As I often do, I decided I would test something new on my own website, to see what value it would give before trying it with a client. I’ve gotten addicted to the idea of User testing, the above and beyond effort it takes to both produce a website visually and with code and then test with people that are not computer experts. Having read two of the most well-respected usability experts Jakob Nielsen and Steve Krug both sign off somewhat enthusiastically on remote user testing on Usertesting.com I decided to try it out.
The thing that strikes me about this kind of remote user testing is that it’s a bit less dramatic than its in person counterpart. I put in my request for testers, paid 150$ and for an introductory deal, 4 people tested my website. This all happened in an hour after I filled out what questions I wanted them to answer. I received videos of them testing, and they are instructed to speak out loud and say whatever they are thinking as if they are a potential customer, so that the people working on the website can improve the design and usability.
The drawback? Less Drama
The dramatic part of in person testing is almost what I miss, because if I want to be considered a “usability expert,” in this industry, I feel as though I have to do something harder than pay 200 bucks a website and sit back, glean the insights and make the changes. But do I? I believe Steve Krug in his book “Rocket Surgery Made Easy” said something to the effect that this method is 80% as effective or so, with 70% of the work, but in my opinion this method was almost better in certain ways.
With pre-populated questions you can just drag into your survey and modify, the test allows you to get some best practices of User Testing taken care of without having your own test format written out and handy. Essentially on a whim, I was able to test my website with four people. When the key is “test early, test often,” I refuse to believe that this kind of nimble tool isn’t a ridiculously useful tool for someone who wants the practical results of User Testing but doesn’t always have time for the drama of setting in-person testing up.
My personal site as a case study: More Process, more about me, Removed most anchor links
As for my website, the changes I’ve made over the past 5 days since testing are somewhat simple. I like to consider myself a forward thinking designer, but some of the things I had added to my site that I had originally considered a bit of flair and kind of fun, ended up being distracting. The users on my website didn’t like that after scrolling down and viewing the home page, that when they scrolled back up to the top and clicked on the main navigation links that the links brought them right back down to places on the page. So I removed most of my anchor links and brought them to separate pages for my “branding” and “web design” pages.
They wanted more “About Me” so I built that section out, and added a “Process” page, which in hindsight makes a lot of sense, but perhaps got lost in the shuffle of focusing on the other parts of the site, but now with a little nudge from real users I am reminded of how people might like to know a little more how I work.
Being able to review Users naturally drives up the value on UserTesting.com
I think the core reason why this site gets an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up from me, is the fact that you get to rate the users afterward, and so people try to do a really good job explaining how they are thinking and using the site as they do to be selected again. You can choose demographics, which I believe is generally a premium feature, and give a screener to have the users self-select. Mine was essentially yes or no questions to see if they would ever be in the need for services similar to mine, and to make sure they weren’t in my industry. If the site you’re needing to test has a very niche demographic that has particularly specific needs and tastes you may want to do in person testing, but I found this site super useful and will probably use it again.
Thank you for reading this article. I would love to get your feedback on some of the changes I’ve made through this process around my website so feel free to comment or tweet at me @timbdesignmpls