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Ever feel frustrated using a website? We make sure that never happens to your customers.

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We write about how you can ensure your customers have the best user experience possible using your website or digital product.

Webinar: Profitable Product Pages: Using SEO and UX to Increase E-Commerce Sales
Using SEO and UX to increase e-commerce sales

We're teaming up with Stealth™ Search & Analytics (a Pam Ann Marketing company) to help you drive more traffic to your product pages and increase sales once visitors get there.

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • How to combine SEO and UX for a powerful product page that appeals to both users and search engines.
  • How to understand and speak to your users through SEO and UX research
  • Examples of UX and SEO best practices for e-commerce product pages
  • SEO Technical Considerations for e-commerce product pages

And, we will also be giving away 3 free SEO/UX product page audits to participating attendees. Simply ask a question in the Q&A portion of the webinar to be considered to win a product page audit!

Marriage Material? How Website Usability Affects Long-Term Client Relationships

If your company is like most of the companies we work with, a key business goal is to build long-term relationships with your own clients. But, while you’re fixing your website or SaaS to address ease of use issues (allowing users to accomplish the tasks they set out to accomplish), your competitors are optimizing their experiences to address aspects of the user experience that will turn first-time customers into long-term relationships.

While usability tests measure “ease of use” (if that wasn’t obvious), many of the tests we conduct also measure user satisfaction, how motivated they are to use the website or product, how they feel about the experience and the product, to name a few. “Ease of use” should be the bare minimum in creating user experiences. If a user can’t learn to use a website or product or easily locate the information they’re looking for, it’s pretty useless to them. Unfortunately, many companies are stuck measuring “ease of use” or learnability because they didn’t follow a user-centered process to begin with—they’re putting out “ease of use fires” and ignoring everything else.

If we think of this in terms of interpersonal relationships, we can use dating as an example. You start dating someone and things start off great. Initially, you were really impressed by this person and you ignored some things that probably should have given you pause (as often happens in the software sales process, where what is promised and what is delivered can be vastly different). As the relationship progresses, you start to notice that your friends’ significant others do thoughtful things for them and anticipate their needs. With this contrast, you’re suddenly feeling resentment.
It should come as no surprise that “relationships” with digital products are far more fickle—customers are noticing your competitors at the first sign of dissatisfaction. This process can start even in more established relationships. Industry “disruptors” can swoop in a woo your customers with a better customer experience.

How do you avoid this?

  • If you haven’t already, establish baseline metrics that evaluate ease of use. Remember, ease of use is the bare minimum. Create a “test, refine, test” cycle and re-evaluate it periodically.
  • Add in metrics that will evaluate subjective measures such as how people feel about the experience and what they walk away with. As with ease of use, create a “test, refine, test” cycle and re-evaluate it periodically.
  • Talk to your customers or prospective customers often—this is the only way to measure “why is that?”

Time for the cliche: digital relationships, like interpersonal relationships, require work to make them last. Before computers, people built relationships in their communities that could either help or hurt their businesses. While the medium is different, the exercise of relationship building remains the same.

Stop Trying to Be Cool and Let Me Buy Your Product

Have you ever been to a website that looked “cool” visually but was difficult to use? A website, first and foremost, needs to help website visitors do what they set out to do. Yet, all too often, a website that the designers, developers, and clients thought was visually appealing with all the latest features ends up trying too hard to be “cool” or “clever” while preventing the user from doing what they actually want to do—buy/learn more about your product or service.
Recently I went to a few websites with the intention of purchasing a dress for an event. One of the sites I visited had amazing visuals, including a video that made the homepage load extremely slowly, and ended up with about 800 empty pixels at the top of the page. It made it seem as if something were wrong with the website until you scrolled down and saw the rest of the site. Was the video worth the slow load time? No. Did it tell me anything about the fit and fabric of the dresses for sale, which are some of the determining factors in my purchase? No. So why was it there?

The “trying too hard to be cool” issues tend to fall into the following categories:

    1.    The website doesn’t help users perform the tasks they set out to accomplish. What are the top three things a user needs to be able to accomplish/get out of a visit to your site? Sometimes there’s a difference between what your business wants and what a visitor wants (ad impressions is a great example), so think hard about this. There also might be different goals based on where the user is in the buying cycle. But, for the sake of simplicity: is it to purchase something? sign up for a webinar? find a local sales rep? Now, how easy is it for users to do that? How do you know? (Hint: you’ve talked to/usability tested with representative users).
    2.    The latest trends were incorporated to make the website look “cool”—but at the expense of usability. Parallax used to be my go-to when explaining this issue, but thankfully that “trend” doesn’t pop up (and have I told you how much I hate popups!?) as much anymore. Of course you’ll evaluate your competitors and other websites before a redesign. But that doesn’t mean you have to copy their mistakes. A trend is a trend and will fall out of style soon enough, making your site look dated. And you’ll be left with something that doesn’t function well and holds little meaning for your visitors. A few recent examples:

  •  Using video that spans the entire page, with text juxtaposed on it. Often the video is terrible, makes the page load slowly, and is completely meaningless. It’s almost always difficult to read the text on top of it. If it’s not adding value, why bother?
  • Carousels (rotating images, typically on the homepage) taking up critical real estate. In usability tests, people tend to ignore carousels (they look like ads) and they are incredibly annoying on mobile devices.
  • Lack of consistency. While it’s a fundamental design principle, it’s amazing how much it is ignored. This happens most often on large websites, where updates were made to the homepage and other frequently viewed pages, and the rest of the site was ignored. Users look for consistent visual cues to make sense of your site. For example, buttons on one page should look the same as buttons on other pages and navigation should be consistent from page to page.
  • Lots of functionality but complete lack of feedback. It used to be that users could only navigate from page to page, with little interactivity. Now, websites can perform a variety of functions and there’s a much higher degree of interactivity. Help users understand what is happening throughout their experience with your website. As a simple example, if a user just filled out a form, tell them what happened (it was successful or not successful) and what happens next (an email will be sent to them with information on next steps or helpful suggestions of how to fix any errors that occurred).
     

3. The website doesn’t pass the five second test. If a website visitor only saw your homepage for five seconds, what would they come away with? With my dress shopping example, I knew the brands already and wasn’t searching for anything besides a specific style of dress. However, if someone lands on your site and doesn’t really know who you are or what you sell—the purpose of their visit to your site—will they be able to figure it out? Are they able to figure it out in five seconds? With ever decreasing attention spans, that’s about all the time you have. The solution to the five second test is incredibly simple: make sure people know who you are and why they should care. Additional copy should support your value proposition and invite the user to learn more. Now, the answer to retaining and converting the user is worthy of a separate blog post…

 

What’s the answer to creating a website that is both “cool” and functional?

User research and user testing. User research prior to a redesign will help you hone in on what tasks your users want to accomplish. User testing throughout the design and development cycle ensures your creative team hasn’t gone off the deep end—trading in usability and user experience for the latest fad.

Heidi TrostUX, UI, e-commerce
What Realtors Can Teach Us About User Experience Research

I’m always trying to come up with different ways of explaining the user research process. Sometimes clients or workshop attendees find the process confusing and are unsure of its outcomes. Often, their previous experience has not involved a defined process to building digital projects—whether those are websites, web apps, or mobile apps.

Recently I thought of my real estate friends and what interesting parallels there were to the world of user research and user experience design. In fact, user research—specifically ethnographic research—is part of a real estate agent’s daily life. It is rare that a user experience researcher is given the types of opportunities for such in-depth, unfiltered glimpses into users’ lives.

 

For example, realtors are able to see:

User’s unfiltered reactions—both their likes and dislikes
What designers and developers often lack is insight into user behaviors—what they actually do as opposed to what they say they do. Which makes sense because the product and marketing teams are sitting at their desks and the user is going about his or her daily life. Further, even armed with information from user interviews, the design and development team only get a portion of what users decide to tell them.

A realtor, in contrast, is far more likely to get the whole picture. Because house hunters trust their realtor, they are more likely to give honest reactions to the homes they tour. They don’t feel like they need to hold back—the homeowner is usually not present. In fact, their honest feedback will help the realtor identify homes that may better fit their criteria. Frustratingly, people often aren’t able to articulate what works for them or doesn’t work for them until they experience it (much to a realtor’s dismay, I’d imagine)—the same sort of issue we have in user experience research.

 

What’s the user experience research solution?

For user experience researchers, the end goal is to get as much honest insight into user needs and behavior as possible. Our constraints are time, budget, and the fact that people aren’t always as forthcoming about this information as we’d like. We balance this by:

  • Doing user research online where we can get unfiltered information from potential users in places like forums and reviews.
  • Crafting interview questions carefully, in order to get the most accurate information. I've written more about this here.
  • Doing ethnographic research.

 

Where users focus their attention

Sometimes what a user/house hunter says they want differs from where they actually focus their attention. A house hunter may say they want a newer, modern home with minimal maintenance, yet fall in love with the details and craftsmanship of a turn-of-the-century Victorian. In user research, it’s incredibly common to hear users request certain features only to find out that they don’t actually use or value them.

Realtors also witness instant, emotional reactions (“I could see myself living here,” or “this home just feels right”). Because realtors get this information after they (presumably) have toured quite a few homes with their clients, they can identify what factors contribute to that emotional reaction. In user research and usability studies, we’re often talking about or testing just one website or app, so it’s far more difficult to get the context necessary to understand emotional reactions—something users have difficulty articulating as it is.

 

What’s the user experience research solution?

Understanding behaviors, which are not always rational, is important in understanding what aspects of the user experience make or break a user’s connection with the website or app. For user experience researchers, this feedback helps to inform what to focus on to improve a website or product or what new feature to build. Observing behavior, as opposed to expecting users to explain their behaviors (which often they aren’t aware of or can’t articulate), is ideal. User experience researchers can do this a few ways:

  • Review website/app analytics to see what people are actually doing (while keeping in mind this isn’t the WHOLE picture. You still need to figure out WHY people are doing the things they are doing).
  • Conduct usability studies to watch representative users perform tasks on a website/app.
  • Observe people in their environment (at work, home, school, etc. depending on what you’re researching).

 

Where users ultimately put their money

Nothing proves what a house hunter truly values more than what home they ultimately purchase. All the factors that go into a huge investment are weighed and a decision is made. Home buyers factor in the practical concerns (location, school district, size, amenities, budget, etc.) along with emotional factors (the home reminds them of their childhood, they feel safe in the home/area, the neighborhood is perceived as prestigious, etc.)
While your company’s product or service likely costs much less than a house, a similar decision process goes on in your customers’ minds. The difficulty is tapping into that process.

 

What’s the user experience research solution?

The answer to this will likely come from a variety of sources, forcing you to put together the pieces to solve to puzzle:

  • Talk to representative users about the competition. If you know you are losing clients to your competitors, figure out why. The answers may not be rational or they may be deeply layered—so you’ll really need to be careful in selecting your questions.
  • Ask clients or prospective clients how they went through a recent decision making process—to choose your service or product or your competitors’.
  • If possible, do a usability test on your competitor’s product or website. Where can you do better? How can you differentiate your company?

A parting question: when was the last time you spoke to a customer or potential customer about their experience? If the answer is “it's been a while,” then consider the wealth of user research a realtor gets in a day. How can your company gain that type of information?

 

CEOs: UX is Part of CX and Here’s Why That’s Important

As a CEO (or CMO/CTO), you know the customer experience (CX) is incredibly important to your business. Even though customer experience and user experience are different, they are so tightly woven together that the research we do for our clients always involves both.
Technically, customer experience (CX) includes the customer’s many contacts with a business—a customer service call, a visit to the retail store, and an online shopping experience. User experience (UX) is part of that whole experience—the customer’s contact with an interface (a cable box, car navigation system, mobile app, or website).

 

Why does this matter to you?

My team is often called in to fix user experience problems that are at least partially identified by customers calling or emailing to complain about the software or website. Sometimes the problem is that the website/software is confusing and the customer can’t find what he or she is looking for. Other times, we see a problem that expands beyond the user experience. For example, sales reps aren’t given the information they need to properly service customers. Or, the company’s current customer journey spans many touchpoints, from a website, to a sales rep, to a customer service rep, back to the sales rep, etc. and there are problems across that entire experience. What was thought of a user experience problem turns out to be a customer experience nightmare.

The recommendations we provide at the end of user research then, necessarily, include strategic recommendations for improvements to the customer experience. All too often, however, these customer experience changes are brushed aside for the immediate gratification for improving something tangible and relatively easy, like changing the navigation or modifying the checkout flow. But what actually needed to happen was systemic change within the business to improve the customer experience—a much more difficult task. And one that needs to be led by someone in charge of the business—not the people who are in charge of making changes to the website.

 

Looking at the customer experience and user experience together means:

  •  You’re fixing the root cause of the problem. Sometimes that will be digital, sometimes not.
  •  In the case of digital, you’re building something of value—you’re not just creating apps and features because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing.
  • You’re evolving the business by identifying and solving for customer experience issues and finding new ways to better serve your customers (whether you’re giving customers what they specifically ask for or things they don’t yet know they want).

Don’t separate UX and CX. Get the most out of the time and money you put into user research to examine and improve the entire customer experience. Fixing the digital experience is only part of the equation—improving the customer experience is the true return on investment.

 

Website Analytics Show You Haven’t Met Your Goals. User Research Tells You Why.

Our clients are great at setting and measuring goals. We learn a lot from them. Most of them utilize web analytics to set conversion goals, as well as measure traffic, pages viewed, and bounce rates. Most of these clients I would categorize as “numbers” people. They have come to realize, however, that numbers can only tell part of the story. Analytics can tell you what your web visitors are doing, but they can’t tell you why. Analytics and user experience research are the perfect marriage of quantitative and qualitative. Analytics give you the big picture in terms of behavior and user research gives you insight into specific behaviors, preconceptions, and expectations. Most importantly, user research gives you the information you need to FIX A PROBLEM, not just diagnose it.

 

Utilize user research to inform design

User research helps you take a step back from what website analytics may be showing you. Many of our clients come to us having never before performed user research (one-on-one user interviews, diary studies, or even surveys)—but they know they aren’t meeting their conversion goals or they know website visitors are dropping off at a certain page. User research helps inform a product or website that has yet to be built and provides information for how an existing product should evolve:

  • How do you ensure your visitors accomplish the tasks they set out to accomplish as well as achieve your own business goals?
  • How do you align your product with your user’s mental model, making the experience with the product seamless from start to finish?
  •  How do you create something people will actually use?
  • What critical features can you add that your competitors lack?

 

Utilize usability testing to help fix problems

Moderated usability tests are the best way to diagnose and fix problems on your website. Analytics may indicate users are not doing what you want or expect them to do. Or you may not be achieving the conversion goals that have been set. Some of our clients have never actually seen someone use their product or website “in the real world” and are completely taken aback when they watch their first usability test. By asking representative users to perform tasks on your website, you are able to see through the eyes of your customers. There is no other way to replicate this. By diagnosing and solving usability problems early on, your company ends up saving on development costs (the costs to fix or re-do) and the resources associated with customer service inquiries. Most importantly, fixing usability problems leads to increased conversions and sales.

 

Measure, fix, repeat

Just like you check your analytics on a regular basis, user research and usability testing need to be measured and re-tested on an ongoing basis to provide the most impact. Luckily, analytics can help you measure the success of your user research and testing (are users using the new feature? are they visiting the page you want them to? have you reduced the number of abandoned shopping carts?). After some of the problems are fixed, the website or product needs to be tested again to ensure the fixes actually solve the problem. Periodic user research and testing ensures you are:

  • developing features customers will actually use
  • providing the best customer experience possible
  • increasing sales, conversions, and customer loyalty

Your competitors are involving the user in their design and development efforts. A great user experience is not just a point of differentiation—your customers expect it.

Heidi Trost
Dear Customer: What You Tell Users When You Don’t Conduct User Research or Usability Studies

Creating a website or digital product without first conducting user research sends quite a few messages to your customers—but probably not the messages you intended. Here is what you are inadvertently telling your customer/website visitor when you fail to conduct user research:

  1.   We’re not interested in helping you do what you want to do.
  2.   We can’t be trusted.
  3.   We don’t care if we make you feel stupid.

 

1. What you’re telling customers: We’re not interested in helping you do what you want to do.

We’re only interested in our bottom line. We’ve spent considerable time defining our goals but we haven’t spent any resources in considering yours. As a result, we’ve structured our website in such a way to help us achieve our business objectives and have blatantly disregarded what tasks you need to perform on the website.

How you can change the conversation:
By conducting user research before a website design or redesign, you can define what users need and want to accomplish on the website. You’re likely to uncover needs you hadn’t considered (for example, users require robust technical specifications in order to make a purchasing decision). You may also find that user needs and preferences don’t align with your website goals. Users may be reluctant to create an account in order to make a purchase. If a business goal is to increase signups, you may need to consider providing a guest checkout option.

2. What you’re telling customers: We can’t be trusted.

Our website is haphazard and confusing, which reflects the internal disarray of our company.

How you can change the conversation:
Your website is a reflection on your company. By usability testing with users who align with your target audience, you can uncover problems that make your website confusing (for example, unclear or inconsistent labeling or instructions), frustrating (for example, not giving the user a way to “cancel”), or misleading (for example, a download the user didn’t want or expect). By the way, an expert heuristic evaluation and extensive quality assurance (QA) testing are great ways to discover the low-hanging fruits of technical and/or usability problems. But ongoing usability testing with representative users is the only way to ensure your site is providing the best user experience.

 

3. What you’re telling customers: We don’t care if we make you feel stupid.

We expect you to speak our language, understand our made-up terminology, and share our worldview.

How you can change the conversation:
By thoroughly understanding customers through user research and testing the site with usability testing, you can ensure users feel confident that they can find what they need to find and accomplish the things they set out to accomplish. The website uses the user’s vocabulary, with carefully-selected navigation items and informative copy—not marketing-speak or terminology that does not make sense to them. Because you’ve conducted usability tests, you already know how to steer users in the right direction and the website is thoughtfully designed to offer assistance in the event something does go wrong.

By not conducting user research or usability studies, you’re essentially telling your customer: “we don’t care if you leave and we’re not interested in earning your business.” User research, usability studies, and a dedication to great user experiences is the only way to ensure customers use your web/mobile app or website and have the incentive to use it again.

Heidi Trost
You Learned “Bad UX” From Your Cable Provider

Even though you might not be able to define what constitutes a bad user experience, you know it when you see it. You’ve encountered “bad ux” with services and devices you use everyday—like your cable box. Because of the limited choices consumers have in choosing a cable provider, it’s not surprising that the entire user experience centered around the hardware and software used to access cable TV channels is absolutely terrible. (This, thankfully, is starting to change with the ability to watch shows online—cable companies now have competition).

Here are issues you can avoid (or fix) based on the lessons learned from your cable provider:

1. An unreliable system.

How they do it
When you ask the system to perform a task (for example, pull up the tv guide) it is either painfully slow or fails to work entirely.

How you can do better
While this may seem like a no-brainer, your system should be stable enough to function consistently for your user no matter what task they want to perform. This means a thorough QA (on many browsers and devices) to eliminate bugs, fast load times, and clear, actionable messaging when something does go wrong (i.e., no “An unknown error has occurred” messages). This isn’t just a technical issue—it’s a user experience issue.

2. Failure to understand how users use the system in the “real world.”

How they do it
Cable on-demand functionality fails to deliver on how people actually use the feature—to binge-watch favorite shows or to encounter new shows to potentially binge-watch. After finding and watching your favorite tv show, you’re navigated back to the original on-demand portal. If you need to catch up on a few shows in a series, you have to navigate back to the channel and find the series again (without a visual prompt indicating what you’ve already seen). While the added steps don’t seem to amount to much, coupled with the unreliable system, this takes considerable time if you’re watching more than one show in a series. Serendipitously finding new shows to watch is also difficult, as there is no “you may also like” feature. Contrast this with Netflix, which not only provides an intuitive navigation that allows you to watch items in a series with ease, it also gives you recommendations of shows you might like based on what you’ve previously watched.

How you can do better
User research and usability testing are the best ways to ensure your website or product are meeting user needs and behaviors. Adapting your system/interface to fit your users’ mental model is preferable to forcing your users to comprehend a way of doing things that doesn’t make sense to them. Go a step further by offering your users recommendations based on their behavior, the behavior of users similar to them, or using customer data you already have.

 

3. Terrible customer service.

How they do it
Messages like “This service is currently unavailable. Try again later.” are not only unhelpful, they’re likely going to result in a barrage of customer service calls. Those service calls inevitably result in the cable provider “restarting” your cable box, with little indication of what might have gone wrong or how you might prevent it from happening again.

How you can do better
Prevent customer service calls (or emails) in the first place. Messages that help users recover from confusing situations can mean the difference between a brief moment of confusion and an hour long service call. For example, your website can provide recommendations when a user misspells a search term or ask a user to confirm before performing a critical task, like deleting a document. Your FAQ should be clearly written, searchable, categorized, and updated regularly. Should users need to call or email you, their experience needs to be documented, categorized with similar issues, and shared with designers and developers so they can propose solutions to the problems.

You’re not the cable company. You have many competitors and those competitors are focused on creating a great user experience for their customers. You can do better. Your customers expect it.

It’s Not Your Website. It’s You.

Your website is simply code that a human at your organization put together. The content and design are also things someone at your organization orchestrated. So the website’s usability failures are human failures. And, as the manager or vice president of making the website go live, it’s essentially your failure. Why do so many websites (including those for big companies with substantial budgets) have such a terrible user experiences? Because the humans who managed the website redesign omitted three critical steps from the process:

 

1. Talk to users prior to designing or redesigning the site.

It’s pretty rare that website redesigns stem from the desire to make the site “prettier,” although improving the websites aesthetics may be part of the redesign wish list. Instead, resources are devoted to redesign a website to address far more critical issues (i.e., customers are calling in to complain they can’t find what they’re looking for). It makes sense, then, to investigate how users currently use the site and what can be changed or added to make their experience better. What better way to know how users are utilizing the site than by asking them quite literally: what do you use on the website the most? Use this opportunity to understand the behaviors of your user: how do they go about performing tasks, what’s important to them, and how do they make decisions? While questionnaires may be tempting, we recommend talking with a small sample of real users—being able to ask follow up questions and ask for clarification trump the quantitative nature of a questionnaire. Supplement that information with site analytics and you have even more data to base your decisions on.

 

2. Conduct usability studies prior to launch.

Depending on your development process, you can do usability studies in the wireframing stage or with a clickable prototype. The most important thing is to test the redesigned site with people who represent your user base (NOT the people in your office). Decide on what tasks a user must be able to accomplish on the site. If you’re testing a marketing site, common tasks will include downloading a white paper, signing up for your newsletter, and registering for a webinar. If you’re testing a web app, tasks will vary widely depending on the type of product or service. For an education technology web app for teachers, tasks could include creating a new class assignment, creating a new class roster, or grading an assignment. If your product has fundamentally different types users, (for example, an ed tech web app might have teachers and students as users) you’ll need to develop unique tasks for each type of user.

 

3. Conduct usability studies after (or just prior to) launch and periodically thereafter until the end of time.

Things are always different post-launch and, realistically, there were probably things you couldn’t test prior to launch (the plug-in wasn’t working or the database hadn’t been created yet). Now is the opportunity to test and optimize the website—before the flood of customer service calls. And, yes, you do need to test the site with representative users periodically for the life of the website. How often? If your website is critical to the day-to-day operations of your company (i.e., it’s an e-commerce site or web app) you should be testing with three to five users once a month. If your website is a marketing site with limited functionality, you can get away with conducting usability tests less often. You can also continue to interview users (consider adding a few interview questions after the usability study) as well as monitor site analytics.

Failure to do user research or usability testing is a human/organization problem—not a website problem. Just like your company, your website is dynamic and will change over time. By talking to users before the site redesign and testing with users during and after the redesign, you ensure a lasting investment—not only in a site that doesn’t need to be redesigned as often but also in increased sales and reduced customer service calls.

Heidi Trost
5 Stupid Reasons You’re Not Conducting Usability Tests

A usability test involves recruiting potential customers (the users or participants) and asking them to think aloud while performing a series of pre-defined tasks on your website. The test can be moderated (in person or remotely, where the moderator is on a video or phone call with the participant) or unmoderated (a recorded session where the participant is given a series of tasks to complete on their own). Usability tests are critical in ensuring your website is user-friendly and that users can complete the tasks they set out to do on your website. Unfortunately, far too many companies and products skip this part of website and product development. Typically, excuses fall into the following categories:

 

1. You think it’s too expensive.

Yes, user testing does require an investment of time and money. However, if you’re considering usability testing, it’s likely your business is centered around your website or software—whether your business is an e-commerce site or an e-learning platform, it’s generating income for your business. Your users’s ability to use the site is integral to your business’s success. Moderated usability tests require screen recording software (usually a one-time fee), screen sharing or meeting software if conducted remotely (free to a small monthly fee), an optional incentive for participants, and your time. Unmoderated testing services where test participants are provided for you vary widely in cost, with restrictions to the number of tasks and length of the video. In either scenario, the major investment is the time it takes to develop, run, and analyze the tests. The alternative, however, of having users abandon your product or service for another, more user-friendly product, is far more costly. How many customers/users can you afford to lose?

 

2. You don’t have time It takes time to prepare for, schedule, conduct, and analyze usability tests.

And then, of course, you need to implement the changes. However, it takes a considerable amount of time to design, project manage, develop and launch a design and even more time to redo it when you realize you’ve done it all wrong. User research and user testing can save you a considerable amount of time and and money by:

  •  Making you pause to re-evaluate features that may not be necessary or valued by customers.
  •  Alert you to features that customers do find valuable.
  •  Point out design flaws or user/task flows that weren’t well thought-out or poorly executed.
  •  Help you help your customers do exactly what you want them to do.
  •  Help you help your customers do exactly what they want to do.

 

3. Your ideal user is hard to find.

Finding target users can be challenging if your product or service is targeted towards an extremely specific audience, users who are not in your geographic area, and/or users who are difficult to pin down for an hour (for example, an ER doctor or an executive). However, if your core group of users are “too difficult” to pin down, you're likely making major assumptions on their behalf. This is all the more reason to ensure you interview and usability test with these users. If you’re a brand new startup with no existing customers, reach out to your existing network. LinkedIn can be particularly helpful when searching for specific job titles and geographic areas—see if someone you already know can introduce you to a potential usability study participant. In these scenarios, you will probably have to offer a particularly appealing incentive in exchange for the participant’s time. For unmoderated tests, usability testing services can connect you to participants who meet your criteria (different platforms allow different levels of specificity).

 

4. Your site is “good enough.”

Good enough for you? Or good enough for your users? You know your site, you’re familiar with its quirks and nuances and you have a vested interest in putting up with those quirks and nuances. Your customers do not. Even if you’ve done user research and testing, ongoing testing is required as your site changes or new features are added. And, over time, your business and your users will naturally evolve, which—you guessed it—means more usability testing. Think about it: how much has your site changed over the past few years? Depending on your industry, you’ve made ongoing changes to it or it’s been sitting idle for five years and looks outdated (not to mention the outdated functionality).

 

5. Not everyone on your team is on board with the idea.

If other members of your team aren’t on board with the idea of user testing, it’s likely for one of the other four reasons outlined in this article. The challenge for you, then, is to do a little homework before presenting the idea (or re-presenting it):

  • Are you getting customer service emails or phone calls? What is the cost associated with answering each of these calls and emails and finding a solution? What are the common themes? Are these because of an underlying problem with your website or something your website could help with?
  • What are people saying about your product on social media? If your product is frustrating users, it’s very possible they are publicly airing their grievances before you can address the problem.
  • Have brief but candid conversations with existing customers: what are the top 3 things they are happy with or unhappy with about their experience with the company? This could be related to the website or not but, either way, the website could contain the solution.

Remember, usability testing—just like research, design, and development—are a part of the process, not an afterthought.