In my previous corporate life, we used research firms to test our websites, our messages, our strategies. We would anxiously await the results of these tests to see if our desired hypotheses were validated or (curses!) refuted by faceless individuals, as represented by our agency account manager and presented in a very nice PowerPoint with their studied conclusions.
This research usually took six weeks (after we’d gotten the funding… typical amounts I won’t even mention).
So when one of my clients — currently enjoying a lot of traffic to their site from favorable PR — asked me what we should do to engage with those visitors, I noted that our visitor conversion rate was low, and maybe we could improve the user experience.
Let the Data Guide You
Now, changing up a company’s web presence is not a small undertaking, so having data to guide us about what works and what doesn’t is key. We had some data from Google Analytics which told us the most popular offers, user paths, but we wanted more.
Our Case Study: Seeing Is Believing
1. The ability to ‘screen’ and select the type of people who would take the test.*
We wanted people familiar with our product category. Looking for five different site testers, we got five very qualified users to complete the test the same day it was posted.
2. The ability to watch people navigate a set of tasks that we asked them to do.
UserTesting’s pool of users installs screen recording software that also captures audio. The testers have to submit practice tests to prove they are good at sharing their thoughts aloud in a useable way.
Our tasks included initial reactions to our home page, a Google search to find other companies who do what we do, and their reactions to our main competitor’s website. These videos of the user interactions can be time code notated as you review them — great for sharing key bits with management.
3. The ability to ask the users to rate you on key criteria.
After users finish the tasks on your site, they close by answering questions you specify. In our case, we wanted to know how easy our site was to use, how credible we looked compared to our (much larger) competitors, and what they’d recommend we add or change to make our site easier for them to navigate.
An example Highlight Reel from multiple User Tests (not my actual client)
The speed with which you can get useful, qualitative data from your target audience is nothing short of astonishing. The interface is very easy to use and the price is right! Packages vary, but the usual exercise will cost in the hundreds (yes, I said hundreds).
Seeing is believing. Watching users clearly gravitate to things, uniformly request certain types of information, and provide clear suggestions made it very easy to move from “What should we do?” to “This is the right thing to do.”
Of course, we’ll continue to test along the way to get it right. That’s what we do, right dear reader?
*User screening only available on some packages.