Technology, Branding

Spinach in your teeth

Author
Jessica Swesey
No.
906
Date
12/11/14

It’s rare to see a website that can’t be improved. Whether it’s a series of small tweaks to copy and button placement, or a total redesign, the nature of the web is constant evolution.

Websites ideally try to satisfy their customers as much as possible by being able to adequately adapt to change.

This is great except that you can’t change what you don’t know isn’t working.

Enter usability testing.

At 1000watt, we test mobile and desktop websites all the time, and have a full usability testing studio in house. Observing and interacting with a small subset of users provides critical knowledge to a website design and online lead strategy. Yet, as we often see with brokerages we work with, the exercise is treated as an episodic affair only to be undertaken when a brokerage is at the beginning or end of a design overhaul.

This is more than a lost opportunity. It’s a colossal waste of money when you think about all the resources that go into building a website and driving traffic to it.

Without testing insight, your usability is cast in yesterday’s blueprints. And that may or may not be in your best interest.

We’ve had clients uncover dramatic findings, which led to dramatic results. And we’ve had clients uncover things requiring only incremental change, which also led to dramatic results.  

Either way, in the end it meant higher conversions. And isn’t that what your website is all about?

Stop thinking of your usability testing as an extension of your milestone web projects and start thinking of it more as preventive health care.

Here’s a list of buckets of things you can test:

Overload

Many websites – especially home pages –  suffer from “kitchen sink” syndrome. It’s what happens when more and more items get stacked onto a page for this or that reason. This quickly junks up your design and creates pain points for users.

Watch a few users stumble through your home page or property pages and you’ll quickly spot the dirty dishes that get in their way.

Blind spots

You know real estate terms and acronyms, but your users likely do not. You know immediately how to access saved properties, but your first-time user does not.

You’re too close to test your own site. You need fresh user eyes to unearth these types of blind spots.

Talking too loudly

Your site messaging may be awkward, too wordy, too vague, too douche-y. You could come off as the drunk guy talking loudly across the restaurant. Or maybe your lack of any message is just as baffling.

Test some of the language you’re using – or intend to use – to see where you stand.

The mobile scenario

With more and more consumers turning to the handset for web browsing, are you sure your site is easy to use on an iPhone and Android? Are there calls to action that no human thumb or index finger could possibly get to work right? Are pages not loading correctly? Are things getting cut off or aggravatingly microscopic?

You want to test real-life people in real-life scenarios. A person off the street is now more likely to see your site on a handset than a desktop. You need that experience to work right for them.

First impressions

First impressions matter. You have only about 30 seconds, according to the oft quoted statistic floating out there. The web makes it so easy for users to bounce away if this 30 seconds is painful, annoying or void of all feeling.

Usability testing gives you a chance to capture some of these first impressions from complete strangers.

Stop wasting your money

Like finding spinach in your teeth after a meeting, usability testing is the mirror that can help you pinpoint what went wrong.

Plain and simple, if you’re not conducting at the very least one or two usability tests each year you are throwing money away.

Fortunately, you have several options at various price ranges. You can use an online service like User Testing; you can hire a specialized agency like 1000watt; or you can inquire with your website vendor to see what kind of testing they do.

As you close out 2014, put this on your bucket list for 2015. You won’t regret it.