You’ve just completed your client’s website design or redesign and are almost ready to launch the site. But wait! Before you take the website live, there are some usability tests you should run to ensure site visitors experience a seamless website that hits all the points to convert visitors into customers.
One of the top buzzwords in recent years is user experience (UX). At the end of the day, if your client’s site isn’t usable, they’ll have a high bounce rate and lose potential conversions. A website that isn’t sticky isn’t very likely to impress your clients.
Users expect to see certain elements on a page from the moment they land. About 86 percent of site visitors say they expect to see information about the company’s products and services on the home page as well as contact information and the company’s story.
At least two weeks before your launch, you should begin testing the usability of the site. Two weeks allows you a time frame for running A/B tests and ensuring it is the absolute best it can be. If you have a bit more time to devote to testing, that’s even better.
1. Take a Step Back
Once the site is ready, take a step back and study the aesthetics of it. The way it looks is the first impression visitors have of your client. You have mere milliseconds to make that first impression on users.
Actually take a step back from your computer screen and look at the page. Is there a good balance of positive and negative space? Pay attention to that first impression of how your page looks. If you aren’t sure, get a second and perhaps even a third opinion.
Two types of tests can check for first impressions. Tools such as 5 Second Test conduct first impression tests by showing the page for five seconds. You’ll then gather initial impression such as what colors were noticed and if the style is pleasing. Another type of test you can conduct is a first-click test. First-click tests such as Chalkmark determine if your call to action (CTA) is easy to find.
2. Choose Testers
Every function of your website should go through testing to ensure it works as intended and the process is intuitive for users. You must figure out who you’d like to conduct those tests for you. If you’re short on time, you can hire third-party testers. You can also conduct the tests yourself, enlist employees to help or involve trusted customers in the process, rewarding them for their help.
No matter who conducts the testing, create a website launch checklist of things to look for, such as ensuring all links go where they are intended, buttons are actionable and page load speeds are short. With Qualaroo, you can ask a few targeted questions and get real-time feedback from testers. Usability Hub is another option, which asks questions and then provides responses from real users.
3. Create User Personas
A buyer persona is a mock person you create who represents your typical audience member. Gather details from your internal data as well as analytics from website visitors and develop a character for your client. Every test you run should go through the lens of your persona. If you plan to change the colors of your design, how might your client’s persona respond to the change? Does a certain color resonate better with one audience than another? Having a target user in mind also allows you to choose testers who are most closely aligned with the audience you’d like to reach and creates a user-centered design that resonates with the buyer.
Make the process of creating a persona a bit more fun by using a persona creation tool such as Persona Generator or HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool. HubSpot also offers additional tools to help you gather data, test your site and create a more accurate buyer avatar.
4. Collect Content
One thing that often creates a content bottleneck is clients who don’t send you needed information on time, which makes meeting deadlines difficult.
Set deadlines for your clients to send work to you. You could also use an online project management platform, such as Slack or Trello, to remind clients about work needed and keep a handle on where everyone is in the content creation process.
You’ll need content a minimum of two weeks before a site launches. You must have time to rework writing, edit content for errors and tweak everything for readability.
5. Test Accessibility Across Devices
Today’s users often access websites from smartphones, tablets or PCs. Many different types of devices and ways of connecting are available, so it’s vital for your site to work on multiple platforms and adapt to the different screen sizes out there.
At least a week before your launch, test website accessibility across different device types. If you want to see if your website design is accessible to people with disabilities, run it through Level Access’ Web Accessibility checker. You can also download their software that monitors the site as you make changes and informs you of any potential problem areas. To check for visual impairments such as colorblindness, try Toptal’s colorblind filter.
6. Conduct and Document Tests
Set up some A/B tests with the participants you’ve chosen, which might be your typical customers, employees who are testing for you or a control group. Use tools such as Google’s Optimize to test different versions of your web page and see which one converts best for your client. Adobe Target is another option for testing your site and provides feedback on what elements of your page perform best with users and also allows you to test for different user locations.
Make sure you document statistics from the tests, such as error rates, and look at the areas on the page where people click the most. Track click-through rates for different variations of calls to action (CTAs). With hard facts, it’s easier to see what needs changing at a glance.
Use anchors and modals to see what performs best for your site. For example, you might offer a variation where the navigation bar scrolls along with the user as they move down the page. Track whether it performs better to find out if you should stick with a fixed nav bar. For each little change, test and document results until each element on the page performs to the best of your ability. This type of attention to detail is what clients look for when seeking out a UX designer.
7. Make Adjustments
If you’ve conducted numerous tests for two weeks or more, you now have a list of data to help you improve your client’s website before going live. Based on the results of the tests, make final adjustments to your page. If one color CTA button performed better than all the others, change the CTA to that color in the final version of the client’s site. Study the data and make any required changes.
If needed, conduct additional A/B testing, but understand that it takes a while to get the results back from split testing — if you plan to conduct additional tests, you may need more time to gather valid data.
8. Complete Final Tests
Once a page has the appearance and functions, spend some time retesting every element and making sure there are no coding errors from the changes. Follow these steps:
- Check all links and make sure they work.
- Look at the labels on forms and ensure they make sense and have no typos or errors.
- Submit test forms to make sure they work and arrive safely on the other side so that you can respond to new leads.
- Conduct speed tests of your site through Pingdom or other speed test tools. Look for coding errors.
Take a step back again and ensure the page is still aesthetically pleasing. Ask for feedback from customers, and get ready to launch your client’s beautiful new website.
Working out the Bugs
Nearly any new or revamped website has a few errors that need to be fixed. Even something as minor as a misspelled word may turn users off and impact the way they view your client’s site. Involve other employees in the process, enlisting their help in finding typos and areas of each page that aren’t as usable as they should be.
The customer experience on a site impacts whether a user chooses to become a customer. User experience is one of the most important factors in the life of your design. Take the time and effort needed to test every little element on the page, and your clients’ sites will have a higher conversion rate and make a better impression than one you didn’t spend time testing.
- Shane Barker‘s post on web analytics tools – analytics can help you understand how people use your site