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Improve your ROI with user testing

Alex Christie

22 March 2010

The focus of conversion design should be to place the user at the centre of your design and to make the user journey as smooth as possible. One of the main ways to achieve this goal is to user test your website. This will lead to a more user friendly and productive site and lead to more sales and less drop-outs.

The benefits of usability testing

User testing doesn’t have to be a full scale scientific test even simple testing is beneficial. The benefits of showing your work to a user that is unfamiliar to your project can be invaluable. By setting a simple user task for the testee like ‘how would you go about finding information about car insurance and then get a quote’ can give an insight to problems or affirm positive aspects of your site.

By asking 5 to 10 users (Nielson says 5 is enough) to test certain tasks you get a pretty good idea about how those tasks are performing. For a simple test you really only need a computer, two chairs and a camcorder and tripod. It’s really to monitor how easy or difficult it is for the user to do a simple task. For more in depth studies then you will need a full scale usability test.

Website designers and developers need to remember that they are not the typical user! Getting too ‘close’ to a project or making assumptions can lead to mistakes and oversights user testing can throw up issues not even considered internally. Also, this sort of testing is not to be confused with testing the actual code or links and it’s not a survey or focus group. Nor is it a test of the user it’s purpose is to test the tasks being asked!

Return on investment

Websites have improved dramatically over the last decade and are much more user-friendly now than they used to be, the days of intros and splash screens are well and truly over! But usability budgets haven’t gone up a great deal so there is still room for more improvement.

The return of investment is still high as usability is relatively cheap compared to its potential gains. In 2008, Jakob Nielson undertook a survey of design projects and concluded that the average improvement in key performance indicators (e.g. conversion rates, traffic numbers, how long it takes a user to perform a task) was 83% after the websites had been redesigned for usability.

Interestingly, PixelSurgeon carried out a test of Nielson’s own website www.useit.com, using his 40 usability point evaluation points, and it only got a “C” grade (75%). Read the full interview.

User testing needs to be embraced and be seen as integral to the design process. By introducing usability techniques you can improve your website and the user journey making it easier to complete tasks thus giving you a higher conversion rate.

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