The internet continues to evolve and advance, and so do users' expectations. Every time one of your customers or prospects visits Facebook.com, ESPN.com or any other well-conceived, navigable website, the pressure increases for your company to offer a similarly engaging and easy-to-use site. Fail to deliver the expected user experience and you may lose customers.
Usability testing is the most eye-opening way for your business to avoid a terrible user experience online. Gathering feedback from visitors and evaluating how they experience and react to your website can help you improve the user experience and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Typical factors include:
Tools for the TestOnline website usability tests let you collect feedback from hundreds or even thousands of users at a time. Here are some I recommend:
Loop11: Create user tests, invite participants and collect and analyze meaningful usability data, all using a highly refined and affordable interface.
Usabilla: A fast and simple way to collect visual feedback on web pages at any stage of development or deployment.
Userfly: Sign up, install the provided code and watch what happens. Brilliant.
UserTesting: After you sign up, these folks shoot webcam video of your customers (or their panel members) while they use your site.
UserZoom: Conduct task-based studies with hundreds of users to measure efficiency and effectiveness.
Messaging: Does your website effectively convey who you are, how you're different, what you do and why you're better?
Navigation: How easy is it to navigate your site to perform simple and complex tasks? Can you reduce the number of steps needed to perform each call to action?
Effectiveness of calls to action: Are users doing the things you expect? How long do they take, and how accessible are your most important offers?
Response time and performance: From the end user's perspective, does the site hum like a well-oiled machine or does it rattle and puff like an old clunker?
Accessibility for users with disabilities: How accessible is the information on your website to users with disabilities? If you promote your organization as being an equal opportunity employer, how compliant is your website?
Content and readability: From formatting to grammar, how accurate and descriptive is your content? Does it compel your visitors to act?
Each factor should be independently evaluated by your company's typical website visitor. This can be done in person through a company-organized and -observed usability test or online using a remote testing tool or service.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.