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The Importance of Website User Testing
Business owners everywhere, from every industry, are finally starting to wake up and realize that their website is—without question—their company’s single most valuable marketing asset. Home service companies (flooring, hvac, plumbing, remodeling, etc.) with well-optimized and properly marketed websites are generating leads at a volume some cannot even handle and at a cost per lead so low it’s shocking. Business-to-business companies are abandoning tradeshows and other traditional marketing methods in favor of the remarkable ROI derived from high-powered marketing analytics tools and a laptop.
The marketing results savvy companies are seeing from their website(s) and the web are amazing and yet, what’s most exciting is that virtually everyone is only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Take, for example, website user testing and conversion rate optimization. How much money have you invested in acquiring website traffic over the past year? How much have you spent analyzing and improving your website’s conversion rates? If you’re like most business owners, you probably spent a lot on traffic and almost nothing on conversion rate analysis and optimization.
Do you realize how insane that is?
The Year Website User Testing & Conversion Rate Optimization
From 2000 – 2007, most small medium sized businesses didn’t even have enough website traffic to do user testing. Over the past five years, this has changed as companies like Blue Corona have demonstrated to small business owners the exceptional and measurable value of investing in multiple online marketing and traffic generation strategies—things like email marketing, pay per click advertising, SEO, re-targeted banner ads, social media, etc. My prediction is that 2013 is going to be a huge growth year for website user testing and conversion rate analysis and optimization. Businesses with a healthy flow of website traffic are going to expand their online marketing investment to identify ways to convert more website visitors into leads and sales.
If you’re new to the concept of website user testing and conversion rate analysis and optimization, let me give you some basic tips for getting started.
Getting Started with Website User Testing
Website user testing can be a catch-22. On the one hand, most business owners and marketers don’t spend nearly enough time analyzing how useful their website is for their target audience. On the other hand, spend too much time on your website and you risk losing the perspective of how someone that doesn’t spend so much time on your site perceives things. The good news is there are all sorts of techniques and tools that can be used to eliminate—or at least minimize—your personal biases.
Low-Cost Website User Testing Techniques
If you’re a people person, there are all sorts of low-cost, easy ways to test your website. For starters, try this – head down to your local Starbucks with your laptop and buy a bunch of $5 gift cards. Take seat at a table that allows someone to sit down across from you. Pull out your laptop and pull up your website. Now, ask someone sitting nearby if they can do you a favor. Tell them that you’re launching a new website and that you want them to look at your site for a minute or two and give you some feedback. If you’re friendly and not terribly creepy looking, you should be able to get a decent percentage of people to comply. If you’re good looking, you may not even need to use the gift cards you just purchased!
The goal of this test is to show the person a single page of your site—but only for a 10 seconds or so—and then take your laptop back (so that they can no longer see your screen) and ask them to write down or tell you everything they can remember about the page you showed them. Let’s say you own an HVAC company and you show the person your Furnace Replacement page. If the reviewer doesn’t specifically recall the word furnace or furnace replacement, there’s a good chance you’ve got some serious room for improvement.
Here’s another low-cost test derived from a recommendation made by Google on their Webmaster Central Blog:
- Find five or so people you can use as a sample (you don’t need many people to make this work)
- Try to select people from your target audience (i.e. an 18 year-old renter isn’t likely to call a plumbing company for service)
- It is best to observe the user in the environment they would be in normally (i.e. at their house), but remote testing is an option
- Define 4-5 simple tasks, based on your site’s goals, and ask each user to complete them
- If they are comfortable, ask your users to speak aloud as they complete each task
- Try to focus your test on functionality vs. aesthetics (testing aesthetics requires a much larger sample size)
Tools for Website User Testing
While there are plenty of low-cost ways to improve your website’s usability, advanced tools can provide incredibly valuable insights–insights a sophisticated business owner can use to get an edge on the competition. A few of the more popular website user testing tools include: ClickTale, Ethnio, Loop11, Qualaroo, and Usertesting.com.
How cool would it be to actually watch visitors as they navigate your website? This is exactly what ClickTale allows you to do! In addition, ClickTale offers all sorts of advanced heat map tools, site scroll and attention monitoring, and more.
Ethnio & Loop11
These two tools allow you to recruit website user testers using actual “live” visitors on your website. With Ethnio, you create a “screener,” activate it, recruit users as they arrive on your website, offer incentives (like gift certificates), and get feedback. Loop11 offers a step-by-step wizard to help you create tasks and questions. There is no software to download with either tool.
Provides a low-cost way to survey your site visitors. Ask visitors whether they were able to find what they were looking for, what about your site caught their attention in the search results, etc. Qualaroo offers a variety of pre-built questionnaires so that time-strapped small business owners can get started improving their site quickly.
With UserTesting.com, you create a test and they do the rest! They have task templates to help you get started quickly.
Metrics Used to Define Success
Depending on your goals, there are all sorts of ways to define success with usability testing. At a basic level, you can monitor your website’s goal conversion rates in Google Analytics or another website analytics tool. For most small businesses, the goal of a user test is to convert more visitors into leads. If the changes you make, based on your user testing, result in your visit-to-lead conversion rates going up (you are tracking your visit-to-lead conversion rates, right?), the test was a success.
You might also compare time on site for visitors with conversions. For many types of businesses, you’d want to see this metric trending downward. Business owners and marketers investing in special usability software might examine metrics like task completion rates, task time, and task level satisfaction.
Conclusion & Key Takeaways
No matter what type of business you own, your website is one of your most valuable marketing assets. It’s like a virtual sales rep—an economic engine for your business. The more qualified visitors you can get to your website, the bigger your business will grow. Over the past five years, successful companies that have embraced this mentality have prospered immensly. However, there is a growing recognition that website traffic is only one half of the equation for online marketing success. Those in the know understand that it’s simply insane to invest thousands in online marketing to acquire traffic, but set aside ZERO budget for the tools, analysis, and tests required to maximize your website’s conversion rates.
So… are you going to make improving your website’s usability and conversion rates a 2013 resolution OR follow some of your less-sophisticated competitors over the online fiscal cliff (which is spending money to drive traffic to a site that doesn’t convert)?
If you’d like a guide or help analyzing your website’s usability and maximizing your website’s conversion rates, drop us a line.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
View more blogs by Ben Landers