Best Practices for Optimizing Your User Tests

To help make your website effective, navigable, and prepped to convert, it’s helpful to know how users actually interact with it. The practice of doing so is known as user testing and involves viewing how visitors interact with specific parts of your site.

User testing is completed by recruiting a group of individuals, having them explore your website, and seeing how they interact with it. The idea is to use this data to find issues, make improvements, and see how they affect your overall conversions. While user testing may seem simple, there are some important elements to keep in mind before getting started—check them out below.

1. Use a task-oriented approach

Don’t prepare the test expecting users to simply click around your website and tell you what they think. Instead, give them specific tasks to gauge how easy it is for them to navigate your site, such as “Find this specific product” or “Tell us how many products are available under this category/subcategory.” This will provide more insight into how customers move through specific areas of your site, which will give you insight into new actions and improvements that should be made.

2. Frame the tasks correctly

Once you have compiled your list of tasks, find a way to word them that doesn’t give too much away. For example, if you say “Find our About Us page,” all they have to do is look for a link called “About Us” on your homepage and click on it. Frame it to be a bit more complex; for example, “Tell us where you expected to find general information about the business and what steps you took to find it.” This will tell you both a) if users were able to find it themselves, and b) how easily users were able to find it themselves. If many users took several steps to find the page, you may consider linking it elsewhere.

3. Find the right audience to test

It is vital to test individuals who are in the demographic of customers that you’re selling. For example, if your main target audience skews heavily toward seniors, you wouldn’t want to recruit a group of teenagers to user test your site. While you may still get helpful information, it won’t be the information most helpful to those who will actually be using your site in the first place. Recruiting testers that fit your target audience ensures that the most pressing issues for them are being addressed first.

4. Recruit an adequate sample size

It wouldn’t make sense to gather feedback from two people and then make drastic changes based on their opinions. You’ll want to find enough people to user test your site so that you can identify common themes among the results. This will help you narrow down to the issues that are affecting the most people in your test so that you can focus on those first, rather than focusing your efforts on one opinion that may not be shared by everyone.

5. Do a dry run first

While it’s wise to include a wider range of individuals for your final test, you should begin with a separate, smaller test to make sure it has been set up in a way that will get you the best results. Find a group of around five people and ask them to do a user test based on your instructions. This will help you discover any hiccups with your test, determine if you are asking the right types of questions, and let you know if there are any glaring issues that can be fixed quickly so as not to distract your sample group.

6. Act on the changes you’ve identified

It’s easy to gather this information, nod your head, and say “That’s good to know.” But unless you actually implement changes based on this new information, you’re not going to get anything useful out of the process. Have a plan in place for making adjustments to your site once you have discovered strong patterns in the responses you’ve received, as these will be the things most web visitors will likely have issues with as well.

In Conclusion

When designing your website, it’s easy to go with what you—the business owner—think looks good. However, at the end of the day, you must please your customers and make sure they can navigate your website easily and find what they need quickly. Otherwise, your conversions will suffer as customers leave and find a competitor’s site that suits them better.