PeakUniversity: The Art of User Testing

Recently, Allison Reitz, an Optimization Specialist at PeakActivity, gave a PeakUniversity presentation to our employees on “The Art of User Testing.” We caught up with her afterward to gain more insight into what User Testing is, how and when it can be effectively implemented, and the unique challenges it presents. 


Q: What is User Testing?

A: A crucial component of the UX design and optimization process, User Testing is an early evaluation of proposed changes to a website’s design, content, features, and functionalities based on research with your customer base. A website is a living, breathing entity and there will always be improvements to be made. Those improvements can be informed by User Testing.

Q:  How is it different from other tests, such as A/B Testing?

A:  A/B Testing focuses on quantitative analysis. User Testing primarily focuses on qualitative feedback. In other words, A/B tests and website analytics help you gather data about how users behave. User Testing helps answer why they behave that way.

Q: How many users do you need for User Testing?

A: When setting up a user test, it’s advisable to start with a small group of people. Typically, you will only need to speak to five respondents to identify most major issues that your website or mobile application may have. To find less common issues, you can recruit more respondents, but be careful not to cast the net too wide. Wading through 50-100+ user test responses can bog you down and limit your ability to respond quickly to high-impact problem areas.

Q: What metrics will User Testing gather?

A: User tests specifically focus on qualitative data, such as: Why do users engage with a feature a certain way? What are their actual questions and concerns as they move through a checkout funnel? Does their understanding of a website page, feature, or product match what you intended, or are they misunderstanding something that causes later confusion?

Given that most user tests gather qualitative data, rather than quantitative, the metrics will be fundamentally different from those measured by A/B tests. But you can still compile your users’ responses in a way that provides quantitative guidance. For example, some User Testing platforms can generate heat maps that show where respondents scrolled or clicked most often, and what percent of respondents interacted in that way. 

Additionally, you can group similar responses together for rough estimates of how many users may be impacted by an issue. Say, 1 out of 5 users said they couldn’t locate the search menu, but 4 out of 5 had trouble entering their billing information. Maybe you prioritize fixing the issue that affected 80% of your respondents first, before addressing the issue that only 20% of respondents mentioned.

Q: When should you deploy User Testing?

A: User Testing can provide valuable insight in situations where website traffic is too low for an A/B test to produce statistically significant results, or where you need meaningful results faster than an A/B test can produce. Or perhaps you’ve identified an issue on your site and so you already know the “how many” and “how much,” but in order to resolve the issue, you need to better understand the “why”. User Testing can also be quite advantageous when you need guidance in or confirmation of an idea up-front, before investing in a major development or design project.

Q: Overall, what challenges are unique to User Testing?

A: In User Testing, you’re dropping your respondents into a point in your website funnel, or you’re showing them a mockup or clickable prototype, and you’re asking, “What would you do if…?” Since your respondents are using their imagination to some degree, they may respond differently than how they would actually behave in real life.

To help combat this, it’s best to first ask some questions to understand the user’s expectations: What do they expect to see on a specific page or step of a website? How do they expect a specific feature to work? Then, show them the page or feature that you want them to evaluate, and compare how they react to it, and interact with it, to the initial expectations that they set.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that how you ask a question can change the answer, or lead your respondents to answer a certain way. 

For example, “Why?” questions tend to trigger emotion-based responses — whether they’re defensive, or frustrated, or overly confident. The goal of User Testing, however, is to gather a more introspective response. So, instead of asking “Why did you click there?”, you might instead say, “What made you decide to click there?”

Even a question as simple and common as, “How do you like this feature?” presumes that they do like it. Instead, try to ask users to respond using a scale with a defined low-end and high-end, like: “On a scale of 1 (very difficult to use) to 5 (very easy to use), how would you rate this feature?”

Meet the Presenter:

Allison Reitz, born and raised in the Northeast, attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where she earned her degree in English – Writing, Communication, and Rhetoric. After a couple years as a journalist, Allison switched fields and began working in user experience research and front-end development. She discovered a love of digging through analytics and observing user behavior to find answers to otherwise difficult questions. Speaking about her role at PeakActivity, she says, “I get to do what I love at a company that I’m growing to love more by the day.”


About PeakUniversity

PeakUniversity is a series of peer-to-peer, TedTalk-style presentations given by passionate subject matter experts to expand knowledge and generate interest in the subject matter of each session.

Want to learn more about User Testing and how it can help your business?

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Creating an Effortless Experience for Clients on your Website

There is an increasing acceptance that the key to business success in a digital world is to provide an outstanding customer experience. Customers, often unwilling to put up with painful interactions, can and will abandon a site if the user experience causes even the smallest complication. 

What could be the solution to a website providing a poor user experience? Spend some time on your website or application, and while doing so, ask yourself what could be done better to decrease the frustration experienced by a common user. Put yourself into the shoes of your customer, so that your own familiarity with the site doesn’t get in the way of identifying common issues.

Are you looking to create an effortless website experience? Here are a few tips to a seamless website creation process: 

  1. Don’t just solve the current issue, head off to the next issue.

Great user experience will always put you one step ahead. It is best to know and understand your website so you can predict the next issue that your users may experience and offer solutions to that issue. Does your website have a page that offers classes? After viewing that page, people will likely be interested in signing up. So, you need to give them that opportunity to ensure their user experience is positive. 

The smart washing machine is an example of this issue. Samsung was already aware of the problem with their smart washing machine, therefore, consumers likely expected to receive an email with more information about the process of connecting the washing machine to the corresponding phone application. For ease of use, this information could have been included in the specs of the washing machine, better-allowing consumers to evaluate the pros and cons of the smart washing machine and make an informed purchasing decision.

  1. Do the thinking for them. 

Designers need to spend time when creating the website to decide the target market, what they are looking for, and what they will gain from spending time on the website. When a website has too much information, it detracts from the interactions taking place on the site. The more choices displayed on a page, the easier it becomes for site visitors to refrain from choosing anything and ultimately leaving the page altogether. Make sure you give clear calls to actions so that customers know exactly what action they are supposed to perform and when. 

Providing prospects with great user experience is critical to the success of your business. The goal of each website is to provide a positive user experience. You don’t need a complete website redesign to improve the user experience of your website. All you need to do is make changes that will result in easy and pleasant user experience. You’ll be surprised just how much of a difference these little changes can have on customer satisfaction and revenue.

What is Omnichannel?

Originating in retail, but applicable to any industry, the term “omnichannel” has been a buzzword for the last several years. Omnichannel is an approach to sales that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick-and-mortar store.

With each part operating on its own, customers may not recognize disparate channels as part of the same marketing effort, and this can be either confusing or instill a lack of customer confidence in your company. That being said, it is hard to create a true omnichannel with so many complex tools and systems that are unable to talk to each other. 

The Future of Shopping 

Whether customers visit a brick-and-mortar store or a website, whether they connect through a mobile app, a printed catalog, social media, or a phone call, marketers have to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device.

Omnichannel is consistent, yet unique. It provides consumers with a means of purchasing through numerous different platforms, while also communicating and showing awareness in a way that is consistent with the platform the consumers are utilizing during their stage of the customer lifecycle. 

Nearly 75% of shoppers say they use multiple channels to compare prices, hunt for discounts, or use in-store tablets to shop online. Linking your online and in-store business is essential to stay competitive. By creating a fully connected eCommerce platform, shoppers can buy whenever they want, through any channel, on any device, and expect a variety of delivery options. 

Room for Growth 

Consumer demand for flexibility and choice is driving the pace of technology innovation in commerce, both online and off. Omnichannel retailing is a fully-integrated approach to commerce, providing shoppers with a unified experience across all channels or touchpoints.

Part of an omnichannel strategy is flexibility. New channels emerge and steal attention from incumbent channels. Brands with robust omnichannel strategies often rely on a headless commerce architecture, which allows brands to flexibly offer commerce anywhere there are customers. 

Unlock new channels for growth and future-proof your business with an omnichannel approach

Need help creating an effortless experience on your website?  Get in touch with us by filling out this form!

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