Poor user experiences (UX) can increase your website’s bounce rate and shopping cart abandonment rate. Moreover, visitors who click away from your site may never return. But how do you know if your website is user-friendly?
User testing your website can help you pinpoint problem spots and show you how long it takes to complete actions, like signing up for a newsletter or buying a new product. Although usability tests can be in-depth, you can use this streamlined version to do it yourself.
What is website user testing?
Website user testing is a method of observing people while completing a list of tasks and interacting with your user interface (UI). Usability testing can be qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative requires direct observation, whereas quantitative relies on performance data or surveys.
UX designers use a strict method with qualitative and quantitative testing. However, anyone can perform user tests on their website to improve the customer experience.
1. Determine the Goals for User Testing
For each website process or feature, create one to three goals. What do website visitors need to do quickly? For most websites, you want users to:
- Make a purchase or schedule an appointment
- Sign-up for your email newsletter
- Read your blog or view an on-demand webinar
- Locate pricing information or frequently asked questions
- Learn about your services or products
- Contact your company
However, these overarching goals must be broken down into specific objectives. Are you looking at the flow of navigation, how users get from point A to point B? Or are you evaluating the user journey, starting with signing up for an account? An e-commerce website goal example is:
- Browse products and make a purchase.
2. Create User Testing Scenarios
Tasks or activities resemble a mathematical story problem. You want to give the user enough information to perform a task without guiding them through the process. Moreover, you want to prevent unconscious bias.
If you have a website tab labeled “Contact Us,” you don’t want the task to use the word contact. Instead, ask the user to find a way to email or call the company. A user testing activity for the above goal is:
- Use the website to find a new rug costing less than $125.
3. Find People to Test Your Website
For certain industries, you may want users familiar with your products. For instance, if you sell high-tech cameras or software designed for people with specific skill sets, you’ll want to recruit volunteers who fit the description of your ideal customer.
However, for basic website usability testing, you can select people who meet your general demographics.
4. Run a User Test
Depending on the size of your test, you may observe users in a rented conference room, in your office, or remotely. You’ll need to provide instructions for getting to the test destination or connecting with you online.
Once you complete a simple introduction and receive signed copies of any non-disclosure or screen recording agreements, you can pass out the activity list in a covered folder and let your testers know when to begin.
It’s helpful to have extra people to observe users, answer questions, or provide technical support. Lastly, don’t forget to give a post-test survey to gauge user satisfaction levels and get additional feedback.
5. Examine the Results
It’s essential to learn from your user testing. After people complete the test, you should be able to answer questions, such as:
- What percentage of tasks did users complete successfully?
- How long did it take to perform each activity?
- How many critical and non-critical errors occurred?
- How did users feel about each task and the overall experience?
Use screen recordings, direct observation, and surveys or polls to answer your questions and find potential problems.
Website User Testing Checklist
Use this checklist to make a plan for user testing. Start about a month in advance to ensure you can find the right people and set up your space. Stay on track with this checklist:
- Decide what you want to test
- Develop a list of user tasks
- Determine what type of users you need
- Pick a testing location or remote setup
- Find and screen participants
- Email reminders and participation agreements
- Write down user tasks and test them out yourself
- Set aside any information participants need to complete the activities
- Print handouts, a recording consent form, and post-test surveys
- Install and test screen recording software
Next Steps: User Testing Your Website
Basic user testing helps you catch errors in your design before your website goes live. But there’s a science behind getting it right. Advanced testing can use tools like a heat map or focus groups to uncover hidden problems.
If you’re concerned about user testing your website, consider working with a UX designer who can handle the technical work for you.