5 Ways of Getting Started With User Testing
Conversion Optimisation

5 Ways of Getting Started With User Testing

30th November 2012

Lessons Learned From More Than 100,000 Usability Tests

Dr. Karl Blanks of ConversionRateExperts is one of the leading names in the field of usability testing and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). In his talks he focuses 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.

Dr. Karl Blanks at Conversion Conference London


[Tweet “When someone can’t use something they tend to blame themselves, the designers blame the users for being stupid”]

1. Test 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.”

[Tweet “It’s much harder to make something that is usable than it is to just make something”]

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.

[Tweet “‘Go and See’ – most people are trying to solve problems by sitting in a boardroom, not on the production line”]

Usability Testing Tools

  • 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.

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’).


Written By
Ned Poulter is CEO & Founder of Pole Star Digital, a Digital Marketing Consultancy he runs alongside a number of entrepreneurial ventures. He spends his time developing and overseeing digital strategy for a number of well reputed international clients, developing creative approaches to achieving organic search results, increasing inbound traffic,...
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