As we pull up our socks and tighten our belts in today’s challenged economy – user testing often ends up being one of the first project components bound for the chopping block.
User testing, touching base with real customers and collecting actionable user feedback isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a business imperative. Extensive big budget testing might not be an option for many at the moment, but that doesn’t mean user-testing needs to be thrown out the window altogether.
To the contrary – the squeeze has created a growing demand for less expensive alternatives, the availability of which grows daily. Not all are created equally of course, and while they’re by no means always a fool proof replacement for one-on-one moderated interviews, unmoderated remote usability testing can collect a respectable range of both quantitative and qualitative data.
Running your site or layout through one or more testing tools will assemble (quickly and inexpensively) a broad range of data from users in their natural environments, anonymously or from select participants. Survey tools such as CrazyEgg, ClickTale and TeaLeaf gather information about click patterns, clickstream paths, browser base, keyword and traffic sources, among other things, and present data in a useful visual format. A usability specialist can then provide the professional analysis that makes the most out of this data together with recommendations for improvement. *Keep in mind that many clickstream tools do not work for testing flash sites.
Listed below are a few remote testing tools, selected for their accessible price – ranging from free to US$950 – as well as the (all important) ability to apply custom instructions to each test (which is important for quality metrics). The actionability of feedback collected will depend on the types of tasks you ask participants to perform as well as the level of meaning you assign each task. Also remember to test early and test often – “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site” (Frank Lloyd Wright) – the same applies to your project.
Usabilla offers micro usability tests and “a fast and simple way to collect visual feedback on webpages, mockups, wireframes, sketches, or any other images.”
Cost ranges from free (1 page/ 50 participants) to US$950 (250 pages/ 200 participants)
You upload a screenshot of your site (which means unfortunately that the influence of interactive effects can not be tested), set up the test (there are some default questions but it is best to use custom instructions/questions), and then share the URL with participants you select yourself. Make sure to ask your participants to view the instruction video first – as the usability of Usabilla can otherwise (ironically) be less than optimal when it comes time for participants to add notes or comments.
Five Second Test
“Five second tests help you easily identify the most prominent elements of your user interfaces… People use five second test to locate calls to action, optimize landing pages, and run A/B tests.”
Cost ranges from free to US$15 (for premium features such as custom instructions and extra feedback).
With five second tests you can find out which parts of your design are most prominent, via either a memory test (you give users five seconds to look at your design and then ask them to remember specific elements) or a click test (you give users five seconds to locate and click on specific elements of your design).
ConceptFeedback isn’t really a testing tool, but it’s a great resource when you’re too close to the project and need a fresh pair of eyes. Ask specific questions and receive extensive and actionable feedback from other designers and developers. There’s opportunity as well to discuss specific suggestions and provide some feedback yourself.
This is an excellent resource for, you guessed it, Split AB testing. Not only can you upload your own URLs or screen shots for testing, but you can learn from the tests other people have run.
Find out which content combination, layout format, form or button treatment results in a better conversion rate. View test examples of home pages, landing pages, sign-up forms and pricing pages – and weave top performing ideas into your own site.
I’ll be adding to this list over time, but in the meantime I’d love to hear any additional suggestions or more about other favourite remote user testing tools.