Designing a website can seem like an extremely daunting, mammoth task. Of course, it is a key component of any company, and in the modern world almost always an absolute necessity for any business to have success; from florists to banks to political parties and wastepaper basket companies. So, it makes sense that you would spend a great deal of time and money on making your website as attractive, professional and seamless as possible.
But why give over so much of your valuable time and budget to creating the right themes, putting together great content, finding useful links to include and so on, if the site doesn't end up being as user friendly as you thought?
Self Testing Vs User Testing
If you test your own website, it's very easy to consider it simple and easy to use, just because you are the one who designed it! You know what you're looking for, and exactly where to find it. You know all of the background information, all of the processes involved in your line of work, how to make a purchase - every component of your website has been designed and approved by you, but probably targets people who have less knowledge of the subject area than you and your employees.
That's why user testing is so immensely valuable to anybody involved in any web design. It's a process by which people who would be genuinely using your website are asked to trial it, and feedback their experience of the site's utility, simplicity, attractiveness and so on (you can see an example video here).
But despite the obvious benefits of making use of this service, it is one of the most overlooked processes in web design. Whether it's because people don't know enough about this process and how useful it is, or whether they simply feel web design is expensive enough without adding user testing to the cost, neglecting to test real people's experiences of your website could end up costing businesses.
What can User Testing achieve?
User testing companies like User Testing Inc. and whatusersdo offer a whole range of different services which could greatly benefit your website. They can provide you with videos of your target audience navigating your site, whilst reporting any difficulties they encounter, including feedback on the layout, theme, ease of use and so on, as they work their way through. You can have games tested as verified users play in real time, you can gain access to videos and reports from users reviewing your competition, to see how your site compares with theirs. You can find out whether your site is accessible and usable not just from a computer, but from a tablet, smart phone and so on. With some services, you can even design your own test, so that you target areas of your site you may already have concerns or reports of flaws with. You can find out how the public feels about your social media presence, which can make a big difference to your overall image, and things like how much your content gets read. You can also check whether the images you use are having the desired effect, and how users react to different images, or you can observe how people's use of your website changes over time with more longitudinal tests. You can even check how users interact with search engines to end up on your site - a truly valuable test for anybody hoping to generate more traffic and gain more readers, followers, or customers.
Clearly, then, user testing holds at least one benefit for every type of business imaginable, and it is undoubtedly something worth investing a little extra time and money into. It doesn't have to be particularly expensive, especially as you can often choose a package of services best suited to your particular needs, and so avoid paying for irrelevant or unhelpful tests.
Ultimately, you can never truly predict how users will interact with your website. Regardless of how many weeks, or even months, you spend trying to make your site as easy as possible to use, the moment you allow real customers to visit the page, you may find they behave in ways completely different than what you had designed for, and expected. This is another benefit of user testing, a robust and responsive reporting process. If your user testing was thorough, then the simple act of finding and reporting issues will be a significant advantage. for when the site goes live.
You should make sure your website is the very best it can be, and gains you customers instead of costing them. Tailor it to their needs and behavior, to make their use of it as enjoyable and easy as possible, and ensure that they will return time and time again. Don't waste the valuable opportunity created for you by user testing!