Aug 26 2010
Many stores claim that customers are their number one priority. They come up with money back guarantees, club card discounts, and send a constant stream a mailers keeping you informed about their latest sales. Staying in touch with customers is key to the success of a business. Learning what they like, what they don’t like- these can all help keep them coming back.
In today’s world, many businesses are online. It’s both easier and harder to gather customer feedback. Whereas in a store unsatisfied customers can walk up to the manager and express their discontent, now there’s no person you can talk to. Whereas before they could fill out a card anonymously, now they have a form, or email address. When it comes to online stores, most people will just click on the back button and never return to your site again. Particularly vulernable are shopping carts. There’s a whole science to coaxing the prized Credit Card number out of prospects and getting them over the agony of pressing the buy button. Clients have an inherent fear that the world will collapse when they do.
The world of usability testing is one where you set up controlled conditions and watch someone use your product. In its purest form it consists of a special room with one way mirrors. Professional usability testers will sit behind the mirror so as to not obstruct or influence the subject conducting the test. A representative sample of users will enter the room, test the product, and provide real time feedback about their experience. The concept is that their first impressions and comments during their use of the system are the most valuable. It costs thousands of dollars to conduct these tests. One study I was a part of tested a certain financials website. On it was a picture of a golfer, but this particular branch was directed towards their lower income clientele. The client ended up paying tens of thousands of dollars to learn that poor people don’t feel a sense of connection to the game of golf. (And more importantly, they’re less likely to transact because of it.) Another example of usability testing is from a little known urban legend about Disneyland. It’s been said that when the park was first built they didn’t put walkways in. Instead they observed the natural paths that people walked, and then built the sidewalks accordingly. We’ve all seen examples where this would have been helpful in real life. On college campuses there are many fields of grass with well worn paths on them, outlining the shortcuts that people take. Say what you want about people not following the rules. If clients are in your store or on your website, it’s best to accommodate their desires. If the customer is truly to be number one, then it’s up to the planners to design the paths for them.
That type of feedback is exactly what UserFeel provides. They have a network of testers who will navigate to your site, conduct various operations, and provide real time feedback about their experience. The testers record a video of their screen and spoken thoughts while navigating your site. So if they can’t find the submit button you can watch them search for it for 15 seconds and then give up in a frustrated panic. If they are unable to figure out how to register, don’t think the picture of Donald Duck belongs there, or have trouble searching for items, they’ll tell you that as well. A sample tester feedback video can be found on UserFeel’s site.
As opposed to costing thousands upon thousands of dollars, Userfeel is a clean $39 per test. There are bulk discounts as well. It’s available in multiple languages and is also offered as a white label service. What that means is design firms can purchase usability tests and include them in their own reports without UserFeel’s brand on it. As an aside, here’s a power user tip for designers. If you ever have trouble convincing the client of a certain design choice, prove to them that that’s what their customers want. Truth be told, many of the user tests I’ve been a part of were to settle battles within offices. One group couldn’t convince the other group of a design choice, so we were hired to settle the matter based upon user feedback. It’s invaluable feedback. When signing up fro UserFeelyou’re prompted to describe the scenario and tasks you’d like tested and various questions you’d like answered. It also gives you option to select gender, age bracket, and level of technical expertise of the testers.
Millions of dollars in lost sales has been attributed to bad site design. What makes sense to designers and developers, doesn’t always make sense to the users they built the site for. If uncomfortable, users flee sites as quickly as they find them. With UserFeel, you can get an understanding of exactly what’s going through their minds and when. From there you can hone your site to keep your clients, happy, comfortable, and choosing to purchase.