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Top Usability Mistakes: Lessons Learned From More Than 100,000 Usability Tests #ConvCon

30 November 2012 BY

Dr. Karl Blanks of ConversionRateExperts is one of the leading names in the field of usability testing and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). This talk was focused on preaching the absolute importance of usability testing and understanding common issues frustrating web users. Karl is wholly passionate about user testing in this talk he aimed to walk the audience through each stages of user testing that you should consider when approaching it, and also a variety of free and mostly low-cost tools to help you do so.

There was just one speakers for this session:

Stephen Pavlovich, Director of the Conversion Factory was moderating the session.

Introduction

Dr. Karl Blanks at Conversion Conference London

  • One of Karl’s top usability testers is his mum:
    • She’s always round our house
    • She’s not afraid to be frank
    • She’s not very good at using the web
  • As a marketer you don’t see the other side of usability, you don’t see the person repeatedly clicking the order button because they haven’t seen they need to click to accept the terms and conditions button.
  • Almost every company fails at the last hurdle, usability. The amount of technology wonder that went in to creating the television is forgotten about and overlooked when it comes to the primary way that you interact with the device (the remote control).

Television Remote Controls are Poor Examples of Design for Usability

  • When someone can’t use something they tend to blame themselves, the designers blame the users for being stupid. It’s a vicious cycle. Apple have revolutionised this by putting the onus on the designers; if somebody can’t use your product then it is the designers fault.
  • “It’s much harder to make something that is usable than it is to just make something”
  • ‘Go and See’ – most people are trying to solve problems by sitting in a boardroom, not on the production line. On the Internet it’s not so obvious to reach this ‘real place’ as this is the user on the end of their computer/smartphone/tablet, that’s where usability testing comes in…

Top 5 Ways of Getting Started With User Testing

1. Yourself - The easiest person to go to for user testing is yourself, try it out.

  • ScreenFlow for Mac, CamTasia Studio – record your user journey so that you can revisit it at a later date.
  • AirServer – Allows a Mac to stream what’s on the phone to a Mac screen, allowing you to record mobile site user journey.
  •  ‘Become a customer’ – There is little better advice than going and buying the product yourself. Experience the customer decision process yourself. If you’re not naturally wanting to buy the product then get yourself in a position where you might (e.g. already got a burglar alarm? Has your family, neighbours?)
  • “Don’t cynically become a customer, properly become a customer.”

2. Anyone you can find

  • Getting someone, anyone to look at your site. You’ll be amazed, not only will you be annoyed that all of the things that you have been pouring your time in to might be completely overlooked
  • They will pick up on other things that you’ve missed.

3. Anyone qualified

  • You will find out a lot of things from steps 1 and 2, however you will reach a point where you will need someone qualified e.g. a genuine potential customer.

4. Your Visitors

  • Who better than your site visitors to test your site?
  • Recommend using Ethnio – Creates a pop-up to source participants for a 30 minutes phone interview (that is incentivised through Amazon vouchers), you can then ask them whatever questions you want.

5. Your Customers

  • If there’s anyone better than your site visitors to use for user testing it’s your existing customers to test your site.

Usability Testing Tools

ConversionRateExperts have shown many major successes for top companies, just some of these include: TopCashback and SEOMoz

  • Usabilla – Use it to get tests run on wireframes while you’re creating them. Split testing before you even create the end page. Upload wireframes and get users to provide feedback/comments.
  • Kampyle

Card Sorting Tools

  • Optimal Sort – It’s essential that users are finding the product pages that they want to, this tool helps you to optimise your information architecture by asking users to help you arrange navigation based on what they believe it should be.
  • Treejack – Allows users to provide feedback on where they would look for an item on a site. You can cross reference with your existing information architecture, to indentify areas of user confusion.

Unmoderated Remote User Tests

  • Usertesting.com
  • Whatusersdo
  • GotomeetingTip: use page joingotomeeting to easily communicate over the phone where you are meeting.
  • Join.me
  • Doodle – Use it for scheduling, give users the choice to select a time that you can hold user tests.
  • Notable – Highly recommended tool that allows users to review iterations as your project progresses
  • Top Tip: Think about user testing your blog posts using Notable inside your company/team before pushing them live.

One of the best tips that Karl could give was that by doing user testing you can find your reputation/hard work dragged through the mud, you’ll feel like you’re useless as a marketer, useless at your job. But tell yourself that you are the one that is taking the time to do this and making the changes based on these results; it’s very likely that none of your competitors are doing this!

The Best User Tests Leave You in Tears

Things to expect to see during user testing

  • The user making stupid mistakes (=you being a stupid designer)
  • The ‘house-visitor’ effect - like when you invite a friend round you notice things that you haven’t noticed before, like ‘that wall really needs painting’.
  • Not scrolling - You can overcome this by utilising one of these 7 techniques to encourage your users to scroll
  • Not reading at all - Often people will read the headlines and look at the pictures, they won’t read anything else.
  • Completely missing the point - Don’t take it personally, it’s often a sign that the copy is not getting across to the user.
  • Hitting a sticking point - Not matter how straightforward your site, it’s likely that you’ll always find someone that gets stuck trying to do something
  • Unsure what you do - Think of the clarity of call-to-actions, ask yourself ‘what is the objective of the page?’
  • Lack of interest - You must capture the users attention, fast, is not they will fail to be interested.
  • Lack of trust - Try leveraging social proof or industry accreditations to help develop a level of trust.
  • Confusion - Is there too much going on on the page? Is the user confused?
  • Wants to think about it (‘still researching’) - urgency can be a powerful tactic to drive conversions here (e.g. ‘Order soon! Only 5 left in stock’).

Find out more tools and access free reports from ConversionRateExperts in their online learning zone.

AUTHORED BY:
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Ned Poulter is the Co-Founder of AvitaDigital, a Digital Marketing Consultancy based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He specialises in all aspects of SEO, digital marketing consulting and PPC, amongst many other things.
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  • http://twitter.com/websitesaleslab Website Sales Lab

    I was nodding my head so much while reading this. I love how Dr Karl doesn’t hold back and he is giving you real meat here. No punches pulled.

    I love the characteristics of a good usability participant:

    She’s not afraid to be frank
    She’s not very good at using the web

    So true, you need someone who isn’t that great at using the web and is able to be open enough with you to tell you where the issues are.

    The user making stupid mistakes = you being a stupid designer.. LOL.. When we are designing the sites we forget that not everyone else was in on the meeting when it was being built. So small stupid things are overlooked when we build it. And yep we end up with users making stupid mistakes :(

    • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

      I agree, first time I’ve actually seen Dr. Karl talk, even though I’ve been following him for a very long time, can’t help but agree with your points. He makes a huge amount of sense when he talks and, with it, he shows a huge passion for what he does. Incredibly inspiring guy.

      I know the issue about the user/designer exchange is fairly controversial, but very true in my opinion. In fact, in any job if someone isn’t prepared to revisit work to make it better for the end user then we’d be in serious trouble…

      “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

      ― Albert Einstein

      • http://twitter.com/websitesaleslab Website Sales Lab

        Good quote. The question that comes to my mind is… How do we know? The way usability works is we need to test and figure it out before we launch. So it might be controversial to those who want to take short cuts I guess?

        Most small companies don’t have the time/resources to do it.

        • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

          Thanks. I think the point of user testing is to answer exactly that question, do provide a response to the ‘how do we know’, testing provides tangible results which can be interpreted to make changes. It’s worthwhile understanding that these results may not always be crystal clear, but surely it’s better than not doing it at all?

          I disagree that testing needs to be done before launch, in fact constantly iterating changes based on ongoing feedback may provide interesting insight across more levels of your business. The question of cost is a big one that often comes up, but tools like Google’s Website Optimiser are free within Google Analytics and many of the tools mentioned above are seriously affordable, even for smaller businesses. Many of the tools listed above boast prices lower than $10 and even full split testing software like Optimizely being available for $17 a month.

          It is tough to try and get extra budget out of some clients, however marketers/business owners love tangible results and feedback from their customers, using many of the tools above you can provide this for them; you may find it frees up budget rather than restricts it…

        • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

          Thanks. I think the point of user testing is to answer exactly that question, do provide a response to the ‘how do we know’, testing provides tangible results which can be interpreted to make changes. It’s worthwhile understanding that these results may not always be crystal clear, but surely it’s better than not doing it at all?

          I disagree that testing needs to be done before launch, in fact constantly iterating changes based on ongoing feedback may provide interesting insight across more levels of your business. The question of cost is a big one that often comes up, but tools like Google’s Website Optimiser are free within Google Analytics and many of the tools mentioned above are seriously affordable, even for smaller businesses. Many of the tools listed above boast prices lower than $10 and even full split testing software like Optimizely being available for $17 a month.

          It is tough to try and get extra budget out of some clients, however marketers/business owners love tangible results and feedback from their customers, using many of the tools above you can provide this for them; you may find it frees up budget rather than restricts it…

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  • http://www.nedpoulter.co.uk/ Ned Poulter

    Thanks to Dr. Karl himself for following up with me and the message below after reading my write-up:

    “Hi Ned,

    Thanks for the great write-up of my talk at Conversion Conference. I cringe when I read most write-ups, because the person has missed the important points. Yours was spot on.

    Karl”

    :D

  • http://twitter.com/websitesaleslab Website Sales Lab

    I didn’t mean exclusively test before launch. Just that testing before launching a new site on an existing market / customer base without testing can lead to significant issues and lost revenue. That said I see your point and I agree that it should be ongoing and iterative.

    The tools aren’t the cost, its the people and time. I know Steve Krug says it doesn’t cost much but that is to someone in the know. Just like it won’t cost a mechanic much to change your oil but to someone who doesn’t it will cost an arm and a leg. Most companies are not going to know and ask someone else to do it.

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