In our current digital landscape, your company website is the first place a customer or prospect goes for information. This means that it is critical that your website functions to meet the needs of your core users, but how do you know what your users want, or how they navigate your website? With user testing.
What Is User Testing and How Does That Work?
User testing (also called usability testing) is the process of securing on-demand feedback from your audience. This testing is executed through user testing platforms. These platforms have pools of potential testers that you can access for your specific testing needs. The potential testers can be selected based on the demographics of your core audience, or by your predefined personas. Alternatively, you can select your own group of testers as long as you have their contact information. You would send them instructions and a link, and they'd be able to download the user testing platform and take the test.
When a user executes a user test for you, they are walked through a series of pre-defined tasks/questions. They explain their actions as they move through the task and the app records their results. This recording is both a visual and audio recording of the user's browser and commentary. This enables you to see how the user is interacting with your website (scrolling and clicking) and hear their feedback along the way, including any challenges or impressions that they have. There is also the opportunity to have the user answer qualitative written questions about their experience once the test is complete.
At the close of a user test, you receive videos and written feedback that can be turned into actionable tweaks for your website.
Why Should I Implement User Testing?
The ultimate goal of user testing is a better experience for your audience. In other words, it can help you create a positive interaction for your customers and enable them to find what they need from your website quickly and easily, without getting frustrated and leaving your website too soon (gasp!). In addition to this extremely important benefit, this improved user experience will help you rank higher in searches because your bounce rate will be lower, longer session durations are likely, and visitors will explore more pages per session. Additionally, if you are executing paid advertising campaigns, your conversion rate will be higher because your users will quickly find what they are looking for.
What Should I Use User Testing for?
User testing can be used across multiple digital platforms including websites, apps, prototypes, and even specific campaign landing pages. Let’s break this down a bit further.
If you know you will be redesigning your website within the next few months, now is the time to execute testing. Pre-redesign testing can help you identify pain points on your existing website, which will help you avoid them with your new website. It can also help you highlight issues with how your website flows, any problems with terminology/language on your website, and functionality issues. Knowing these pitfalls ahead of a redesign will help you avoid them and develop a better website that aligns with your user’s needs.
If your website is relatively new, user testing can be leveraged to determine if any tweaks are needed. They could be fairly simple tweaks to you and your development team, but they could make your customers interaction with your website incrementally better! And if their interaction is better, they are more likely to convert and/or return to your website.
If you are in the prototyping stage, testing can help you solve internal debates about certain aspects of your design or proposed functionality… before spending the time and money to finalize your website.
Did I mention apps? You can learn the same types of information when you apply user testing to your company app(s) as well.
How Often Should User Testing Occur?
Many of the brands that you interact with online on a regular basis are likely using user testing. Heck, some brands are executing it on a constant basis! While that might be right for them, a good rule of thumb is to execute user testing at regular, planned intervals. This could be quarterly to start, but should be every time there are changes to your website goals, or if new functionality is implemented. Because user testing is from the perspective of the customer, you will know pretty quickly whether or not your customers are interacting with the new functionality in the way you anticipated. And if they aren’t, you are notified before it is too late!
An Interesting Bonus of User Testing.
There is always that one competitor website that internal teams call out as the one to beat. Well, guess what? With user testing, you can finally determine if that is true! Executing a comparison user test against your competition allows you to understand which website – yours or your competition – has a better user experience…. according to your customers! Talk about valuable information.
Can I Execute User Testing?
Of course you can. There are many great user testing platforms available. The real question is, is it the right use of your time? There is a subtle art to developing the questions for a user test and analyzing the feedback received. Teams that execute user testing on a regular basis are able to guide you down the appropriate path to ensure you secure the most information out of the tests that are implemented. And better, more complete information means a better experience for your customers.
Knowledge is power, and this certainly holds true when thinking about your website. The more you know about how customers and prospects interact with your site, and potentially hit roadblocks, the more opportunities you have to improve your website and your digital presence.