The Importance of Web Site Usability Testing

If you want a great Web site, you must test its usability. Just because no one has complained about your site doesn't mean that all your visitors are using your site effectively, efficiently and to their full satisfaction.

Visitors won't make the effort to complain unless you have outraged them in some way, or have provided an easy way for them to in touch with you from every page about the problems they may be having.

Improve Your Visitor Retention Rate

As many as one in three visitors to a home page will leave a site, without exploring further!

Usability testing and accurate monitoring can show you why you are losing so many new visitors.

Here are the most common reasons why new visitors to a site leave without exploring the site further:

  • The visitor doesn't understand what the site is about, or simply decides that it doesn't have what they were looking for;
  • The home page takes too long to download, and they give up waiting;
  • The visitor doesn't find what the link to your site promised; and
  • Your site requires an plug-in, such as Flash, to use, and they don't have, or dislike, that plugin.

Common visitor retention methods include:

  • providing regular updates on the front page to keep people coming back, even if they don't explore the site any further;
  • attracting people with exit pop up ads; and
  • offering something for free from the front page.

Discover Which Parts of Your Web Site Are Failing and Why

Usability testing can uncover all types of faults in your site.

For example, studies have shown that as many as two out of three shopping carts are abandoned before the checkout.

As such, you could decrease the shopping cart drop-out rate by testing the usability of your shopping cart and checkout system. Make the process simple for users!

Why do users abandon searches for products?

  • Over a third may simply give up trying to buy the item(s), possibly scared by the price, or they may realize they do not really want the item(s);
  • One in seven turn to another Web site and keep searching; and
  • 44% give up searching online and resort to buying the item(s) from traditional retail sources!

Improve the Brand Experience of Your Customers

Your visitors are much more likely to leave your site with a good impression of your brand if their experience with your site is a pleasant one.

You can improve your users' site experience by improving the usability of your Web site.

Usability problems that will give users a negative impression of your brand include:

  • Broken links;
  • Site errors;
  • Misspellings;
  • Poor grammar; and
  • Clumsy layout.

The discipline of information architecture is focused on developing sites and systems which result in two things. Firstly, the user getting the information they need. Secondly, the user having a positive experience.

If your users have a good 'user experience' with your site, and your site provides them with the information they need, they'll come back.

Improve Your Understanding of Your Customers

Usability testing will give you a better understanding of how your users think and how they use your Web site. After all, if you don't understand your customers, how can you provide exactly what they want?

What one person says can be interpreted differently by the the person listening. On the Internet, without tone of voice, it can be even worse. In the same way, what you think your users want from your site and how they use it could be different from what they really want.

Increase Sales and Profits

If usability testing can improve your visitor retention rate, decrease your shopping cart drop-out rate, and improve your customers' brand experience, it is inevitable that your sales and bottom-line will improve.

In trying to increase your sales, you need to adopt the mindset of a potential customer. Would you want to buy the products on your site? Are the audience you're targeting the ideal buyers for your product? If so, you're part of the way there.

Next, is the process of finding information on your products easy? Do users need more information than you currently offer? If you're selling technical goods, your customers might want to be able to download datasheets and schematics. Do you offer these?

The final part of the process is to see whether it's easy to purchase your products after the customer has chosen to buy. Is it obvious where users should click to initiate a purchase?

Bottom-Line Benefits of Usability Testing

While 'usability' has existed in one form or another in most industries, it wasn't considered important on the Web until recently. This means that the chances of usability being part of most companies' Web design processes is somewhat slim.

You may need to convince senior management of the benefits of usability testing before they will allocate the necessary budget or project development time. The best method is to talk about improving the customer conversion rate, increasing sales, and bottom-line benefits.