Authors Posts by Craig Tomlin

Craig Tomlin

157 POSTS 66 COMMENTS
I've been improving revenue with online marketing, usability & conversion optimization for start-ups, small businesses and Fortune 500 firms since 1996. I'm a Certified Usability Analyst and multi-award winning marketer. Contact me for website usability testing and audits!

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Remote Moderated Usability Tools Description, Benefits and Listings

Remote-Moderated-Usability-Tools-UsefulUsabilityRemote moderated usability tools offer a better way to identify user experience task flow issues. Learn the description, benefits, method and tools for conducting remote moderated usability testing.

Remote moderated usability testing tools are powerful, they are almost equal to the ultimate best-case usability testing method, which is in-person moderated usability testing.

There are several online remote moderated tools that enable remote moderated testing. These include some older tried-and-true do-it-yourself tools, along with several all-in-one services that provide additional functionality and features.

I’ll briefly touch on how remote moderated usability testing works, the benefits of remote moderated testing, and then focus on several remote moderated usability tools that enable you to use this powerful technique to optimize your website or app.

How Remote Moderated Usability Tools Work

Remote moderated usability testing tools work by enabling a moderator (researcher) to be able to connect through real-time two-way communications with a test subject who is participating in the test. Because it is a two-way connection, the moderator can follow-up or probe the tester as the tester goes through the usability test.

Why is follow-up or probing during testing so important?

Because many times clues that testers are having difficulty completing tasks are non-verbal. Things like lifted eyebrows, head movements, stopping to pause or other non-verbal clues let a moderator know the user is having difficulty. Being able to follow-up or probe is critical to enabling the moderator to more deeply understand exactly what that usability issue is.

In addition, being able to follow-up and probe during testing can elicit a wealth of information from the tester, typically around what they were expecting to happen or find, versus what they actually had happen or found. This is crucial information for understanding the WHY of usability task flow errors. And without the WHY, it is difficult to determine what to do to improve the usability of that task.

Following-up and probing during testing ensures that the tester’s memory is fresh, enabling the tester to fully share their expectations, thoughts and feelings as they are being tested.

Remote unmoderated usability testing tools are very popular today, but they simply do not allow this essential data to be captured during testing. That is why remote or in-person moderated testing is better, it enables the moderator to capture all the information happening during testing.

Remote Moderated Usability Testing Method

Remote moderated usability testing methods are centered on creating a two-way communication between the moderator and the test participant. In addition, most methods use a recording and screen-capture tool to document both the tester’s screen interaction as well as the verbal “think aloud” information the tester is sharing during the test.

Benefits of Remote Moderated Usability Testing:

  1. Enables the moderator to follow-up and probe the tester while testing is occurring
  2. Adds critical WHY data to the usability test, by eliciting expectations versus reality information directly from the user
  3. Allows moderated testing of remote testers who may be in another city, State or even Country which expands the tester pool
  4. Saves large amounts of money and time versus in-person moderated testing
  5. Scaleable in enabling multiple tests in a minimal amount of time
  6. Can leverage website intercepts to enable testing of actual website visitors who match Personas

Remote Moderated Usability Tools:

There are two types of remote moderated usability testing tools:

  • Do-it-yourself tools
  • All-in-one remote moderated service
Do-It-Yourself Remote Moderated Tools

The do-it-yourself remote moderated usability testing tools are typically an assortment of three types of online tools:

  1. Two-way real-time online connection tool. These tools are widely available, think Skype, Webex, GoToMeeting, JoinMe etc. The purpose of this tool is connecting the moderator in real-time with the tester, enabling both audio and visual communication between the moderator and tester. Some of these tools enable still others to join in to watch the session, which is useful for allowing design team members to also observe the test.
  2. Screen capture and recording tool. These tools are also widely available, think Camtasia, SnagIt, Adobe Captivate and a host of others. The purpose of this tool is to record the session including the audio and the video of the tester’s screen as he or she conducts the test, along with the voice of the moderator. Although it’s not mandatory to have a recording of the session, most researchers like to do so to go back and analyze specific times in the test when usability issues were uncovered. It is also helpful to have these sessions recorded for sharing the tests with others (such as design team members) after the test is complete.
  3. Video editing tool. These are also widely available tools, consider everything from Camtasia, Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere and more to Mac based tools like iMovie. The purpose of this tool is to edit the testing sessions into highlight reels that specifically identify common usability problems. This enables the moderator to be able to concisely point out what’s causing the issue without the observers having to sit through watching all of the usability tests from beginning to end.

There are other tools that make life easier for a usability practitioner, including website intercept tools like Ethnio or survey pop-ups to find actual website visitors to use as test participants.

A mixture of the three types of tools listed above enables the researcher to be able to conduct their own do-it-yourself remote moderated usability testing in a cost-effective and scalable manner.

All-In-One Remote Moderated Usability Services

There are several all-in-one remote moderated usability services now available for the usability practitioner that eliminate the hassle of having to have all the tools above, while also offering valuable additional features designed specifically for remote moderated testing.

List of remote moderated usability services include:

  1. Validately – A relative newcomer with an easy to use interface that makes remote moderated usability testing a snap. Includes an intercept and screener with unlimited recording. Includes a scheduler to make scheduling sessions easy, as well as a built-in payment system for incentives to testers after their tests are complete. Highlight reel creation is not currently available, but is coming soon. Recordings cannot be downloaded. Finally, Validately is a very affordable solution when compared to the competition.
  2. UserTesting Pro Version – An all-in-one solution that includes the ability to have moderated remote usability testing with either the UserTesting.com panel or your own participants.

I spoke with Steven Cohn, the CEO and a co-founder of Validately, along with Jessica Ogilvie, the CMO. Here’s what they have to say about Validately and why they chose to focus on a remote moderated usability testing service:

“We created Validately because we couldn’t find a remote moderated testing service that we really liked for developing and refining our own prototypes. With Validately, we simplify every aspect of remote moderated testing; finding testers who match Personas, scheduling sessions, paying incentives, storing and sharing large testing video files and lots more. And we worked very hard to make it all happen with NO downloads or plugins, which simplifies the user experience for the moderator AND the tester.”

To summarize the benefits of using a remote moderated usability testing service versus do-it-yourself: A service saves you from having to juggle multiple software tools yourself, it also provides the ability to utilize large panels (or better yet your own website visitors via their built-in intercepts), the ability to handle payment of incentives, scheduling sessions, and scaleability in the event you need to conduct continuous testing or testing at larger volume.

Conclusion: Remote Moderated Usability Tools

Remote moderated usability tools are almost equal to the best method of usability testing, which is in-person moderated testing.

The method for conducting remote moderated usability testing consists of connecting the moderator and the test participant in real-time using a two-way online communication tool, using a recording software tool to capture the audio and video of the tester session, and an editing tool to create highlight reels of the recorded tests to share the results with design teams.

The benefits of remote moderated usability testing include; enabling the moderator to follow-up or probe the tester as the test is occurring, the relatively low cost and time required for testing versus conducting in-person moderated tests, and the ability to intercept actual visitors of a site to use as testers.

Remote moderated usability testing tools come in two varieties, the do-it-yourself tools that are widely available, or an all-in-one remote moderated usability testing service that provides all the tools necessary plus additional functionality and features such as access to large panels.

Addendum:

For information on remote unmoderated usability testing tools read 14 Usability Testing Tools which includes comprehensive reviews of each usability tool and a comparison matrix.

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UserTesting Alternatives for Usability Testing and Optimization

usertesting-alternatives-usefulusabilityUserTesting alternatives is a subject that several of you have been asking me about over the past few months. Why? Because UserTesting changed their business model, providing customers with a choice of “Basic” or “Pro Plan” accounts, depending on the amount of features desired. The full set of functions formerly available for their $49 per service plan is now only available with the more expensive “Pro Plan.”

NOTE: I’m a BIG fan of UserTesting. This article is intended to address the questions from those of you that specifically are seeking alternatives to the higher-priced full set of features.

If you visit the UserTesting.com pricing page you’ll see the details about the “Pro Plan” and the “Basic Plan.”

The Basic Plan at $49 per session has a very limited set of functionality. Missing are several important functions like creating highlight reels, downloading the test videos and written responses, and several other features formerly available with the $49 price point.

So for those of you seeking full functionality without the relatively expensive price point, here is a listing of UserTesting alternatives to add to your usability testing toolkit. And for your benefit I have also included some comments from several of the business leaders of those alternative services on why their user testing solution makes them unique or different.

Why did UserTesting change their model?

Frankly, I don’t know exactly why UserTesting decided to change their model, however I have several theories.

But first, don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned I’m a BIG fan of UserTesting and in my opinion they have one of the best tools out there for conducting remote unmoderated usability testing. For the cheap price of only 49 bucks, you get a recorded PC OR Mobile based remote testing recording in just a few hours.

Also, they have the largest number of testers of any of the services, period.

They pretty much built the genre, and saved me and countless other usability pros LOTS of money and time in conducting remote un-moderated usability testing versus in-person moderated testing. UserTesting is the dominant tool in the industry, used by many of the Fortune 500.

So why did UserTesting change?

My guess is that the cost of providing their service to their customers has increased over time, yet their price point did not. I’m guessing their service is expensive, and it could be that they need to charge more for ‘heavy’ users. In addition they probably didn’t want to price themselves out of the marketplace, so they arrived at a solution enabling “basic” users a way to enjoy their service without paying for the expensive functionality that only “pro” users needed. That’s just a theory, but seems logical given the situation.

Whatever the reason for their business model change, it did change, which brings us to the point of what to do if you seek the more advanced functionality but at a lower price point than the $3,000 per year (or whatever it currently costs) Pro Plan.

Again, I’m not bashing UserTesting, just giving you some alternatives if you find you need the functionality but can’t afford the Pro plan.

And a side note here: for some of you who use their service a LOT, that $3,000 per year (or whatever the current price is) may actually be a really good deal!

UserTesting Alternative Suggestions:

Here’s a list of UserTesting alternative suggestions, and at the end of this article in the comments let me know what tool YOU use, and I’ll add them to the list.

FIRST – Be your OWN remote testing solution. You can recreate a remote usability testing service yourself using a simple website intercept (think Ethnio) and a screen sharing tool (think Webex or Skype) and a screen capture tool (think Camtasia). It’s pretty easy, just intercept actual visitors to your website using Ethnio, ask them to participate in a quick usability test, and record and edit their session using a combination of Webex or Skype and Camtasia. The cons with this approach is it doesn’t work on any new websites you’re wanting to test that have zero traffic, nor does it work on competitor sites you may want to test, and of course it requires purchasing the above tools.

SECOND – Use UserTesing at the new price point! Hey, if you do a lot of remote usability testing then their Pro Plan may save you money. You’ll need to chat with them on the particulars, but for those of you who are conducting multiple projects each month, with anywhere from 5-10 sessions per project, then the new pricing may actually be a good deal for you.

THIRD – Use another service. You could try a few other remote unmoderated testing services I have listed below (think TryMyUI, UserBob, UserBrain.net, UserFeel, Userlytics or UserZoom). You’ll have various amounts of success recruiting participants who match your Personas (sorry competitors, but you just don’t have the vast number of testers that UserTesting does). But hey, it’s more economical AND many of them now offer mobile in-app recording of tester screen interaction and voices. The cons are finding participants who match your required Personas, pricing that in some cases can be vary, sometimes being more expensive than UserTesting, and varying levels of customer service if you find issues with your test.

FOURTH – Switch to live, moderated testing and skip remote, unmoderated completely. In some cases this is actually the best, but not easiest, alternative. Why? Because nothing beats having the tester right there, in front of you, so you can capture all their non-verbal queues PLUS do follow-ups on interesting findings or things you want to probe in more detail. Cons are it’s more time consuming, can be more expensive, and becomes impractical if you need to test multiple participants in multiple locations or countries.

List of UserTesting Alternative Services:

Here’s a brief alphabetical listing of several UserTesting alternative services, including my comments and any available comments from their executives.

TryMyUI

TryMyUI-Image-from-UsefulUsability.com

TryMyUI is a remote unmoderated usability testing service with various price points depending on your testing needs (note, they are also a sponsor of this site). They use a credit payment approach, with each credit costing $35 for the personal plan with PC-based testing at 1 credit and mobile at 2 credits. There are team ($299 / mo) and enterprise level accounts available as well, with pricing that matches the increase in number of tests available.

 

UserBob

UserBob-Image-from-UsefulUsability.com

UserBob is a relative newcomer to the remote unmoderated usability testing space. The service includes the “First Impressions” test, which is a version of a 5 second test, as well as a “Task Completion” and “Custom” version where multiple tasks can be tested. Pricing varies, starting at $10 for the “First Impression” test which delivers 10 one minute videos,  $20 for the “Task Completion” test which delivers 4 five minute videos, and variable for the “Custom” version.

John Weidner, the Founder of UserBob has this to say about his service. “I made UserBob as a simple and affordable alternative to the existing services. I wanted to be able to hear user’s first impression of my website. But the other user testing services would have me pay $40 to $50 per user which was not in my budget. I figured out how to get quality results for a lot less using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. Then I made UserBob so that others could easily get the same results.”

 

UserBrain.net

UserBrain.net-image-from-UsefulUsability

UserBrain.net is another remote unmoderated usability testing tool, but with a twist. This tool is for website owners who wish to continue testing on an on-going basis. The idea is you purchase testing on a monthly basis, with the variation in pricing being the number of testers that evaluate your site each month. There are several price points for the service, starting at $29 per month for one user, $49 for four users (1 a week) and $139 a month for 12 users (3 a week). It’s an interesting concept for website owners that feel the need to continuously test their site’s UX.

Markus Pirker, co-Founder of UserBrain has this to say about his service: “Userbrain is not on-demand, it’s on-going and automates the process of testing. It therefore forces you to improve regularly by continually getting in‑depth usability feedback. The diversity of our users will let you get different perspectives and allow you to see your site freshly even after you’ve worked on it for months or maybe years.”

 

UserFeel

UserFeel-image-from-UsefulUsability

UserFeel is a more typical remote unmoderated usability testing service with a $39 per session fee. However, the interesting thing about UserFeel is the robust set of non-English speaking nationalities that can test websites for Europe and other Countries. Handy for people that have multi-lingual websites, or sites focused on other nationalities, this is a tool worth exploring to ensure your site works well across the boundaries of nations. UserFeel does not require a monthly fee, which may be helpful for conducting ad-hoc usability tests.

 

Userlytics

Userlytics-image-from-UsefulUsability

Userlytics is also a remote unmoderated usability testing service with a wide variety of functions and features that may appeal to the more advanced tester, or those needing more features. Userlytics enables searchable transcripts of video sessions, which may help website owners find key points in the recordings to speed up evaluation. Pricing can be as low as $49 per session, but will vary based on the functionality and features you choose. Userlytics also offers a White Label service for practitioners that wish to offer their service without the Userlytics branding.

 

UsabilityTools

Usability-tools-image-by-UsefulUsability

UsabilityTools offers several sets of usability tools combined into three plans. The “UX Suite” plan offers remote unmoderated usability testing, plus several other usability tools that help define the user experience of the site by actual users (Note: They are a sponsor of this site). The “Conversion Suite” has tools that focus on conversion optimization and measurement of task completion, useful for marketing and UX teams that are interested in optimizing the conversion and thus ROI of their website. The third set of tools is the “Voice of the Customer” tools which measure the opinions and satisfaction of the site’s experience from the actual users. Pricing information requires contacting UsabilityTools but a free trial is available for those that want to kick the tires first.

 

UserZoom

UserZoom-image-from-UsefulUsability.com

UserZoom is the last, but not least, service for website usability testing. Among the tests available is remote unmoderated usability testing, along with a wide variety of other tests that experienced testers may find helpful. UserZooms biggest downfall might be its price, which starts at $19,000 per year and rapidly goes up from there. All of a sudden the $3,000 cost of UserTesting isn’t so bad, is it? UserZoom is more than likely the tool of choice for large agencies or big Fortune 500 firms that do a LOT of testing.

Alfonso de le Nuez, Co-Founder and Co-CEO has this to say about UserZoom: “UserZoom offers an all-in-one solution to cost-effectively, quickly and easily test and measure user experience of websites and mobile apps. What sets us apart is the wide range of capabilities and services for both quantitative and qualitative UX research testing, such as remote usability testing, competitive benchmarking, card sorting, international testing, prototype testing, etc. We also offer panel recruiting and UX consulting services.” 

What are YOUR UserTesting Alternatives?

So there you have the listing of UserTesting alternatives. Remember, I’m still a fan of UserTesting, and in certain circumstances you may actually be better off using their “Basic” or “Pro” plan than using some of the alternative recommendations in this article. Each testing need is unique, so choose carefully.

But what are YOUR UserTesting alternatives? If you don’t use UserTesting, what DO you use?

Just reply in the comments with your alternatives so we can all grow smarter together.

PS – Owners of other services, please be kind and don’t try to use this blog as an advertisement for your service. You may not like the results of trying to shamelessly promote your service on my blog! #JustSaying

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Three reasons why crowdsourcing fails (and how to fix them)

Why-Crowdsourcing-Fails-UsefulUsabilityThe 3 main reasons why crowdsourcing fails can cause poor usability, bad conversion and meager ROI. Here are the causes, and how to fix them.

Recently, several clients have come to me with problems that all derived from the same source: crowdsourced usability testing.

If you’ve not heard of “crowd-sourced usability testing,” my definition is;

“Crowdsourced usability testing is a technique of gathering user feedback in which website owners ask a population for input on a website or application.”

Several of my clients had major usability and task-flow errors on critical elements of their sites, and the root cause turned out to be bad feedback gathered from crowdsourced usability tests.

Now don’t get me wrong, crowdsourcing if used properly can provide wonderful benefits. Books like “The Wisdom of Crowds” or articles about “Crowdsourcing” can be helpful references for the benefits of correctly applied crowd sourced techniques.

3 Primary Reasons Why Crowdsourcing Fails:

But when it comes to usability testing, often crowd-sourced techniques fail, and there are 3 major reasons why:

  1. The Crowd Does Not Reflect Typical Users – A major failure of crowdsourced usability testing happens when the researcher gathers feedback from users who do not reflect the typical user of the website. For example, gathering feedback from a general population will skew results if your website or application is designed for Seniors (those age 65 and older). That’s because what may be easy or readily understood by younger audiences may not be easy or understood by older audiences. It’s important to remember that every website and application has a ‘typical’ user (another word for this is Persona) who you MUST understand and design the experience for. Gathering information from people that don’t reflect your Persona is a major way to introduce usability errors into your system.
  1. People Don’t Do What They Say They Do – Focus groups and surveys reveal over and over again that what people SAY they do is often not what they ACTUALLY do. Anyone who has studied famous focus group failures like the design of the Edsel or the launch of New Coke will understand that beliefs and attitudes don’t always reflect actions. Asking for opinions about designs and usability issues is capturing exactly that, opinions. There’s nothing wrong with gathering opinions, as long as that set of opinions is then validated with actual performance-based usability testing. It’s the second half of that statement that I’ve found is typically missing (the task-based usability testing) that causes problems for those who use crowdsourcing for usability optimization.
  1. Biased Questions Can Bias Results – Subtle differences in how a question is asked, and what sort of responses (scales or other mechanisms) are used to capture results, can GREATLY impact the viability of crowdsourced usability testing. Just changing a few words in a survey question can have a major impact, potentially skewing results. Surveys and questionnaires are notoriously difficult to get right, in this case ‘right’ meaning non-biased. I’ve noticed that when I evaluate a crowdsourced usability project to try to learn why it failed, there quite often are questions that are asked in such a way that they introduce a bias into the results. Users of SurveyMonkey Question bank will note that there are ‘official’ approved questions for gathering feedback, and that the second you start changing the wording of a question an alert let’s you know you are in danger of skewing results by unwittingly entering a bias into the question.

Crowdsourcing Can be Good or Evil

Crowdsourcing is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde of usability testing.

If applied correctly, crowdsourcing can be a powerful way to gather information for design decisions. But if used incorrectly it can introduce biased information that hurts usability and causes website owners reduced conversion and needless ROI loss.

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Google hates your non-mobile website because of the bad UX it causes with their organic search results listings

Why-Google-Hates-Your-Non-Mobile-Website-image-from-UsefulUsabilityGoogle hates your non mobile website, and has declared war on bad mobile UX, here’s what you can do to fix it so that you stay in Google’s good graces.

Google hates you, not because you’re cuter than they are or because you always sat at the popular kids table, but because you have a non-mobile website.

How do they register their hatred of your non mobile friendly website? By removing your website from the top rankings of mobile search results. And that is a VERY bad thing if you enjoy receiving any traffic to your website at all.

Think I’m lying to you?

First off, have I every lied to you? And second, if you still doubt me then see the proof below.

Just go ahead and read this, it’s an official letter from Google to one of my clients, I’ll wait while you read it…

Google-Mobile-Ranking-Penalty-Email-from-UsefulUsabilityDid you catch their drift when they said…

“These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.”

So big whoop you say? What does it all mean?

It means you can kiss your first page or top ranking on the organic mobile search results page goodbye if you don’t have a mobile friendly website.

If you left your popular kids table youth for an all-grown-up job in Marketing, Lead Gen, Sales, Revenue or even UX, then you should be extremely concerned about losing your ranking on mobile search.

Why?

Because losing an organic search listing is equal to losing lots and lots and lots of money. Ouch.

Your boss, who probably didn’t sit at a popular kids table which is why he is always grumpy, won’t like it when your website starts losing all that mobile revenue. It will lose money because the traffic from organic listings is typically the best converting source of traffic, converting equals money to your business, therefore disappearing from the organic listings is equal to money disappearing. Therefore you boss will be even grumpier than normal.

For those of you thinking…

“Ha Craig! I don’t HAVE mobile revenue so this doesn’t impact me!”

Ha right back at you!

Mobile traffic continues to increase at a rapid rate, so even if your site isn’t generating a lot of revenue NOW from mobile, it will. Or at least it would, if you hadn’t angered the great search god that is Google and caused your site to disappear from the top mobile listings.

Here’s an example from one of my clients on the amount of their mobile traffic. Guess what. Mobile traffic represented more than 50 percent of their total traffic, if you include tablets. And most of my clients have very similar metrics:

Mobile traffic

Why Does Google Hate You and Your Non Mobile Friendly Website?

So why does Google hate you and your non-mobile friendly website? Simple. Because not having a mobile friendly website is a bad user experience and Google wants to promote a good mobile UX.

To be more specific, Google wants searchers who click on one of their mobile organic search listings to be able to have a good user experience, and their users can’t if by clicking on a mobile listing in the search results the resulting page is one that is non-mobile-friendly.

How to Get Google To Like You and Your Mobile Website

So how do you get Google to like you and your embarrassing non mobile friendly website? Here’s what Google recommends, so quit dreaming about how much better life was when you were sitting at the popular kids table and take some notes:

  1. Find problematic pages – View a Google report of the non-mobile-friendly pages found on your site, and the issues discovered. You can do that using Google’s handy mobile usability tool (Webmaster Tools > Search Traffic > Mobile Usability)Google-Webmaster-Tools-Mobile
  2. Learn about mobile-friendly design – There are a variety of techniques you can use to make your site mobile-friendly. Specifically, look for information about the issues brought up in Google Webmaster Tools and follow Google’s guidelines .
  3. Fix mobile usability issues on your site – Fix the issues preventing your site from being mobile-friendly. Here’s a tip, from this point forward ALWAYS design or optimize your site mobile first, and worry about the PC-based experience second.
  4. Use Google’s handy CMS instructions for making mobile friendly sites. If you use WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or other CMS websites you can find this hidden but absolutely fabulous helpful resource at Google’s Customize Your Website Software page.
  5. Learn about building mobile friendly sites. The Google developer get started with mobile site is part of the Google developers tool kit. But you don’t have to be a developer to get fabulous information out it it, it’s written for dummies like me, so make sure you save this handy site in your favorites.
  6. If all else fails, ask the help Google developer help community. It’s a group of nerds really smart people who didn’t sit at the popular kids table, but now get paid good money to fix your crappy improve your mobile website.

Conclusion: Google Hates Your Non Mobile Website

So now you know why Google hates your non mobile website, why you and your grumpy boss will be punished in the mobile organic listings for not having a good mobile UX, and what to do about it.

I can’t think of anything more important for you to do this year than to fix your non mobile friendly website.

Oh, and if you have a mobile friendly website I know what you are thinking, so don’t sit there and laugh at the rest of the poor slobs unfortunate souls that don’t have a mobile site. You should be spending YOUR time optimizing and improving your mobile website UX.

Finally, if you were not one of those kids that sat at the popular kids table then join the crowd, because I cannot confirm nor deny that I may also have been one of those kids that did not sit at the popular kids table, and may or may not have actually sat at the nerds table.

What? Did my playing Dungeons and Dragons give me away?

These 6 Voice of the Customer Tools can save your business, by capturing critical customer feedback to help you improve your website, products or services.

Contributor Piotr Koczorowski shares with us his list of 6 VoC tools, and why it is so important for businesses to use them.

6-Voice-of-the-Customer-Tools-Useful-Usability-326x235Being a successful eCommerce merchant is not as trivial as it may appear. Sooner or later sellers may end up with a webpage which generates views, but no purchases. App Developers do not have it easy, either. They may offer a great app, but no one is interested in it according to the data from the webpage, even though the app, once used, is received very positively. The question “why?” starts to be repeated like mantra, until the point of frustration and resignation.

No one wants that.

There are many ways in which you can analyze your webpages and gather useful data about conversions and traffic.  You can try to improve your website using those tools alone, sure.

But how about focusing on the customer: relating to their needs and goals?

What people often forget is that it is important to know your customers. ChubbyBrain during their analysis of 32 startup failures decided that ignoring customer feedback is the number 1 reason why they went down. Without knowing your customers, people trying to increase sales won’t be able to achieve their goal.

 – Donald Porter

Customers are the people who view the webpage and use it. They are the recipients you are addressing through the page, and if they do not hear your “message,” then all your efforts go to waste.

“But what if my customers don’t like my page?”

No one likes criticism, and you may think you don’t want to hear it. But you actually do, as it helps you to determine what is wrong and what you can improve.

So how do you gather that important feedback of what your customers are thinking? Consider asking your customers directly through your website.

There are plenty of services which allow you to gather website visitor feedback, for example by introducing feedback widgets. Customers can tell you what they think about your site or page while they are on the site. Gathering and organizing that data might be difficult, however, and that is why we prepared a list of 6 useful tools helping with feedback, which will allow you to see what your customers say.

6 Voice of the Customer Tools

Google Moderator

Google ModeratorIf I were to look for a viable tool for remote cow-milking, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google already catered to those needs. The search engine company also offers basic tools for gathering opinions from your consumers in the form of Google Moderator. However, since it is free it is not as extensive as one would hope. Yet, it is a fitting tool for those who want to perform some basic feedback gathering.

Instead of widgets on your website, you create a forum where users focus on voting on page items. They vote and discuss whether particular items are good or not, and based on that data and suggestions you may decide what needs improvement.

Users can vote anonymously. However, if you decide to, there is a possibility of allowing only registered users to vote.

The series you create can be further divided and categorized. For example, if you wish to study your website elements, you can set up a series called “The Website” and add subseries named “The banner” and “The menu.” After doing so, the forum users will be able to tell you whether the woman on the banner looks professional or whether the menu is as easy to navigate as a labyrinth.

Like most Google services, Moderator is integrated with YouTube: users can post videos, which allows them to better illustrate the issues they are facing.

To sum up, Google Moderator is a simple and quick tool for small research. However, if you want to provide a more comprehensive feedback service for your visitors, you may need to step up your game and use tools that are more extensive.

Feedbackify

FeedbackifyIf informative simplicity is what you seek, then it is worthy to consider Feedbackify, as it is one of leading tools of gathering basic data about customers.

Feedbackify revolves around the idea of getting pieces of feedback from individuals, without the option to vote on particular items. By clicking the widget button, the user is taken to short surveys about the page, where they can give ratings and opinions.

You can also set up your own logo, so the form goes along with your website, allowing you to provide a coherent design. It also assures the users that they are on a correct site.

The widget and feedback forms are fully customizable through an intuitive drag and drop interface, so you can personalize it enough in order to make it not an eyesore, but a pleasant experience.

Aside from the above, you also learn relevant information about the user – the browser version, the OS, the demographic aspects and more – all needed for conducting successful research about your customer’s opinion.

Kampyle

KampyleKampyle operates in a similar way to Feedbackify – you place a widget on your website, which can be accessed by your visitors to answer customized questions about the site and product. However, there are some other functions, which make it slightly different.

Even though Kampyle appears to require lots of work in order to understand and manage it, it is actually a manageable and extensive tool, easy to approach.

When it comes to feedback, it is collected and managed by Kampyle, ensuring that the information gathered stays between you and the service.

If you wish to, you may respond to your customers directly with a built-in response system. If something needs immediate clarification and may be resolved quickly, you can use that option to take the problem off the list.

Similarly, you can also set up an automated response system for your customers.

You can also set up different feedback forms for different parts of the site, so you can make sure that appropriate areas receive needed attention.

Because the service is integrated with Google Analytics, you will have total control over the data and statistics regarding the traffic, the usage, and virtually any other aspect of your website.

UsabilityTools

UsabilityToolsUsabilityTools (for transparency, I should mention that I work for UsabilityTools) offers a collection of tools called the “UX Suite” which offers a wide array of info-gathering possibilities. You can design a series of studies that can serve as a basis for further analysis and improvement.

The basic option is to create surveys, where you ask questions and receive answers, either by hiring respondents or by obtaining them by sending links or inserting a widget on your site.

Whereas previously clicking was associated with the sound of the keyboard, UsabilityTools offers you the possibility of performing Click Testing: Users place a mouse click on a given item on the webpage and express their preferences and their point of interest.

If you care to understand the thinking structure of your users, UsabilityTools provides you with a tool to perform “Card Sorting.” Customers and users are expected to organize given items in an organization system that makes sense to them, which enables you to “enter” their minds, so you can customize your webpage and navigation according to their mental map of how things should be organized.

In the case of comparing the experiences and needs of your customers, you may perform Web Testing. Create a scenario and ask your users to participate and then compare the results in order to see which implementations are successful and which are not.

UserVoice

UserVoiceInstalling and using UserVoice on your website is a breeze – they compare it to using it “like email.” It is an option for those who decide to go further into the feedback gathering territory, and who want to use something more explicit.

Customers can reach a forum where they send tickets and vote or discuss suggestions and possible solutions to their problems. Thanks to that, it is easy to identify problematic issues and locate where the needs of users lie.

Aside from that, UserVoice does not take its name lightly – the service allows you to provide feedback forms in over 40 languages.

People are more eager to provide their feedback, as UserVoice does not require any registration. Moreover, users are able to find out whether a similar question has been posted due to the search-as-you-type, a tool that allows showing results during writing a query. It also organizes suggestions according to user types, so whenever a user provides feedback that is similar to something that already exist, the system points it out and allows the user to merge the propositions and vote on them as priority.

All sent tickets provide valuable info such as the OS and the browser used or the page from which the ticket was sent. UserVoice is also integrated with Google Analytics, so the amount of information is extensive enough to cover most needs.

GetSatisfaction

GetSatisfactionGetSatisfaction presents itself as “a whole new way to interact with your customers,” and because of the variants it offers it is a viable option to consider when choosing the right tool for tuning to the voice of your customers.

GetSatisfaction works in two iterations: Firstly, it is a community-based forum, where the costumers create pages for companies. Therefore, there is a good chance someone already created a page for you. On these pages, the discussion takes place, where opinions and suggestions are exchanged.

Secondly, it operates as a help-page on your site where users can easily submit suggestions, ask questions, and receive help in 12 different languages. You can also integrate GetSatisfaction with your Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. It is perfect for analyzing conversations and community reactions – thanks to that you can predict trends or possible issues.

The tool also offers extensive moderation and people management tools, thanks to which you can make sure that all conversation remains productive and friendly.

The available widget can be customized according to your needs, whether you need to increase sales or visits. You can use templates or rely on your own creativity.

GetSatisfaction is about creating a client community and receiving feedback from it – if that is your goal, then you will be, well, satisfied.

Conclusion 6 Voice of the Customer Tools

These 6 Voice of the Customer tools differ from each other, so you can choose which one suits you the most for your business needs. As you can see, there is a wide variety of tools allowing you to focus on the VoC. But keep your eyes open, as these aren’t the only options available on the market, and new ones are continuously popping up. Be sure to search for other options so you can customize your feedback gathering experience to your needs.

And remember – the customer is always right.

Voice of the Customer Resources:

ChubbyBrain: Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail

CXPA: Customer Experience Professional’s Association

Forbes: 8 Ways Negative Feedback Can Lead to Greater Success at Work

Harvard Business Review: The Truth about Customer Experience

WikiPedia: What Is Voice of the Customer

About the Author:

Piotr Koczorowski-from-UsefulUsability-100x118Piotr Koczorowski: Quirky, funny and energetic young blogger from Poland with a passion for video games, contemporary American literature, chillwave music, and pizza. Between studying Translation Studies at a Polish University, Piotr works at UsabilityTools where he blogs about UX and goes overboard with puns and cultural references. In his free time he dreams of space travel (and pizza.)

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Interview with Ohad Rozen, CEO and Co-founder of Toonimo

Ohad-Toonimo-from UsefulUsabilityInterviews with cutting edge UX and usability leaders like Ohad Rozen, CEO and Co-founder of Toonimo are always interesting.

In this interview we have a chance to hear from Ohad about his past, what UX means to him and learn about his company’s leading-edge UX innovation.

His company has developed a personalized and dynamic user guide that acts as a sort of virtual assistant on a website, based on business rules and real-time user behavior, that guides visitors or helps them by calling attention to key items.

If you’ve not heard of Ohad Rozen or Toonimo, I suggest you check out their website. Ohad’s technology uses rules and real-time user behavioral triggers to guide website visitors with audio and visual graphics that act as helpers or guides, in essence to help them when it appears they are getting lost or confused. eCommerce sites and websites with complex products may find this new technology just the thing they need to get their users to the right place at the right time.

Why do I think this UX technology is very cool and potentially very powerful for conversion optimization?Because I believe this represents the future of Web UX. In the very near future, websites and apps that use behavioral data in real-time to engage and interact with visitors using targeted, personalized triggers will become the norm. Ohad and Toonimo represent the newest entry in this brand new space.

This is a new and somewhat rare use of advanced, personalized, behavioral-based technology to improve the user experience of a site beyond the traditional website experience of static pages filled with images, copy and limited functionality.

And now, on with the interview…

Ohad Rozen Interview

Q1. What’s your background? Where did you go to school, what subjects interested you?

Ohad-Rozen-Toonimo-picture-usefulusability-300x323I have BSc and MSc in Electronic Engineering from Ben-Guryon University. I then worked as an algorithms and system engineer at Wilocity (acquired by Qualcomm). I was always interested in customer experience on websites, and how to improve it.

Q2. How did you get into the UX field?

It is a funny question. Just like everyone else I’m a user. I was always aware of my own user experience. Every time I got confused, or was slowed down, or got frustrated, or encountered a design that was just plain bad – I thought to myself – this could be done much better. So when we started Toonimo things came naturally.

Q3. What is it about UX that you most enjoy, or find most rewarding?

Helping people. When users get to do what they are trying to do, in the easiest way, which in my opinion means in the fastest way – it’s a reward. I believe that every second counts. So if I succeed in helping users achieve their goal on a given page, be it buying something online, or understanding how to read their monthly bill, in a few seconds less – I feel satisfied.

Q4. You are the CEO and Co-founder of Toonimo. What motivated you to create the company? How do you help your clients?

Ohad-Rozen-ToonimoI want make the internet a more friendly place. I saw how people sometimes struggle to complete an online task, get frustrated from the poorly designed website or sequence of tasks, and I figured that there must be a way to make it easier. I was sure I could really help them.

So we started testing all sorts of ideas. Eventually we came out with what we do today – we add a layer of personalized audiovisual guides for the website, just like if a rep would sit next to you telling you in simple words about the website, service, process or product. Using our product, people spend less time trying to figure out what to do, and feel more confident in the process they have to go through.

Q5. What do you believe are the reasons Toonimo has the ability to be so successful?

First, we solve a painful issue to many businesses – how to make their service better. We make their customers happier and less frustrated, and thus customers will buy more, stick with the company longer, and will have less need to call the customer support center.

Second, our market is huge – almost everyone needs a human touch on their site to better serve their visitors. Almost all websites have hard-to-understand parts in their funnel / billing section / product page, etc.

Third, a bad UX is exactly that, it’s a real pain for the end users. Who doesn’t sometimes feel lost or frustrated when buying online or using any type of online service? A frustrating website UX is a serious business problem that must be solved for a business to be truly successful.

Fourth, we have the right product that solves this pain point. We have tested it, and we’ve seen the positive effect our product has on sales, engagement, and on reduction of support cost.

Q6. Some people might suggest that your technology of personal user guides on a website to help the site is actually not fixing the core problem, which is the bad UX of the website. How do you address that?

In a dream world maybe when there’s a usability issue people will go back to the drawing board. But we don’t live in the dream world and things don’t work this way. There are only two options, either things stay “broke” or you use a cost-effective solution such as the one we offer.

What we offer is practical. It improves UX instantly. But there is more. Our system is not just a “fix,” it can easily be part of an original UX design toolbox – voice and live graphic elements are just as “native” to the web these days as is text. Call me a dreamer but I believe we will see such solutions become the standard of future digital design.

Q7. As a UX practitioner and start-up, what motivates you to build this new product and company, what do you think it can uniquely provide to website designers and business owners?

Ohad-Rozen-Toonimo-picture-useful-usability-400x312I’m driven by the will to create a better user experience, and to save time for our customers’ customers. We enable website designers and business owners to simplify non-trivial processes on their site, to easily show their visitors around the website, to explain about their service and do so in an innovative way.

Q8. What advice do you have for other UX practitioners or start-ups that wish to create a product or service, whether they are new to the field or perhaps more established?

The most important thing to start with is to validate your concept. You must first build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), test it, see how your early adapters react to it, and only then decide if the direction you are aiming for is right. Many UX startups start building the best possible product, and only then try to validate the direction, which usually ends up with a lot of wasted time.

Q9. What do you think the next year to two years will bring for UX and the web design fields?  Do you see them growing or changing, if so why?

We are at “peak design.” The last decade, with the rise of the iPhone specifically and Apple design philosophy more generally has put “design” front and center. Looking good, having well thought out and well laid-out interfaces is no longer a competitive advantage – it is a pre-requisite.

So now things become more complex, or should I say more serious. For a while people would say “User Experience” and actually be meaning just their own product design. Now things are shifting all the way to the user. The next couple of years are going to be all about communication between product and user. We are at the dawn of the true UX revolution, one where the product can shift based on what the user is experiencing in real-time.

Q10. What’s next for you and your firm in the next year or two, what would you like to focus on?

We will bring our product to as many users as possible. And we ourselves will strive to improve. We will make our implementation easier, we will enable friction-less deployment of our audiovisual layer, we will provide more visual effects options and will improve the intelligence of our guide triggers. It is going to be a busy and exciting couple of years!

Thank you Ohad!

Conclusion Interview with Ohad Rozen

Ohad Rozen represents the new cutting edge in UX and Usability leaders, people who invent new ways for visitors to interact with, and be influenced by, a much more dynamic and personalized website experience.

Animated characters or proactive pop-up chat on websites are nothing new. But personalized guides that are dynamic and can be customized by business rules triggered by user behavior and real-time engagement is brand new and very cutting edge.

To see a live example of Toonimo in action visit the NetQuote website and click the “Show Me Around” button.

In the future, websites and apps that use a personalized and dynamic experience to engage and interact with visitors through a web experience triggered by user behavior and business rules will become the norm. And Ohad and Toonimo represent the newest leaders in this brand new space.