“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”
-Charles Caleb Colton
Recently in the news, T-Mobile announced a new phone upgrade plan; within days AT&T and Verizon had announced similar plans. Just like your website, all businesses are competing for a limited amount of visitors and/or customers. This is especially true online, when your website is your virtual salesperson and your offer is the sales pitch. Savvy internet surfers often have access to tens, hundreds, or even thousands of websites with similar offers, products and services. If your website isn’t great, but your competition’s website is; why would the potential buyer choose your website? The new age of internet is about options; make sure your offers are at least good, if not the best!
“why would the potential customer choose your website?”
Big companies spend an incredible amount of money doing “buyer persona” studies to identify the browsing and behavior patterns of their target audience; and often times their websites are a clear reflection of the results. Not everyone has tens-of-thousands of dollars, the staff, or the proper data to do their own buyer persona studies. By comparing your website to the websites of larger companies in your same market, you can use their investments to fuel your growth. Many large, billion-dollar companies are also very aware of their competitor’s offers; and as shown above in the mobile phone business, they are reactive to each other’s offers with like offers of their own. I’m not saying that you should copy your competitions websites or content; but merely saying that by studying your competition’s websites and offers, you can gain valuable insight to the mutual customers you are competing to gain.
“you can use THEIR investments to fuel YOUR growth.”
After over 12 years in eCommerce, internet marketing and product management; I have learned an incredible amount about what it takes to entice a customer to use a website. My previous experience as a merchandising manager for Nike gave me the training and knowledge to understand how the “buying eye” works from one of the top companies in the world. I am starting a 5-part series on how to improve your user’s experience on a budget! Here are the 5 parts, I will be releasing:
- 1. Who to test with!
- 2. 5 ways to test your user’s experience!
- 3. How to organize your test!
- 4. How to quantify your results!
- 5. I got the results, now what?
“improve your user’s experience on a budget!”
5 Ways to test Your Website’s User Experience on a budget!
Having an enjoyable user’s experience is essential for success in every business, whether online or off. Picture all the things you see in commercials and the efforts made when visiting establishments to build a great user experience. Whether you are an eCommerce Store, a service provider, doing lead generation, or any other type of website; user feedback is essential for creating the best user interfaces. In this part, I will discuss who to test, and what value their feedback is.
Very often a website’s design is selected by owners, designers, and process managers. This often leaves the target audience excluded from being a part of the design and testing. I recommend a combination of internal testers and external testers, with as many as possible in the target market. To monitor the testers you can use software like Clicktale; this software will allow you to record all their activity and review it as if you were standing behind them. This is easier and gets more natural results, as people often act differently if you are sitting right next to them; this can also be used on live customers for further feedback. I also recommend the diary method, where they are given a notepad and encouraged to write in it often during their testing. It is also important to note the browsers, and browser versions being used to find a good variety. Here are ways to identify and properly use test subjects:
1) Friends and Family:
While these test subjects aren’t necessarily in your target market, they are usually free, and they are often great for ease-of-use comparison testing. For example: take three competing websites and ask them to perform a function that is in-common. Their notes are good for identifying steps that may be confusing or slow. Try to use people that haven’t been on or used your website previously.
One of the keys to using friends and family for testing is to place them into categories based on their skills and backgrounds. It is important to have web surfers of varying skill levels; beginners, mid-level and expert users of the internet are a good start for categorizing. Your business can break your testing subjects into the categories that make sense to your business, but try to have at least three or more different levels.
2) Using the Actual Target Audience:
This is often the way to get the best information for testing and improving your users’ experiences. This requires using your current customers, or finding like-customers for testing. This can also involve testing with customers that may have started the process, but backed out before submission. This makes a blend of people who completed the process on your website, with people who stopped at some point in the process. As people often find out, this can require a Gift/Reward for the best participation. The price is worth it for the value you receive in this data; there isn’t better feedback than from the actual target audience. Sometimes a t-shirt, a Starbucks gift card, or a simple gift is enough, but often cash is the best way to get willing test subjects.
3) Yourself or your staff:
Using yourself or any staff involved in the project as testing subjects should only be used in a limited fashion, as any opinions would likely be biased. Comparisons in functionality, click counts, offers used, plus other non-biased and quantifiable elements are the best usage for internal test subjects. Items like counting the amount of clicks-to-purchase/submission are great internal tests that you can do. If you have people in other departments, that are largely unexposed to the project, they can be used for some testing involving opinions.
Only with a good range of test subjects, can one assure that there has been testing by a large variation of users and different systems.
Now that you have selected your testers, the next post will cover what they will be testing!
Check back in two weeks for the next FREE installment!
Written by Matt Dacko of Atwoodz.com (Matt@Atwoodz.com) Contact for consultations, questions, or quotes!