Usability testing means checking and evaluating the functionality and responsiveness of your website on all the main devices, operating systems and browsers that your customers use. This is not necessarily something your web designer will do and, honestly, my experience bears this out.
There’s no substitute for a skilled usability tester: someone who comes to the material fresh with no previous expectations. If you step back and let someone removed from the development process check your site, you can guarantee a genuine and effective user experience test.
Here’s why you should test:
1. LOWER COSTS
Ideally, testing should be conducted early on in the design process, and at various stages throughout the development, not once the site is live. It’s easier and cheaper to fix the faults early on.
For example, do your images load, even with a sleepy rural download speed of 2Mbps? Visual and aural checks should be conducted on multimedia files, and on all platforms, during the build. If you launch a well-tested, flawless website, you won’t have to go back to the developer and incur further costs.
2. POSITIVE BRAND IMAGE
The smallest error, such as a broken link or a registration form that requires a house number (not everyone lives in a house with a number), can be off-putting to a potential customer. The chances are they’ll leave your site and find your rival instead. It’s likely they won’t complain, but they won’t buy either, and your brand is tarnished.
Imagine a website with 72 case studies, one of which has a broken link. Does one broken link out of 72 really matter? Yes, because Sod’s law dictates that the one link your potential customer clicks on will be the one that doesn’t work.
3. FEWER COMPLAINTS
It’s vital that your web pages work seamlessly across all the main browsers. You cannot expect to build customer loyalty if your site is defective on one browser, even if it performs well on all the others.
4. EASIER TO NAVIGATE
Forget the bells and whistles; no one has time to negotiate a cluttered and confusing website. People want a logical, intuitive site that provides information and answers immediately. Pared, clean simplicity is what’s expected.
You and your developer may understand your site, but will your customers? The fresh eyes of a usability tester can tell you whether your site is a pleasure to navigate, or one to X off.
5. REDUCED SHOPPING CART ABANDONMENT
No one hangs around an e-commerce website that’s confusing or doesn’t work properly. Ask yourself the following:
- Can your customers buy quickly, and leave?
- Can they escape from the buying process?
- Can they go back to a previous page without losing what they’ve written on a form?
- Is your e-commerce security reassuring?
6. KEEP THEM COMING BACK
If your site has pop-up ads, or can only be accessed using Flash, or is riddled with typos, your website will sink on its launch.
However, if your site works perfectly on all platforms and delivers on its promises, your customers will return. Furthermore, they’ll probably recommend you to their friends.
Flawed content or functionality gives the impression that you may not care about how you conduct your business, or yourself. Testing your website for usability will save time and money in the long run, and will enhance the reputation of your business. To misquote Benjamin Franklin, “A gram of prevention is worth a kilo of cure”.