forte – in the form of a virtual banking platform that strengthens communities by strengthening the financial institutions that serve them. We do not build ATMs, design firewalls, provide core processing, erect data centers, or do a slew of other things around which entire companies are built. For these reasons, choosing the right partners is critical to our success – and yours. As Lou Senko, Q2’s Vice President of Information Technology says, “We like to think of our trusted partners as part of the magic that happens behind the scenes. Their technology is a key foundation to some of Q2’s future capabilities underneath our product offerings.”

EMC is one such trusted partners for us. Who do you consider your key partners? Tweet them some appreciation and include #Q2partners.

Are We There Yet?

Well, the Marketing Kings of the Universe have done it again – pushed much of the world into a tizzy. Picture it… CEOs texting their charges at dark-thirty in the morning asking, “what are your plans”; relationship managers and customer service reps checking their email every five seconds to see if their talking points have arrived; product development folks wiggin’ out in a frantic we-must-get-our-hands-on-the-SDK-or-die fervor; and citizens of the world buying up every last one of the Cliff Bars and Vitamin Waters in preparation for their strip-mall-sidewalk camp outs!!

You probably guessed what I’m talking about. Apple’s BIG iOS 8 and iPhone 6 release. As with Michael Jordan in the waning seconds of a game, the weather in Seattle, or the dysfunction in Washington, the question remains: Really, this, again? And not only again, but touted as being ‘bigger than ever’?! Truly, you know it’s a big deal when an eleven-year-old girl who has spoken of her “first phone” since about age five says, “Dad, I know you and mom would get me the iPhone 5 for my birthday, but I’d rather wait a month and get the iPhone 6.” Let’s not even address how the armor-hewn shroud of secrecy surrounding the Announcement Event has fed the hysteria.

Hyperbole aside – it is a big deal, especially the iOS 8 release. Here’s why. The ripple effect of Apple’s forthcoming operating system will affect a wide swath of humanity. Developers really do need to know what impact these advancements will have on their apps; companies whose customers rely on these apps really do need to know how their end users might be impacted; and customer service reps who support the users of said apps really do need to know how to answer questions around them. Preparation is indeed in order.

At Q2, we’ve been diligently preparing and anxiously waiting along with the rest of the world, trying as best we can to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, and our customers’ customers. I’d venture to say these preparatory efforts have touched every corner of our company – from the CEO down. I’d also venture to say – at great risk I realize – that we’re as prepared as we can be. We’ve studied the impact from every conceivable angle, considered all potential participants, and reflected ad nauseam on the lessons learned from the iOS 7 release.

We also know that we can’t possibly account for every conceivable variable under the sun—and  we are in good company. In August 2010, Microsoft released 14 security patches in one day, to address 34 vulnerabilities. And in 2005, Oracle released 88 patches for security vulnerabilities over a four month period – that’s 22 a month! The point being, it ain’t easy. You can have 128,000 employees and more resources than Solomon and still not get things right.

But, we have a great advantage. Armed with a virtual banking platform intentionally constructed to accommodate change, and the knowledge that, even in a worst case scenario, no lives will be lost, we have confidently awaited the big day. That being said, we apologize in advance to the Inupiaq fisherman with no thumbs for the slow load times in the Beaufort Sea and maybe the placement of the navigation buttons on the ATM locator page. Glitches aside, we are ready and see this as another opportunity—one that may transcend any product release—to prove our commitment to partnership.