How to test + tweak your website for a better experience
Have you looked at your website analytics lately?
Do you know the percentage of people that land on your site and then leave without visiting any other pages (aka your bounce rate)? More importantly, how well is your site converting? You’ve gotta know your baseline numbers before you can improve them.
Let’s say, you’ve gone into your analytics and you’ve seen that your bounce rate is sky high (gasp)! What do you do about it? Well, one strategy that I love for testing and tweaking site performance is called user testing. And that’s what we’re going to go through in today’s training.
In this series for the past 8 weeks, we've been talking about how to design your website in a way that's more effective at bringing in consistent client inquiries without having to hustle. This is really a BONUS LESSON to that series where I'm talking about how to test and tweak your website to improve it even more.
What is user testing?
Despite what the name may lead you to believe, user testing (aka usability testing) nothing to do with lab technicians or chemistry beakers. And it’s not just for tech companies or software creators either. It’s actually very useful for all business owners. User testing is, to put it simply, a method of measuring how “user-friendly” (aka easy-to-use) your site (or software) is.
It's really about finding that sweet spot between your website visitors' motivations and then your business objectives. Because, when we're able to work in that sweet spot, we're going to get more engagement, more conversions, and more clients.
Why should you test your website?
By intentionally designing your site to fill that sweet spot experience, you’re able to craft it in a way that converts. And this “sweet spot” overlap is what you’re optimizing when you do user testing.
More reasons to do user testing on your website:
You can reduce the amount of time that you spend on your design or redesign.
You can reduce any “conversion friction”, making it easier for people to sign up.
You can increase your site visitors' satisfaction and delight with your website.
And you can improve your overall site metrics because they want to come back again and again.
When should you test your site?
There really is no specific hard-and-fast rule like, “you absolutely have to test now”. Because you're going to use different tactics in different scenarios. But I want to give you an example of testing during a website redesign:
First to get the baseline numbers before any design happens.
Then, during the design project, to get some data-driven design feedback I might perform a few test. So I can say, "does your audience prefer this color or this color?" and I can test within their target demographic and then I can make a data-driven design choice.
And then after redesigning the site so I can compare the numbers that we get after the redesign to those baseline numbers. And we can really see how much we've improved.
Aside from that you also want to evaluate your analytics regularly so that you can experiment with making small tweaks and then testing to see if you can improve your metrics that way.
How do you perform a user test?
I use and recommend an online tool called UsabilityHub. It’s not free, but it’s relatively inexpensive and they make it very easy to test a specific demographic.
You may have heard of a user testing tool called Peek, which is free and provides you with a recording of an unknown person going through your site. The reasons I DON'T recommend this tool are:
You have no control over who is testing your site and the likelihood that he/she is in your target market are slim.
You have no control over what questions are asked of the participant so you’re not able to test for specific things.
The participants might say some things that get you down unnecessarily because they’re not in your target market and there’s been no context provided.
Avoid these 4 common pitfalls of user testing:
You are not defining a specific item or problem to test.
So in the example scenario from the video, if I hadn't just tweaked that one box and that one message but, instead, I had done a whole different design for the home page, then I wouldn't be able to say if the results I got were because I tweaked that box or because the entire home page was different.
Testing more than one thing at once.
So if you think of this as a science experiment: you have the variable – a single variable – that you're testing and then everything else falls in the control. So you want to do the same thing when you're testing your website. You have one variable that you're testing everything else stays the same. And that is the control. That way, when you do the test, you can know, "OK. This actually made a difference”.
Testing with participants that are nowhere near your target market
In order to get usable qualitative data from your testing, you need to make sure you’re narrowing down your participant pool to people that are in (or could be in) your target market.
Testing to try to validate an idea for a product or service.
If you don’t already know what your audience wants, then you shouldn’t be creating a digital product or website just to find out. Instead, go back to the ideal client research phase.
It’s important to keep a scientific mindset – meaning to keep constantly testing assumptions, evaluating results, and proposing new experiments.
Set aside time every week or month to go over your analytics. Look at what pages have higher bounce and exit rates, check out the user flow and see where your peeps are dropping off.
Consider installing a behavior tracking app, like Fullstory, so that you can see what parts of your pages are getting the most clicks and what parts aren't even being noticed.
Lastly, brainstorm a few ideas for things you could test to improve your metrics and then run some user testing and get feedback.
By regularly reviewing your numbers and testing and tweaking your site, you can continue to optimize it for maximum badassery (conversions, sales, or whatever you want to improve).