Monthly Archives: February 2010

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Conducting a Usability Review:

In the world of usability, nothing seems to confuse my clients more than trying to determine exactly what a usability review is.  And it’s difficult to purchase something if you don’t know what it is!

Usability reviews don’t hurt (physically)

You can think about a usability review this way, it’s kind of the same as going to a doctor for a check-up, your web site will be examined to find usability issues (ailments) and you’ll be provided with recommended optimizations (prescriptions) for improvements.

Usability reviews are not generally well known or understood because the usability field itself does not have a single, consistent, standardized definition of “usability review.”

It’s an interesting and ironic truth that usability professionals who pride themselves on utilizing standards for testing and optimizing web sites can’t create their own set of standard definitions of common usability terms.  Go figure.

So, what is a usability review and how do you do one?

Since there is no consistent standardized definition of a usability review (also known as an expert review, expert usability review, usability audit, heuristic evaluation, etc. etc. etc.) I’ll go ahead and give you mine:

Craig’s definition of a usability review:

“A usability review is an evaluation of a user interface versus common usability best practices and heuristics by a trained usability professional.”

So in the spirit of sharing and giving, here are the steps I use when conducting a review.  By following these steps, you will have all the information necessary to conduct your own usability review.

And if you would like me to send you a sample usability review (not a complete review as this was for a client, but you’ll see how to do it) so you can see how to create your own usability review, I am selling the sample for a pittance at just $9.95 (please note that due to it being a digital download I can’t provide a refund, as well, you have the document!).

You can purchase your copy safely and securely through PayPal:

Add to Cart

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Step 1 – Become a trained usability professional, or save time and hire one.

As with most any other professional such as a doctor, lawyer or elephant-trainer, it’s important to have an education and experience in the practice.  Usability testing of critical tasks and usability reviews are not about providing opinions about a design, conducting focus groups or deploying a satisfaction survey on a web site.

Rather, usability testing and reviews are a scientific approach to analyzing a user interface and task-flow to determine where (and why) there are problems that cause users to have difficulty completing their tasks.

Using a trained usability professional for your usability review means taking the guess-work out of conducting the evaluation, and ensuring that a non-biased approach is used.

Step 2 – Identify critical goals for the web site or application:

More than likely, there are multiple goals for your web site or application.  The important aspect of a usability review is to focus on the most critical goals.  This is because narrowing down the focus enables evaluation of specific tasks associated with that critical goal or goals, and helps shape the subsequent to-do list of potential optimizations derived from the review.

For an eCommerce site like Blue Nile it’s probably selling diamond engagement rings.

For an informational site like the State library of Kansas it’s probably helping you find the literature you are looking for.

Whatever your web site or application has for critical goals, those are the ones that you should focus on first when conducting a usability review.

Step 3 – Define typical users via a Persona:

The vast majority of web sites and applications have typical users who share a common set of domain expertise (knowledge of the field) and critical tasks.  Identifying the Persona (a fictional representation of the typical user) is critical.  This is because the usability review must take into consideration the type of person who is interacting most frequently with the user interface.  It must consider their familiarity or lack thereof with the terminology, information architecture, navigation schema and related user interface systems they interact with.

For example, the Persona used for a usability review of a web site that deals with precision electronic measurement probes for the engineering industry, such as on MicronTesa.com may be quite different from that of a Persona who visits VirginAtlantic looking to book a flight to Heathrow.

Basic usability standards apply across all users, but specific “mental maps” (expectations of labeling and information architecture – groupings of information) must be considered when conducting a usability review.

Step 4 – Conduct the critical tasks:

With the above steps completed, now the actual “review” of the web site or application can take place.  The identified critical tasks are conducted one at a time, yes even down to purchasing that airline ticket – make sure you purchase a fully-refundable ticket of course!

As each task is conducted, the usability review identifies specific task issues as well as general usability issues as defined by usability heuristics (best practices).

What are the usability heuristics?

According to Jakob Nielsen the 10 usability heuristics are:

  1. Visibility of system status
  2. Match between system and the real world
  3. User control and freedom
  4. Consistency and standards
  5. Error prevention
  6. Recognition rather than recall
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
  9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
  10. Help and documentation

Typically each critical task has to be conducted many times, and each time a separate usability heuristic is evaluated against the task.  Issues are noted, typically with screen shots captured and detailed information about the usability issue found.

NOTE: It’s important at this point to NOT list out every single issue you find with each of the above usability heuristics in a review. Why? Because you would end up with a very large and overly detailed document (probably hundreds of pages long) that nobody would read or use! My reviews do not list out the 10 Heuristics above in detail. Instead, I make sure to summarize groupings of heuristics into the key issues I’ve found into a short, readable Usability Review. And call it a ‘Review’ so that your readers understand you are providing them actionable information for the key issues found, not every single issue as that would be overwhelming and well, not usable!

Step 5 – Compile the analysis

By now, you have a great amount of information about specific usability issues in the task flows.  Although you *could* list each one out separately, but imagine the size of that massive document! A better way to compile the analysis is with a set of grouped issues that highlight the key opportunities for improvement you found.  In addition, I like to provide screen shots documenting the issues, with commentary provided.

It’s important to also include suggestions or recommendations to improve the usability issues found.  After all, nobody wants to receive a laundry-list of problems with no hope of improvement.

As mentioned, there should be several issues that all share common traits, these can be grouped together.  I like to group issues into buckets of commonality, such as those involving:

  • Information architecture
  • Navigation
  • Labeling (taxonomy)
  • Layout
  • Functional flow
  • Form function
  • Error handling and messaging

Step 6 – Present the analysis

More than likely the client will be faced with a litany of problems, issues and snafus.  When presenting the results of the usability review, I always like to start with some positives.  I typically will provide (as best I can) screen shots and commentary of the good points of the web site or application.  This has two purposes:

  1. If provides the recipient of the bad news with a glimmer of hope
  2. It reminds everyone that the web site or application has benefits, benefits that can and should be mentioned

There’s one other important point to consider about a usability review, and that is there’s no such thing as the perfect usability review.  I always like to remind my recipients that a usability review, because it’s conducted by one person, will not catch all the usability issues that might be present.

But by focusing on the critical tasks of the web site or application, hopefully the most significant usability issues are identified, and recommendations for improvements made available.

Conclusion: How to conduct a usability review

So there you have it, those are the steps I use in developing a usability review.  Whether you call it a heuristic review, a usability audit or an expert review, the point is it’s a great way to learn about issues and opportunities to improve a web site or application.

And if you would like me to send you a sample usability review (not a complete review as this was for a client, but you’ll see how to do it) so you can see how to create your own usability review, I am selling the sample for a pittance at just $9.95 (please note that due to it being a digital download I can’t provide a refund, as well, you have the document!).

You can purchase your copy safely and securely through PayPal:

Add to Cart

View Cart

4 2

You Should Usability Test, Even With Just 1 Person

Wanna know what I think?  I think usability testing is so important, so amazingly powerful, and so useful for companies that want need to increase web site ROI that they should must usability test – even with just 1 person.

Only 1 person? Not 7 people? I know – I know, you’re reaching for the phone to call the insane asylum and have me committed. But before you do, just hear me out – you may decide I’m crazy like a Fox (or a really, really smart Badger).

Fox photo by Property#1 via Flickr Creative Commons license
Crazy like a Fox

ANY usability testing is better than NO usability testing

You may not believe me, but this is a universal truth: ANY usability testing is better than no usability testing. Don’t believe me? OK, maybe you’ll believe a couple of usability gurus.

Here’s what Steve Krug has to say about usability testing with just one person:

“If you really want to know if your Web site works, ask your next door neighbor to try using it, while you watch.

(You bring the beer.)”

Here’s what another usability guru, Jakob Nielsen has to say about usability testing with just one person:

“As soon as you collect data from a single test user, your insights shoot up and you have already learned almost a third of all there is to know about the usability of the design. The difference between zero and even a little bit of data is astounding.”

Now of course I’m not advocating ONLY using one person at all times. But in critical situations where resources and/or money and/or time are tight, usability testing with just one person is an acceptable alternative to full usability testing with 7 or so people.

Usability testing case study: Heardable.com

I’m doing more and more usability testing with just one person, and you know what, it works really well!

Case in point: I recently used a usability test with just one person for one of my clients: Heardable.com.

Heardable.com is a web service that enables Brands to measure and monitor critical social attributes. I like Heardable because it also provides actionable information about how to improve the attributes. I’m a big fan of actionable and useful data, so I’m a big fan of Heardable.

Headable.com used a 1 person usability test

Because Heardable.com is a start-up, just like any other start-up the founders had many issues to resolve, everything from how to explain what Heardable.com is on the home page, to how to access detailed metrics and data.

Because Heardable is in public Beta, the founders asked me to help identify some potential opportunities for usability improvements. But with their resources being tight, and knowing many more changes were coming, they asked me for a low cost – very fast way to do a quick usability test.

How did I do it? Easy…

A VERY quick usability test with one person

In the quick time of only three days, I:

  • Created a Persona (it was easy, they already had very specific data on their target users)
  • Identified five critical tasks that needed testing
  • Created a usability test protocol
  • Recruited a test participant
  • Conducted the test using Morae
  • Analyzed the results
  • Edited the snippet videos showing usability improvement opportunities
  • Created the PowerPoint analysis document
  • Sent the analysis to the clients
  • Submitted my invoice for payment
  • Almost broke my arm patting myself on the back for a job well done
  • Visited my chiropractor for adjustment on that arm

The results of the usability test and analysis were excellent. The usability test found 11 potential opportunities for usability optimizations, and more than double that for recommendations the Heardable team could use to implement those potential optimizations.

Could additional test participants have found more issues? You bet. But the point is with the limited time / resources / money available, this test provided them with critical usability information that is actionable – and can make a big difference for long term improvement.

Conclusion: usability testing with 1 person works well:

So what am I saying here?

I’m saying ANY usability testing is way, way better than no usability testing.

I’m saying the ability to conduct usability testing in a matter of days (not weeks) is powerful.

I’m saying the ability to conduct usability testing for low cost (not the cost of a mid-size car) is a significant reality.

And I’m saying the ability to conduct usability testing that provides actionable and useful information that can be used NOW is brilliant, because it enables a company to improve the usability, thus ROI of their web site or application in near real-time.

What’s to not love?

The very smart founders of Heardable know that usability testing, ANY usability testing, even testing with just one person, is way better than no usability testing.

Now you do too. So what are you gonna do about it?

Feel free to contact me if you want more information about how a usability test with just one person can help improve your web site’s ROI.

Birthday BalloonsRedneck Blvd

Today, February 12th is my birthday, so please forgive the somewhat off-topic post in place of the usual usability post.  And it’s not just any birthday – it’s my 50th birthday, so please forgive me if I’m not around all that much today to chat, I’m probably off partying somewhere with my family.

I’ve decided to do what any good Hobbit usability guru would do, and throw YOU a party!  My gift to you is the gift of humor, which commences below.  Enjoy!

So here is the purpose of this birthday post, which is to provide you with some humorous thoughts,  party hats (virtual), streamers (also virtual) and birthday cake (again, totally virtual – which is good for all you calorie counters), and of course a few other thoughts thrown in for good measure.

First, let’s kick this party off with a few funny birthday quotes:

“Inside every older person is a younger person –

wondering what the hell happened.”

– Cora Harvey Armstrong

“Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”

– Maurice Chevalier

“I’m at an age when my back goes out more than I do.”

– Phyllis Diller

Next, here’s a funny little birthday tribute to usability I like to call (drum roll please)…

The top 10 signs YOU may be a Usability Redneck!*

#10 – If you think Usabilla is a Mexican food served with chips and guacamole, you just might be a usability redneck.

#9 – If you think the Nielsen Norman Group is one of those 60’s folk music bands that toured the country in a flower-decorated bus, you might be a usability Redneck.

#8 – If you think “remote usability testing” means you have to fly to northern Saskatchewan, you just might be a usability Redneck.

#7 – If you assume Jared Spool had something to do with sewing machines and thread, you might be a usability redneck.

#6 – If you think a “protocol” is a new fangled mobile cellular device, you might be a usability redneck.

#5 – If you use focus groups, ouija boards and voting exit opinion polls to get usability data, you might be a usability redneck.

#4 – If you assume “perceived affordance” means your spouse has taken the checkbook, you might be a usability redneck.

#3 – If you think “1-on-1 performance test” is what your spouse expects at night in bed, you just might be a usability redneck.

#2 – If you think “critical task” is anything associated with getting a beer, you might be a usability redneck.

#1 – ___________ (You fill in the blank), you just might be a usability redneck.

Now it’s YOUR turn!

You fill in the number one reason in the comments (and if it’s publicly printable) we’ll all see the number one reason you just might be a usability redneck!

*Idea stolen borrowed directly from the comedian Jeff Foxworthy who is very funny (but not to rednecks).

PS – To all non-U.S. folks, and to those U.S. folks who are rednecks:  The term “Redneck” as defined in Wikipedia (yes, Wikipedia has “redneck” in it – what ISNT in Wikipedia???)  is as follows:

“Redneck is a disparaging term that refers to a person who is stereotypically Caucasian and of lower social-economic status in the United States, particularly referring to those living in rural areas. Originally limited to the Southern United States, and then to Appalachia, the term has become widely used throughout North America.”

Perceived Affordance, Usability and Online Sales:

One of the most important goals of web site usability testing is finding and fixing perceived affordance issues.  You can increase your usability, conversion and thus your web site Return on Investment (ROI) by improving perceived affordance.

What’s perceived affordance?  For web site owners, it’s the art and science of designing objects like ‘buy now’ buttons in such a way that your web site visitors know just by looking at it that they can click on it.

One of the most important functions of web site usability testing is to evaluate the perceived affordance of links and buttons.  By testing and optimizing perceived affordance of critical objects, such as ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Buy Now’ buttons, web sites can dramatically increase conversion, and thus ROI.

Definition of Perceived Affordance:

According to Don Norman, the Godfather of design and usability and the author of the book “The Design of Everyday Things” the concept of perceived affordance is defined this way;

“The word “affordance” was originally invented by the perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson (1977, 1979) to refer to the actionable properties between the world and an actor (a person or animal).

What the designer cares about is whether the user perceives that some action is possible (or in the case of perceived non-affordances, not possible).

In product design, where one deals with real, physical objects, there can be both real and perceived affordances, and the two need not be the same. In graphical, screen-based interfaces, all that the designer has available is control over perceived affordances. The computer system, with its keyboard, display screen, pointing device (e.g., mouse) and selection buttons (e.g., mouse buttons) affords pointing, touching, looking, and clicking on every pixel of the display screen.”

According to William Gaver, there are three categories of affordance:

  • Perceptible
  • False
  • Hidden

By evaluating the design elements that communicate perceived affordance for various objects in your web site, you can determine which category an object fits, and if wrong, take steps to correct it.

Perceived Affordance is Critical for Your Web Site Success:

When you think about your web site, your ROI in fact lives or dies on your ability to successfully manipulate design to improve perceived affordance.  Your web site is primarily a one-way pipe of information, the majority being visual information (with the potential for some audio).  You provide the visual information, and your web site visitors consume and comprehend it (or at least try to).

Because the primary interaction that takes place on your site is one-way visual, you must be zealous in your attempts to understand and evaluate how well you are communicating perceived affordance.  Testing and optimization of elements that impact perceived affordance should be your number one goal, because it directly impacts your conversion rates, and thus your web site’s ROI.

Actions your web site visitors take such as mouse clicks or typing characters, although very important, are never going to happen unless you provide clear, consistent and effective visual clues about how to take actions.  You do this by continually testing and optimizing the crucial elements of your site that establish and communicate perceived affordance.

Examples of Perceived Affordance in Buttons:

Let’s examine a few examples of perceptible perceived affordance in action.  In order to visually communicate that a button is clickable and will enable the site visitor to take action, it is necessary to use design to visually separate, distinguish and illuminate a function.

Amazon and perceived affordance

Amazon button

As demonstrated above, Amazon.com uses many design elements to generate high perceived affordance of their ‘Add to Shopping Cart’ button, including use of:

  • Strongly contrasting yellow button color
  • Only use of that yellow color on the page
  • Heavy outline border around button
  • Round strongly contrasting icon of shopping basket
  • Text in button ‘Add to Shopping Cart’
  • Larger font for button text
  • Elongated shape, round on left side, squared on right side
  • Gradient fill in top of button to visually mimic 3-D shape
  • Dark blue background color for surrounding box

Another example is eBay, which creates a high perceived affordance of the ‘Buy It Now’ button.

eBay button and perceived affordance

eBay Button

For eBay, the ‘Buy It Now’ button uses multiple design elements to effectively communicate perceived affordance:

  • Strongly contrasting blue button color
  • Only use of that blue button color on the page
  • Largest sized button on page
  • Text in button ‘Buy It Now’
  • Larger font for button text
  • Strong contrasting colors, white text on blue background
  • Dark gray background color for surrounding box

To provide contrast, let’s examine use of design elements that appear to provide a function, but in fact do not.  This is known as false affordance, and can work against web site visitors.

False Affordance:

A false affordance is an apparent affordance that has no real function.  False affordance is a major contributor to lower web site conversion and lost online sales.  This is because a false affordance breaks the faith a web site visitor has in the web site’s functional abilities, and causes doubt and confusion.

Example of a False Affordance:

eToys False Affordance

eToys Featured Gift

In this example, the prominently displayed ‘Featured Gift’ and photo of the toy seem to indicate that more information about the toy might be available by clicking, but where?  Web site visitors who come across the display are left wondering, because no clear action button seems available for this toy.

A common tool many web site designers use is to make the image of the product clickable.  But that is not the case here.

In fact, there is no action available, the image of the toy is not clickable, nor is the heading ‘Featured Gift.’  There is no way to navigate to the featured toy using the visual designs offered, thus the connection with a ‘false affordance.’

There are many types of designs that can lead to false affordance, some of the more common being:

  • Objects that look like buttons, but are not
  • Photos of objects that are not links, especially if place with photos that are links
  • Placing a blue outline around an image or link, yet no link is present
  • Underlined text that is not a link
  • Use of blue in text that is not a link
  • Form data entry fields that are not active

For web site owners, false affordances are extremely damaging, and cause many more problems than simply lost clicks to a particular item.

By prominently displaying a false affordance on the home page, a web site causes damages including:

  • Lost faith (visitors wonder “is this clickable, what about this, or this?”)
  • Lost focus (visitors spend more time trying to solve a navigation problem than shopping)
  • Lost sales (frustrated visitors will often not complete their task)
  • Lost trust (many visitors will simply leave the site – never to return)

Finding and fixing false affordances should be a high-priority job of every web site owner, especially those who own eCommerce sites – as false affordances cost lost visitors, conversion and sales.

Poor Design and Hidden Perceived Affordance:

As with false affordance, poorly designed techniqes can hurt perceived affordance and can cause major performance issues for web site owners as well. This is referred to as Hidden Affordance.  In the case of poor design, visual clues that a link or function is present are not displayed as visually separate, distinguished and illuminated.

Example of poor perceived affordance:

Dancing Bear Hidden Affordance

Dancing Bear Button

The example above demonstrates a site that provides web site visitors with a display of products available for purchase.  However, the function associated with ‘Checkout Now’ (in this case a link to an online order form) is poorly displayed because it has minimal visual clues as to it’s function, and thus has low perceived affordance.

Among the perceived affordance problems with the ‘Checkout Now’ button are:

  • No button shape around the text
  • Yellow text color is not a strong contrast against the white page
  • No underline when mouse rolls over text
  • Text in button visually close to ‘Back to results’ text
  • Missing a background color to call attention to location
  • Upper left location not typically associated with ‘continue’ action

Improve Perceived Affordance with Testing:

So how do you improve your web site objects perceived affordance – with testing and re-testing.  There are four primary types of testing that can be used to analyze and optimize perceived affordance.  They are:

  1. Expert Usability Review Also called a ‘heuristic review.’ This review uses expert analysis of interaction devices such as buttons, links and related functions against industry standards and best practices.  The best form of an expert usability review is to receive several, since each expert might focus on unique aspects that grouped together form a better picture of what needs to be improved and why.
  2. Usability Testing Using 1-on-1 moderated testing, a web site owner can quickly find problems with task flows for critical tasks.  These often involve issues with perceived affordance.  Because usability testing only needs about 7 or so participants, and because it uses real web site visitors, and can be done very quickly and for low cost, usability testing is a great way to find issues with perceived affordance.  It is the only method a web site owner can use to determine the ‘why’ of an actual web site visitor’s behavior.
  3. A/B Testing Two different versions of a button, link or related object can be tested on your web site at the same time using a traffic split.  50% of the traffic goes to the version that has the ‘A’ version (the original version of the object usually) and 50% to the new test ‘B’ version.  After enough statistically significant results are captured, a winner can be picked based on interaction rate.  A/B testing is pretty reliable, assuming enough traffic is present.  However, it won’t tell you the ‘why’ of the visitor behavior, and of course it might negatively impact your conversion if the ‘B’ test version is worse than the original version.
  4. Multivariate Testing For sites with large amounts of traffic, multiple versions of objects can all be tested at the same time.  This allows for rapid analysis and iteration of the best possible combination of elements.  The downside to multivariate testing is it needs lots and lots of traffic to establish statistically significant results.  In addition, as with A/B testing the ‘why’ of visitor behavior won’t be know, only which combination of elements performs the best.

Conclusion, Increase Your Usability and Website ROI with Perceived Affordance

Perceived affordance is critical to your web site success, and to your conversion and ROI.  Perceived affordance determines how well your interaction object designs communicate their function and use to your web site visitors.  Poor perceived affordance hurts your web site interaction, conversion and sales and results in lower ROI.  You can increase your ROI by conducting testing and optimization with the interaction objects on your web site. An excellent way to identify potential issues and optimizations of perceived affordance is with usability testing.  Continual testing and re-testing ensures you are maximizing your potential usability, perceived affordance and thus ROI of your web site.

For more information about maximizing your web site’s perceived affordance and ROI contact me.

Usability Testing and Online Marketing Campaigns

Usability testing
Usability testing in action

Usability testing is a tool typically thought of for use with improving web sites or web-based applications, but if you are responsible for online marketing here’s important news – usability testing can provide you with a killer online marketing campaign.

What you and your competing marketing managers may not realize is usability testing an online marketing campaign is an easy, fast and cheap way to increase conversion and increase the ROI of your marketing spend. Why? Because usability testing is all about improving tasks, tasks like;

  • Understanding the message of an online advertisement
  • Easily clicking through to a landing page
  • Quickly completing a landing page form
  • Efficiently entering data in a buy-flow to purchase a product

Usability and online marketing optimization

So why should you add usability testing as one of your online marketing optimization tools? According to Forrester’s US Interactive Marketing Forecast, interactive marketing will near $55 Billion, represent 21% of all marketing spend, and interactive marketing media will cannibalize traditional media to do it.

The money you invest in online marketing must not only equal traditional marketing results, it has to beat it, because your competitors are busy doing the exact same thing.

Reasons to add usability testing

There are several reasons why adding usability testing to your online marketing optimization mix is highly productive:

First: Usability testing is fast and easy

Usability testing doesn’t need thousands of statistically significant responses or multiple focus groups. To usability test a task like going through an online marketing flow, you don’t need a lot of time, effort or input. It’s fast and easy to quickly create a test and learn from it. This can come in handy when you are trying to make decisions about important elements in your future online marketing campaign, well before launch.

For example, while your online marketing campaign is still in development you could quickly use usability testing to determine how easy or difficult it is for your prospects to click through to a landing page, understand the message on the page, complete a form, and/or successfully navigate the order or sales path.  By watching just 7 usability participants try to complete your online marketing path, you’ll know instantly where there are problems in your task flow, and will probably have a pretty good idea of what to do to improve it.

Second: Usability testing is cheap and very low risk

Setting up a usability test, asking 7 participants to go through the test, observing their behavior and debriefing them at the end can all be done in less than a week for minimal cost, especially if you use remote moderated testing.

If you compare asking 7 participants to try to complete an online marketing flow, versus conducting an A/B test where perhaps hundreds or thousands of real potential customers are going through the flow, usability is far cheaper because you’re not losing orders or sales due to a potentially bad version.  And usability testing is cheaper because you don’t have to test live production versions of a campaign, you can test pre-launch versions and not risk the potential costs involved in creating a bad live campaign.

Third: Usability testing uses your real target prospects

Testing with the actual people you are targeting means you get feedback directly from the people you want to engage.  Want to know what your actual prospects think as they interact with your online marketing campaign?  You can with usability testing.  By finding test participants who exactly match your typical online marketing prospect, you’ll be testing your campaign with the actual people who could be interacting with it.

By evaluating how easy or difficult it is for your online marketing prospects to interact with your online marketing flow, you’ll have credible feedback to help you improve the experience. This takes the guesswork out of trying to determine the ‘why’ of user actions, something click-stream, A/B or log file analysis simply cannot provide.

What to usability test?

Usability test a landing page
Usability test a landing page to optimize conversion

So what elements in your online marketing campaign should you usability test?  The possibilities are endless, but there are probably 3 or 4 critical elements of any campaign that would be simple, cheap and effective to test.  And the information you receive from the test can improve your online marketing campaign right away.  They are:

  1. Call to Action Function: Conducting a usability test of an online advertisement with a call to action button is a quick way to determine if your call to action graphic is doing what it’s supposed to.  Does the test participant see the graphic in context with other ads or content?  Does the button look like a button and stimulate response?  What does the participant expect to see after they click the button?  Usability testing will provide all those answers, and more.
  2. Landing Page Content and Information Architecture: Once your prospect is on your landing page, does the content meet their expectations?  What about the information provided, is it clear and easily understood?  Does the participant know where to go, and what to do next?
  3. Order or Buy Flow Form Function: Assuming you have a form on your landing page, is it easy to use?  Does the participant make any mistakes, or have confusion when entering data?  How long does it take to enter the data?  Are there too many fields, or not enough, from the participants viewpoint?
  4. Next Steps: After completing the form, does the participant know what will happen next?  What are the participant’s expectations? Does the participant receive their expected feedback? Are they satisfied with the experience?

Conclusion: Add usability testing to your online marketing and make it Killer!

Adding usability testing to your online marketing efforts can help you take your ho-hum online marketing campaign to killer marketing campaign status.  Usability testing does this because it’s all about tasks, not opinions, it is cheap and very low risk and it uses your real target prospects to identify where there are problems in your flow.

With the increasing use of online marketing in the overall media mix it becomes even more important to make sure your online marketing efforts are optimized for success, and usability testing is a tool you can use to accomplish that.

For more information on how to add usability testing to your online marketing mix just contact me, I’ll be glad to help you increase your conversion.

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