Why Test With Real Users?

Do you know how usable your site is?

The importance of knowing how usable your site is seems to not be fully understood in the startup/online community as it should. Let’s break it down and educate ourselves a bit more on some of the ways we can find out how usable our website is and why it’s one of the most important tests we can perform against your site.

Take the example of a shopping cart. Many checkout carts tend to have links to support, knowledge bases, social media links, terms of use, advertising, direct product links or even related products etc. If a potential customer who hasn’t purchased yet (but is about too) decides to click on any of these links mentioned above, you potentially have lost the sale. Think about it for a second, if you are waiting in line, stores often have simple quick-sell merchandise like magazines, chocolate bars and gum available during the checkout process. Realize, you are bounded by the products on either side of you so you cannot escape easily and are funnelled into a cashier regardless of line-up length. When clicking a link, such as a twitter or advertisement, you are essentially escaping from the line. Now they are controlled by the forces of life again, such as a phone call, crying baby or even a distraction such as a poor review or second thoughts if the purchase is a large one. It may be wise to get the customer to have instant success purchasing a smaller purchase but offer related products to be added quickly after the purchase is made, maybe a discount if they purchase within 10 minutes or an email with related products possibly. Have you noticed Paypal’s checkout process is very plain and boring? It just makes you want to finish the process. Its distraction free and a sale is made almost everytime.

Usability tools we can use come in many forms and often each is required to uncover your websites full usability score.

User surveys and focus groups are marketing tools to find out what a selected group of users remembers about a web site to determine the importance of branding and corporate image. A good feeling will increase trust.

User feedback, whether we ask to chat with selected users or via surveys can solicit views aimed directly from selected user groups. Generally visitors who hate the site leave promptly without responding. Visitors with minor problems (broken links, typos) often do provide feedback as do those who love the site. The majority probably think the site is OK and don’t bother to tell you this.

Web developers tend to rely on mechanical aids, google analytics or automated scripts to check log files for numbers of users, number of pages a user visited, unique visitors, user exit pages, users referring site and so on. Some automated services find typos, broken links and rate your websites SEO. All important as well.

Visitor heatmaps and user recordings are really hot nowadays by making it so easy to track user frustration or success. You are able to view where users click, scroll, including the timing between clicks and scrolls and where a particular user travels inside your site and mouse movements. Based on mouse movements you can easily feel a users frustration (multiple clicks or wildly moving the mouse) for example. Studying your actual users can help gain valuable usability information quickly on a daily basis with little cost.

The most important technique is to actually see (via video or in-person) someone using your site, specifically someone within your popular demographic range where you can visually see and hear their behaviour as they use your site. Typically 5 users can generate a lot of data. Testing can take place at almost any stage of development. The earlier the better for obvious reasons. It is also important to note that after conducting any type of test and making changes based on any of the testing listed above, another set of tests are recommended to determine the success or failure of the changes.

Remember that founders, owners, designers, marketing, web developers and you have their own biased views of what users want or need. But only users can really tell you whether your site meets their needs.