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How To Do User Testing in Your Sleep

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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If you are not already aware, user testing is:

  1. Surprising
  2. Immensely useful
  3. Eye-opening
  4. According to Steve Krung, not rocket science

When working with our web design trainees I love the look on their face when we ask some of the web courses staff to come over for a quick card sorting exercise or just to give an opinion. User testing helps ensure that your new web app or website will be a success with its users.

This article will show you how to do effective tests on your users while you are sound asleep by using some of the fantastic tools available today.

It’s All About the Stats

I personally think that many people use Google Analytics as a way of patting themselves on the back rather than actually taking note of what the numbers are telling you.

Someone typing on a laptop displaying the Google Analytics pageIgnore the cookies and focus on the numbers

A good example of this is a recent post on 10 Graphic and Web Design resources received over 23,000+ unique visitors, but none of those visitors turned into bums on seats on any of our web or graphic design courses. Why? Well all those thousands of visitors mostly came from outside of Thailand, so how can they attend our course?

If I simply looked at the numbers I would have been running to the car factory ordering a new Beemer, however if I looked closer I can see that my bounce rate (that is when someone comes to one page and then leaves) went through the roof (a bad thing by the way), my time on site decreased and we didn’t get any increase in bookings.

However, Google likes websites that people visit, so this help us show to Big G that we have good content worth reading, many of the people visiting us then put a link to our content which again sits well with Big G.

What Else Can We Find Out From Google Analytics?

So while your are tucked up in bed, Google Analytics is following your users and knows where they came from. All this information can tell you a LOT about what people do and don’t like about your website’s content.

Screenshot of Google analytics dashboardThis dashboard is where you will learn how people really use your site

1) Where are my users coming from?

Our web design school is in Bangkok Thailand, so I want to know, of those, who went through to booking. I am not interested in people coming from America as it would be hard for them to commute each week to attend. By looking at one specific group I can come up with a real conversion rate. Your conversion rate does not only depend on the overall visits to your site.

For a local business it is important to segment your visitors, such as those coming from your local area. My advise is to go into the Visitors > Map section and then find your local area and add it to your dashboard (top of the GA page “add to dashboard”)

Map showing location of site visitors in ThailandLocation, location, location

If you are a site that sells internationally, a service that is non-area specific, this changes for you. Look at what sites or search engines your visitors are coming from, which one is giving you the best results? Now you have a choice here, do you concentrate on the ones that are doing well or do you try and improve your market by increasing results from other search engines.

Knowing which keywords are bringing visitors is vital. It shows you if your SEO is working and, for those coming to you with the right keywords, who is actually purchasing/registering/downloading or liking your product or service.

Our conversion rate for “web design courses” is very high because that is what we are aiming for and what we do best. Make sure if your users find you when searching for what you do, they get what they want!

Optimise for keywords that are directly relevant to you, not just ones that bring good traffic or your bounce rate will be very high and thus a waste of you and your visitors time.

Tip: Start doing optimisation and submission to Bing because it has now been the search engine within Facebook for a while now, so worth taking note of.

2) How loyal and long are they staying and what are they looking at?

Time on your site is very important as it shows your users are actually interested in your content. See which of your pages gets the most time spent, if you have a video this really helps. Of those pages, why are they staying there? Is it something you can bring onto other important pages? The answer of course is yes, again learning about your users helps the site as a whole.

Screenshot of Google Analytics Audience sectionThe length of time people spend on your site can be found in Google Analytics too

I find it very interesting to see which of our regular blog posts get the most attention. We have written some big posts and small posts but it seems roundups are the thing that the people love! A post recent post on 10 Resources for Web and Graphic Designers has received 24,000 unique visitors! It is nothing special but it is short, digestible and filled with quality resources.

Lets have a reality check. The post I mentioned before did not result in any more bookings, but it helped our search engine ranking. So what I really need to know is which of our web, graphic and online marketing courses gets the most attention. From there I can dig deeper and see which of those pages is converting. You should do the same, look at your product page, services pages etc and see which are doing the best and you’ll be able to see why!

3) Who are my visitors?

Now for us, we are most attractive to people with at least a basic knowledge of computers, speak English and are in Bangkok. We can find all this out with Google Analytics. If they have a browser other than Explorer we know their computer knowledge is good, we can see that they are in Bangkok and if their system is set to English/English US.

Close up of audience information in Google Analytics

At the bottom of the Audience Overview, you can learn about who is using your site

Now lets see of those coming to us on the keyword “learn web design” convert into a customer. If the conversion rate is low then we need to change something, it was, we changed it thanks to our User Testing research and now we have a very healthy conversion rate.

Tip: Listening to your users can only benefit your website. The better you listen, the better the results. To find out what you need to change to attain these results is a matter of User Testing. The rest is up to you!

Did You Notice That?

When you go to a site you take about 2 seconds to take everything in and construct your first opinion. You may later read into things, but it is that few seconds that matters the most when grabbing your attention. What do you notice when you go to the Web Courses Bangkok homepage?

Our aim was for you to notice:

  1. Our name, so you know where you are
  2. Large banner explaining exactly what we do
  3. Courses buttons on the bottom to find out more.

Web Courses Bangkok home page with red rings around elements we wanted you to notice in 5 seconds

Now how do we know if users noticed these things and in what order? Maybe you noticed something completely different, so how do we find this out? The answer is usabilityhub.com.

Screenshot of usability hub's home page

Usability Hub offers a range of tools for identifying design issues with your site, all of which are worth checking out. However, for now we we will focus on the five second test service they offer. You are shown a web page for 5 seconds, then the screen goes blank and you list the 5 things you noticed.

Screenshot demonstrating what users have to do when conducting a five second test on usability hub

Essentially you are not given time to search, just absorb. This is very useful for designers as it tells us what grabs users attention and what does not.

Try it, and I bet you will be surprised. If however they noticed exactly what you wanted then a pat on the back is deserved.

The Heat is on for Your Users

 Is your site hot or not? Sites like MouseflowUserTrack and Hotjar can create heat maps based on the way the user interacts with the page.

The idea of click heat maps is to accumulate data across many users and put it heat map format. Allowing you to see which link is attracting most attention. 

Animation of Hotjar heat map in action

Example of a realtime heat map recording of a user taken using Hotjar

Something I find very interesting are elements on the page that people click, thinking they are a link but are actually just a heading or content image. On our old homepage we used to have a “Web & Graphic Design Courses for Everyone »” below the banner, but we found after doing user heat map testing, many visitors thought this was a link. So we changed it to a link to help keep users flowing towards are key content.

You can find all this out with Google Analytics , however seeing a clear heat map over your web page gives you an very clear view of where the clicks are taking place.

What can you do with this information? Well if are wanting to earn money from advertising, see which banners are getting the most clicks and charge more, or move banners that are getting not attention to a more prominent position. If you are a shop and people still call you to ask directions, then move your map/address to a part of the page that gets most clicks.

A or B you tell me

I have always wanted to do A/B testing, which is essentially seeing which of two versions of a page works best. The changes you make maybe as simple as a button colour change or it maybe an entirely different checkout process.

A/B test example done using Web Courses Bangkok old homepages

You want to see which method works best, we know which one works best by users completing the user tasks on that page. The reason I said “I always wanted to” was that, until recently, it was as difficult as washing a cat to setup; until now.

Screenshot of Optimizely homepage

Optimizely is a A/B testing tool that allows you to make changes to your pages via a editor (like using MS Word). You then add a little code to your pages and with a poof of smoke your users are funneled to either A or B. Then it is a case of having a cup of cocco, hitting the sack and checking the results in the morning. Which of the two versions converted more users? Once you know you then implement that design into the main site.

Now A/B testing has literally saved and made millions of dollars for site owners e.g Two Magical Words Increased Conversion Rate by 28%

Just changing our button to Orange increased clicks by 12%! What can you do with your website?

Some Advice on A/B Testing

If you are going to do some split A/B testing, don’t change too much. If you change too many things you don’t know if it was the colour change of a button or the fact that the page was entirely laid out differently.

Now lets say that you found out that was indeed the orange that attracted more users, you can then take that knowledge and use it all around your site.

If however you changed the entire page, assuming it was indeed the better converting page, how do you then do that on other pages? Keep it simple with split A/B and as you learn more about your users put those lessons into your entire website.

Giving Your Users a Voice (or a keyboard)

Some users love to tell you what you are doing wrong. Not in a malicious way (sometimes) but as an easy way to help the site they need be better for them. User Voice does just that and it gives your users a way of communicating to you with just a few clicks and taps.

Screenshot of User Voice homepage

The interesting thing about User Voice is that you get a set amount of votes. You can suggest new things that need improving or adding to the sites functionality or you can vote on others suggestions. The limitation in voting is that you only get 10 points and can assign just 3 points maximum. Once that issue has been either resolved or removed, you get your points back and you can vote again. In reality you have 10 votes, you click vote and select how many points, done.

Animation demonstrating how User Voice works

What is the advantage of using this system over say a contact form? Well the idea is that it is a communal way of telling the site owners what you want.

A form message can easily get lost in the plethora of e-mails site owners receive, but if you can see a definite trend that your users want an easier way of checking their order status or a way of comparing your prices, then you have a definite way of making your users even happier.

All the time you are tucked up in bed, your users are telling you what they need. Give users what they want and they will keep coming back.

From a personal point of view if I am using a site a lot and they take notice of one of my suggestions that will instantly breed loyalty.

We added User Voice to our web design courses feedback and what a difference it made! We went from providing worksheets and links to tutorials to creating an entire suite of screencasts.

This change really made our trainees happy. They found it hard to listen in class, look at the screen, type on the screen and understand it all. So it was nice for them to be able to relax knowing that everything they are covering in class will be covered in a screencasts as well.

User Voice helped us listen to our students needs and now we have a lot of happy web designers.

Other Ways To Give Your Users a Voice

Here are a few other ways of giving your users a voice.

With all these tools you can see what users do and don’t like while you are sound asleep. If a post gets a lot of likes, guess what…write more posts like that one and you’re users will be ecstatic and more inclined to buy, purchase, subscribe or share your product/service.

Overall Aim of User Testing and How You and These Tools Can Meet Them

We all want our users to do something, we just need to find the best way of getting them to do it.

This maybe reading your sites resources, downloading a PDF, purchasing a product but at the end of the day you are not a user you are the site owner, this means that is hard for you to truly step into the users shoes and to know what they respond to.

This is why I love user testing because it really shows what people are and are not willing to do.

One of the most prolific examples to the benefits of user testing is that of an e-commerce site that does not know that their checkout form confuses people as they live in a country that does not have a state.

The users go ahead and fill in most of the form but give up when they can’t select anything for the state and the form keeps giving them a unhelpful error.

Remove the state and put area as an open form field and you see a 20% increase in conversions; result and cha-ching!

You can never do too much user testing, but you can do too much tweaking, so be careful of what results you take as indicators for change. Get as much data as possible and go with the mean.

Endlessly tweaking just because one person was unable to get that they have to click to agree the terms and conditions will just cost you time and money.

Look at what makes sense from the results and put that to good use to meet your users needs and get them completing those important user tasks with ease. Make things easy for the right people so if your site is for kids make sure it big, friendly and easy to use.

Enjoy and please let me know if you have done any of user testing in your sleep and consequently improved your site’s performance.

Interested In Learning More About User Testing?

For those of you wondering how exactly you do any of this in practice, we suggest checking out our UX & UI Design Essentials course. In addition to honing your user research skills, you’ll learn how to translate the data you gather into effective wireframe designs and attractive interfaces users will want to use.

Students sat at computers practicing their UI skills

If you are interested in learning more you can contact Carl with our Contact Form.

Oh and remember, while you have been reading this I was in my bed watching what you are doing. So a last point is thank you for visiting our site and teaching us more about what our users need and want.

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