As the world becomes increasingly connected, and increasingly digital, marketers (and small business owners!) are becoming more and more data driven. What do we mean by that? Simply that the decisions being made around websites, marketing, and even product offerings are based more on the numbers, and less on educated guesses and gut feelings.
While instincts and expertise are certainly still incredibly valuable, the ability to collect, interpret, and respond to data can offer big advantages. These data can be collected in different ways, each offering different benefits.
Quantitative research involves sampling a larger number of respondents and looking at the same questions or variables for everyone so that they can all be analyzed together to give a big picture. Qualitative research is more person-centered, focusing on individual feedback and experiences to gain a different type of insight about a problem or challenge. Today we’re going to talk about qualitative research options for improving your website’s performance.
One of the most effective and efficient ways to gather qualitative intel about your website is through user testing. To conduct user testing, you submit your site through a service to a selected number of reviewers who then go through and use your site for the first time and offer you feedback on the areas you request about their experience.
The advantages of doing user testing this way (instead of through your colleagues or friends) is that the results will be more accurate and reflective of reality. Colleagues will likely have been looking at the site with you for awhile and might be swayed by things they’ve heard you say about it, or because they’re familiar with your business, they will not run into any issues that strangers might. Friends will be biased because they won’t feel that they can give you their honest opinion about your site. Strangers, however, rarely have this problem sharing their true opinions. Also, with some services, you can see the participants actually moving through your site, so you might pick up on things that they themselves don’t even think to report to you. Why did their mouse pause so long over that button? How long did it take them to find your “about us” page? Did you detect any frustration in their voice?
Once you’ve conducted your round of user tests, you can compile the observations and make some real, informed decisions about changes and optimization of your website. Ready to get started? Online marketer Nick Gowdy (FreedomVoice.Com) offers the following 5 recommendations for successful user testing:
1. Invest in a good number of users
2. Don’t take it personally
3. Don’t overreact
4. Give your own feedback on testers.
5. Shop multiple usability services
To Gowdy’s last point, there are quite a few providers out there that can offer various levels of service depending on your budget and your preferences. One of the best values is the popular (and aptly named) site, UserTesting.com. It’s not the cheapest solution on the market, but it’s a great value because of the richness of feedback that you get. They have a lot of great testers, you can watch and listen as the testers move through your site, and the price tag is still relatively low. Other sites, like FeedbackArmy.com, are less expensive and offer written feedback from testers, which is still valuable, but you are relying on the tester’s own ability to analyze and report every aspect of their experience.
Another option for evaluating the usability of your website is through heatmapping tools like CrazyEgg.com. which we’ve discussed previously.
Have you ever tried user testing for your website? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.