As everyone gears up for the next 12 months and attentions turn towards how to make this year bigger and better, website testing is one topic that is worth investigating. Although you may have spent a fortune fine-tuning your AdWords campaign, paying copywriters to create press releases and maybe even invested in a professional social media management service, have you given any thought to how user friendly your website is since paying for it to be designed?
Search engine optimization often focuses on tweaking existing content to get the perfect keyword density and changing page titles and other important page elements to get the perfect keyword prominence, but the likelihood is design changes and user interaction have taken a back seat to link building and the need to provide lashings of useful, good quality content.
Taking the time to study how users interact with your website can be a useful way of determining what changes need to be made. And what better time than the start of a New Year to make your site even more user friendly in anticipation of more sales?
Testing Your Audience
Google has released a series of hints and tips on low cost ways to test your site. One of the first points mentioned is the most important – how and when do people visit your site? When you first approved the site design, this point may have been overlooked. Did you ask yourself for example, will people connect while on the road via a mobile device? Or while rushed on a job site? Or when sat at their desk with time and a powerful computer at their disposal? If your clients are now more likely to connect while on the move with a less reliable internet connection, a simple design or text only version of the site is something to be considered. If you don’t know the answer to this question, simply ask a sample of current clients when and on what device they most frequently view your site. Even speaking to just 10 customers will give you useful insight.
A Handful of People is Enough
Sample size is important when testing your website as you need to observe enough people navigating and interacting with the site to get sufficient insight into its problems. As everyone is different, observing a few people means you’ll get a more rounded view of the site and how your audience interacts with it. Asking just five of your clients to sit down and use the site while you observe is enough to gather enough evidence to support ay argument for changing navigation, page structure or anything else that may crop up.
When observing, you need to really focus on how easy the subject finds it to get where they need to go. Note if they can pick out the navigation right away. Do they then go to the page they need directly or are there a few clicks on the back button? Do they read through all of the page and scroll down or not bother scrolling at all, going only on the content above the fold? How easy do they find it to locate contact information? Does the contact form take a few seconds or many minutes to load in?
Set a Task
Depending on your site and its content, set a task such as buying a product and going through check out, downloading a brochure or requesting a call back and judge how easy or difficult it is for the users to achieve. You want the processes of purchasing and getting in touch with you to take as little time as possible – if more than two of your sample stumble over a question on the contact form or find the checkout cart tedious, it’s worth investigating simpler solutions. Any hesitation or difficulty is a barrier to purchase so finding and eliminating those problem areas needs to be a focus for this small test experiment.
There are many ways to test your website, but for those with a small budget and little time, try the above tips and set some actual people free on your site to find its strengths and weaknesses. Then gradually refine the testing and ferret out the stumbling points where you may be losing customers and sales.