User research methods and tools to test web usability

Are you having trouble choosing the right user research method? Having no idea what user research and user testing is all about? No worries — we’ll give you a brief intro to user research methods and user testing. You’ll be able to test usability of your website and achieve ux nirvana.

UX Design Process

Let’s start off with some basics briefly. In UX design process you need to get to know your users and learn everything you can about them in order to understand their point of view, their needs, their actions and so on. Based on that knowledge you are able built ideas and possible solutions. Later — prototype your solutions and test it with users.

Design research is the integral part of design process. It can be conducted before or during design phase (known as User Research) or after design phase (User Testing)

User research and user testing are the main ingredients of great user experience. Your goal when conducting design research is to learn everything about the interaction between the user and your product or website. By conducting user testing you will get beneficial feedback and learn WHY users act this way or the other and HOW to make it work.

Design Research Methods

There are a lot of user research methods to choose from, each of them solving different problems and answering different questions. The key is to know when to use each method and tool in order to design a better user experience.

Qualitative UX Research Methods

On the early stage of the user research process we are going to focus on qualitative methods. Those methods are used when you don’t really know the user yet, or when you only starting off. You’ll be digging deeper into behavior of users, talk about feelings, emotions or actions. Qualitative methods can be observed, but not measured. You could say that qualitative methods are speaking from the heart, not mind. It’s about finding a problem. Usually on that stage you will be working with a small group of users having a lot of interactions with them.

There are a few tools falling into that category*:

*Some of the tools and design research methods are placed somewhere between qualitative and quantitative methods since their use is dependable on the context. You’ll get the best results when combining different user research methods and, off course, ask the right questions.

Eye Tracking / Mouse Tracking / Heatmap Generators

Eye tracking tools and heatmaps show you exactly where your users look and click. It helps you to create patterns and understand where you should put the most important content on your site. The drawback of this method is lack of context — this method doesn’t answer why does he click or look there.

Here’s a list of eye tracking tools:

Crazy Egg

30 day trail for free, prices start at $9.

Crazy Egg

Clicktale

Clicktale reveals consumer behavior and analyze conversions. Demo request required.

Clicktale

Eyes Decide

See what your users see and click. Beta version free to use!

Eyes Decide

mouseflow

Starter pack price: $24

mouseflow

Interviews

In-Person interviews will help you gain some insights about your product or a website. Plan it well and decide which issues you want to explore before the interview to keep your goal in mind. Also, build personas in order to define your users and choose participants wisely. 
 
And the most important rule:

Never ask anyone what they want — Erika Hall, Just Enough Research

Instead, ask them WHY. (Why is it difficult for you? Why did you click here?)

Prototype testing

Give the users a prototype to test on. This way you will find weak points of your website or a product before even implementing/coding. If you’re interested in digital prototyping tools check out our post here. Prototypinh saves a hell lot of time, trust us.

Quantitative Research Methods

User research methods conducted in the late stage of the process. They refer to numbers and answer questions such as: How many pages has been viewed by user? How much time have users spent on the page? These methods involve a high volume of users participating yet the interaction with them is much smaller. Quantitative research methods help to optimize something that already exist and make it more functional.

There are some tools to help you conduct quantitative research:

A/B Testing Tools

A/B Testing method is useful when you want to see which design/option performs better.

A/B Test Master

Starter Package starts at $99/monthly.

A/B Test Master

PickFu

On PickFu you can uplpoad two designs with a specific question about it and get feedback right away. Starter Plan cost $49. You can buy a single poll — starting from $20.

PickFu

Optimizely

Optimize your content depending on your Target Audience and test what performs best. Optimizely lets you choose different designs for different target groups. Plans are “tailored to customers needs” just send them an email to find out prices.

Optimizely

Convert

Extensive tool to perform A/B testing with conversion and revenue tracking, integrated with Google Analytics. 15 days free trial. Plans start from $9. Check out the video on features here.

Convert

Usability Hub Preference Test

Usability.gov offers many different tests, one of them is preference test where you upload a design and let the users choose which one they prefer. Basic account is free.

Usability Hub Preference Test

Surveys

Google Consumer Surveys

Through Surverys you can reach out thousands potential users of your product and ask them anything. With a solid number of answers you can get your head around your website or a product. Prices start from 10 cents per single response.

Google Consumer Surveys

Qualaroo.com

Qualaroo surveys lets you target questions to visitors anywhere on your website. By using Qualaroo you can gain quick insights on what is bugging your users. Prices start from 63$ month.

Qualaroo.com

Survey Monkey

Survey Monkey lets you create surveys and polls. Basic plan is free and let’s you ask up to 10 questions and get 100 responses.

Survey Monkey

Google Analytics

A powerful tool to measure website traffic, monitor which pages are viewed and by who, how long visitors are on your website and many, many more.

Moderated and Unmoderated Remote User Testing

A lot of times on the later stage of design process you’ll be performing 15–30 minute long remote testing, either moderated, in which researcher and user are online simultaneously or unmoderated, in which the users acts independently. Those tools capture behavior of the users on your website while his completing certain assignments (such as: Buy blue sport shoes, Sign up for a newsletter). You can also ask them particular questions (for example: Where would you click to sign up?). Those methods are extremely helpful when you want to analyze many users from around the world in short amount of time. 
In order to conduct good remote user testing you should first decide what you want to learn from the study. Then you should decide who you want to test — existing users, people you want to become users? In the end carefully choose methods allowing you to reach your goals. A real drawback of these methods is that they are quite pricey. (More about remote research here )

Here’s a list of powerful tools for remote user testing:

Open Hallway

Record users completing tasks from anywhere — no software needed. Pay per test from $35/test credit. Team plan — $299/month.

Open Hallway

Try My UI

Watch videos of real people using your website and find out what bothers them. Zomato Case Study to watch here. Since Try My UI uses Open Hallway — prices are the same — $35/test credit.

Try My UI

Loop11

Loop 11 is a powerful tool to test usability. Test an unlimited number of websites, ask an unlimited number of tasks or questions and invite 1000 users. Loop11 lets you test on mobile devices. Prices start from 158/monthly for non profit projects.

Loop11

UsabilityHub

A set of different tests in order to measure the effectiveness and clarity of your designs. A bundle of 5-second test (in which the user sees your website for 5 seconds only), a click test, navigation test, question test, preference test is a powerful tool to measure your effectiveness. Basic account cost NADA.

A click test is used for placement/layout and helps determine if people can do what you are asking them to do.

UsabilityHub

WhatUsersDo

Check what your users do by creating a scenario and questions for them to answer. You’ll get video recordings from your users. Test it on users from UK, USA, France, Germany and Netherlands. Prices start from 140 pounds/monthly for 5 video recording responses.

Check out the video here.

What Users Do

User Testing

It’s very similar to WhatUserdDo — it lets you get video with audio of your target market. Check the sample video on their website to find out more about how it looks like. Price start from $49/ video.

User Testing

Userlytics

Userlytics lets you test usability of mobile abd desktop apps. Flexible pricing.

Userlytics

VerifyApp

Verify is the fast way to collect and analyze user feedback on screens or mockups. See where people click, what they remember or how they feel. Prioritize information on a website — what elements are the most important?

VerifyApp

The User is Drunk

Hey, why not to reach out for some alternative usability testing? Richard’s motto from The User is Drunk is “Your website should be so simple, a drunk person could use it.” Hard to disagree, isn’t it? ;) Well, you can pay Richard to test your site now.

The User is Drunk

The User is Drunk

How many users I need to test?

Jacob Nielsen from Nielsen Norman Group in 2000 wrote an article that all you need is 5 users in order to run successful usability test. He also claims that you need 39 users for eye-tracking test and at least 20 users for quantitative tests to get reliable results.

Further Reading:

Nielsen Norman Group
Design Research Quarterly Archives
An introduction to user research techniques

Let us know in the comments how does your design research process look like!