A crucial part of any digital product is the user experience. Our team at hook is specialized in building and maintaining websites that rank higher on Google, but on the design side we want recognize that not only are these websites interacting with search engines, in the end they are interacting with those using them — human beings. Therefore, testing this experience will better our websites, and in turn will keep potential customers interested for our clients.
We recently explored three strategies of user testing:
- Live recordings from Usertesting
- Recordings and heatmaps from Hotjar
- Live interviews/in person observations from a coffee shop test session
This was probably our most straightforward form of testing. Usertesting.com allows us to create a set of tasks for someone to perform as they visit the site, as well as a video/audio recording of them following each step. User testing as a whole can be broken down into two types of tasks. The first is a direct, specific task (i.e. fill out a form, complete an online purchase, share an article etc). The second is an open ended task(i.e. learn more about this company, use this application as you normally would, etc).
Direct tasks give off quantitative data– basically did the user succeed or fail when completing the task that was given. Our websites at hook have fewer direct tasks, because we are pushing users towards filling out a form or making a phone call to get in touch with our clients. We utilize our Winning Website Formula to do this, with clear call-to-actions and clean design overall.
Open-ended tasks bring more qualitative data– general thoughts/feelings of using the product, did the site feel welcome, did it make sense etc. Most lead generation platforms come across as ‘sales-y’ and pushy. While we want our website to yes, get leads, but also feel welcome and informative. Home improvement is a personal, financial, and lasting decision, and is not necessarily a linear sales process. We want to accurately portray the authority, empathy and personality for each of our clients. We’ve found that these open ended tasks actually give us a lot more insight as to how our marketing language, design layout choices, site mapping process, emotional images, and web content all work to establish trust with the user, and close the lead.
We administered 4 tests to random users, all who were homeowners. The site we used was Mars Roofing All of the participants from this round of testing were able to successfully complete the direct task(filling out the form to get in touch) but we found that open-ended tasks yielded more organic observations from our follow-up questions.
Some key findings
- One user trusted the website, but felt that it should communicate more efforts of following through. Our guess was that she had poor experiences with contractors in the past, and would trust the company better once she got in touch.
- Another user found the site very helpful, but would like more transparency on pricing.
- Overall trust was there, but in the construction industry, the follow up and reputation is key.
- People respond to the emotionally-driven images(smiling faces, families playing etc.)
- Its good to spice up headlines, but it is important to not lose the service name, especially at the top of the page. Some people were initially confused if the service wasn’t stated in the headline and/or the image.
The second form of user testing that we used was Hotjar.com. Hotjar installs a code snippet in the head of any website or landing page, and then tracks all visitors to the page. We were able to capture time spent on the site, the device used to access the site, as well as where their mouse went while visiting. With these recordings, we also were able to generate heat maps showing areas where users clicked/hovered the most.
Some key findings
- We were able to capture LOTS of data from Hotjar, and it seems like most are split on using their phone or desktop computer to access our SEO pages.
- Time spent on these pages went as short as 15 seconds, up to 30 minutes, but most people spent around 3-10 minutes on the site.
- Based off watching several user recordings, many people did not scroll all the way to the bottom of the page. It was the first 3-4 sections that got the most action.
- Most of those who did scroll to the bottom of the page, were using their phone. This could be because mobile layouts are less visually stimulating and more compact.
User testing, digital products bring to light general issues– problems that anyone would experience, not necessarily just homeowners. While testing our target audience would be ideal, we want to also get a range of users. From the book Rocket Surgery by Steve Krug, “Yes, there are things you can learn only by watching a target audience use the site. But there are many things you can learn by watching almost anyone use it. When you begin doing usability testing, your site will probably contain a lot of serious problems that ‘almost anybody’ will encounter, so you can recruit much more loosely in the beginning.” Usertesting.com and Hotjar.com helped us target our homeowners, but the next form of testing is much more organic and conversation-based rather than direct quantitative research.
Hotjar at Hook
We feel like Hotjar actually is a great tool in the sales process, as well as during reporting. Videos of actual users help boost our credibility in our design and copywriting choices. It is a strong tool in that we can create libraries of interactions as well as heat zones.
User Testing Live/In-Person
Talking to a real person, face-to-face, is a great form of user-testing, and getting unfiltered, in-the-moment feedback from a random user can yield a treasure trove of insights into how your website or app are being viewed and received. In-person user testing is a great way to get more organic and emotional feedback. As the third leg of our user testing, we were able to conduct in-person testing at a local coffee shop.
Some Key Findings:
- Reviews, Ratings and other trust factors like the logos of industry partners are a big influence (equal in importance to a personal recommendation from family & friends). Be sure to feature these at conversion points.
- Users appreciate visual queues, helper text and prompts to scroll, etc. It’s easy to think our products are intuitive because we understand how they work as the ones who built them. But this is a key insight and reminder to always look at your work with the frame of empathy for our users.
- Several users commented that while calls-to-action on the sites they were shown were clear, they wanted more clear next steps laid out, and more transparency on pricing. In addition to helping with conversion tracking, thank you pages are a great place to list next steps. You could also consider including simple helper text on your forms, like this example:
- Users also stated that when reviews are truncated, they want to be able to click to read the full review.
- Having well-crafted headlines and images that convey emotion resonated well with users.
Some Keys to Successful In-person User Testing:
- Be sure to conduct your testing session during a window of time when you target customers are apt to be available.
- Be sure to keep the test ambiguous. Even if you are the one who designed or built the product, never say you’re the one who did as this could break the user’s objectivity. Ultimately, the goal is unbiased, unfiltered feedback.
- Ask open ended questions that give the users space to elaborate.