Importance of user experience & usability testing

The investment made in your website’s user experience ultimately determines the success or failure of your online venture.

When was the last time you asked yourself if the money you invest in your online channel is effectively converting website visitors into online customers?  A positive online consumer experience will improve not only the conversion rate of your online channel, but help you propel your brand’s profile by turbocharging your website’s net promoter score (A net promoters score is a measurement which reflects the likelihood a online consumer will recommend your websites, and its product or services, to friends, family and acquaintances).

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Acquiring customers online is by no means an easy task! It requires a great deal of time and investment to pull in visitors to your website, engage with them in a meaningful way, and ensure they don’t leave your site without first investing the time to evaluate your offer.  Unfortunately the majority of websites are created without any consideration given to the actual individuals who might be using it! Simple questions like: “how and why would consumers connect with this brand online?”, and “are we helping or hindering consumers in achieving their online goals?”,  are more often than not just a reactive afterthought!

Your online consumer experience can be tested using techniques like group based online website usability testing. Bringing a group of people together in a real-time virtual environment to find out if the website message is too complicated, hard to read, poorly organized, and if the proposed layout is as intuitive as your developers tell you it is. All of these very important user experience attributes will undoubtedly affect your audience’s level of engagement, and is ultimately responsible for your website ability to convert online visitors into online customers.

Websites with content that is difficult to read and online shopping carts that are too complicated to use will adversely affect the behavior of online visitors and decimate the conversion rate of your online channel. Once a potential customer clicks away and moves onto a better website (offered by your competitors) getting that person back to your website will drain your resources and to cost you more money than you will make!

It is acknowledged that in today’s world we are always under the pump to get things done yesterday, and you may argue you don’t have the time to make every website page as intuitive and clearly designed as you would like. But by putting together a set of website standards based on real conversations with real customers you can make a marked improvement in the customer’s online user experience.

In most cases, the only attention being paid to a particular website’s usability is by the individuals who are putting the website together. These professionals are highly experienced when it comes to web page development. But it’s easy to see how their view of “simple to use” might be vary from the experience of your target audience – unless of course your target audience comprises of website programmers. This is where a set of user experience guidelines derived from ongoing online website usability testing can prove to be extremely beneficial.

Through frequent online website usability testing with a group of people from your target audience you can derive new insight which helps you understand how and why a audience establishes an online relationship with you. It will provide you with a vehicle to develop a clearer picture of preferred navigation, appearance, readability, process and information layout. By focusing on the way your audience connects with each component of your website through a regular set of online usability tasks you can start to plot trends in online consumer behaviour. This will enable you to build a set of clearly defined usability website guidelines.

GroupQuality online website usability

The first phase of any online website testing should be prioritised to occur before a single line of code is written.  Wireframes (simple drawings of how a website page might look) can be quickly tested in a online group usability session. A webcam, audio or online chat based usability group can be used to initiate  a discussions about the website’s navigation and calls to action. This testing method facilitates immediate real-time feedback, making fast alterations to the proposed website behavior and layout possible.  Online usability groups help you gauge consumers expectation around the kind of information that should fill the website and how and when it should be displayed.

Quick user experience testing of a website in an online live (real-time) group environment involves group discussion, the simple tracking of the pages visited, and the time taken when clicking around a website to achieve a particular consumer goal. You can also choose to present a short questionnaire on completion of a task to gain invaluable empirical data about the experience the website offers. This is particularly useful when testing shopping carts and online forms. Thousands of customers get lost in online stores everyday, simply because the retailer has not taken the time to test either the shopping experience or the shopping cart process. Ultimately resulting in an generous level of shopping cart abandonment. It is absolutely vital issues like these are resolved before a website made available to your target audience. By not eliminating problems early you may be losing online conversions, and may not even be aware of the extent of monetary loss due to inadequate online user experience.

Once the website goes live, the process of testing your website with your target audience should occur on a regular basis. With thorough testing a website that is streamlined to focus on the customer will results in the delivery of a online experience that is superior to that offered by your competition. The result is simple: improved online conversions, repeat traffic, and a net promoter score which is commensurate of the websites overall return on investment.

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