Successful digital marketing requires a deep understanding of the needs of users. That means collecting data about the ways users interact with your site through all available means: website analytics, tracking SEO data, simply talking to your users, and user testing.
The essence of testing is asking key audience members to complete tasks and then monitoring how they go about it. This testing yields unbiased feedback about the user friendliness of the features you’re testing, which can help you improve those features and user experience. (Read about best practices for user testing.)
Interactivity makes user testing especially valuable. Users will give their opinions in focus groups; testing gives you the hard data of how they actually interact with your website or other digital materials. You’re not asking them to remember what they did the last time they visited your site; you’re seeing them interact with the site in real time right now.
When we think about user testing, we think first of navigation and functionality, but we should think more broadly. User testing can gather a wide range of impact data.
Website User Testing
The most common place to start user testing is your website.
User testing is great for understanding how users navigate your website. A basic test might charge users to download a specific PDF and observe how they complete the task. You would gain insight into how the users find the PDF. Did they do so quickly and intuitively, or did they encounter obstacles or become confused? Once you know, you can leave well enough alone or fix the problem.
User testing can gather valuable feedback on a website’s design and content. Think of it as an extension of any other user research you do, including testing.
To extend the above example, once the testers have found the PDF, you can ask about the product page where they found it. What do they think of the overall look of the page? Does it appeal to them? Is the headline on the page compelling and/or informative?
The website experience is immediate to the tester, and thus likely to yield a more accurate, authentic and useful response than responses gathered through surveys or focus groups. Test responses will be close to those of actual customers. They can tell you not only that a color looked good or bad, but also whether it distracted them from the task or directed them to it.
Prototype User Testing
User testing is incredibly valuable when applied to prototypes, comps, and wireframes. Testing web pages before they’re fully developed enables you to apply user data to the designs as the designs evolve. That saves time, money and the frustration of correcting designs after they’re complete and live.
Prototype user testing can validate design changes. Say you have a hunch that users will struggle to find the contact form on your website. You can create a few prototypes of a new web design that places the contact form more prominently.
Test by asking users to find the contact form on both the live site and the new prototype. That test will show which works better for users and could guide further refinement.
Competitive Website User Testing
You can test most public-facing websites, not just your own. Ask users questions about their experience on a competitor’s site.
Say a competitor has implemented a new website tool, and you want to know if it would be useful for your customers. Target your ideal audience and ask them to interact with the competitor’s new tool. Question them about how useful it would be. Understanding user experience on a competitor’s site can provide helpful insights about your own.
Email User Testing
Use feedback from potential subscribers to improve your email marketing. You can test email layout, content, and design.
Say you see a decline in clicks to your website after implementing a new email template. Ask testers where to click to “learn more”; if they don’t know or take too much time to figure it out, you’ve uncovered a layout issue with your email template.
You can also use this process to learn more about how potential users interact with your emails, what content resonates, their opinion on design, and more.
Search Engine User Testing
User testing can deepen your understanding of how users search the web to land on your site. That data can inform your SEO tactics and strategies.
You can test by, for example, asking users to search for certain products or topics using Google. Use their search terms to identify keywords that hadn’t occurred to you. This testing process can also lead to a better understanding of how and why they click through to certain websites that show on search engine results pages.
Test to the Fullest
User testing is a powerful tool for improving UX and digital marketing. Test often and broadly to meet your target audience, to understand them, and to give them a good experience as they interact with your business.
If you’re interested in getting started with user testing, reach out to us. Our expert user research team can help you uncover the insights you need to improve your users’ digital experience