Three reasons you should do usertesting on your website

One of the most common mistakes I see small businesses make is that they don't undertake any usertesting on their website.

Matthew James Oxlade
Updated on

One of the most common mistakes I see small businesses make is that they don’t undertake any usertesting on their website. A leader or team responsible for the website loves the way it looks, and they think that all is done. The website looks great, so it will impress the customer, right?

Wrong. If there’s one thing my early jobs taught me as a teenager, it’s that the customer is always right. If you haven’t asked your customer, how do you know the website is actually what they need?

What is usertesting?

Usertesting is the process of analysing how a website is used by the intended end-user. It’s inevitable that you use your business’ website with a set of rose-coloured glasses. Or maybe you despise your own website, and those are some brown-coloured glasses you have on. Either way, you have knowledge that your customer doesn’t have.

Sit down with an existing or potential customer and ask them to carry out a task to assess the effectiveness of the website’s functions.

Whether that’s politics around the website, like who suggested what feature, or what your website previously offered and opinions around what constitutes ‘mandatory’ content that the new website design¬†must offer.

All of those aspects influence the way you see the website. We carry biases towards ideas and it alters the end-product. Usertesting eliminates that by separating your beliefs on how the website should be used and how the customer will actually use it.

Sit down with an existing or potential customer and ask them to carry out a task to assess the effectiveness of the website’s functions. That’s the cliff notes of how to undertake usertesting, anyway.

Some organisations specialise in usertesting, but if your business’ budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can undertake testing on your own with a notepad. Simply offering a customer a discount on an order for some time testing the new website design will deliver benefits.

A bad story about ignoring usertesting

This one time, at an organisation I worked at, I was asked to update the business’ website with information about a new service that was launching. In an effort to keep the business’ name a secret, let’s say the business specialised in the buying and hiring of scooters and bicycles, and the new service was for non-motorised scooter cleaning.

“Great news, we now clean non-motorised scooters. Can you add a link to the menu for people to get information on it?” the boss asked.

“Sure, but I think it will look a bit odd beside the existing two menu links, because they are categories. The first category is ‘Scooters’ and the second category is ‘Bicycles’. I think we should put it under ‘Scooters’ with the other sub-categories of scooters.” I suggested. We didn’t have any usertesting analysis done on the current website design, so I followed up by asking if we could undertake some usertesting on the current site to determine where the new cleaning service should sit.

“No, don’t worry about that. Just put it in the main menu so it has ‘Scooters’ then ‘Bicycles’ then ‘Non-motorised Scooter Cleaning’ and that’ll be great.” the person said. The decisiveness was great, but there were a few issues became apparent when I told to add the new text to the menu:

  • The length of ‘Non-motorised Scooter Cleaning’ caused issues with the mobile display of the website because the text was too long
  • Overall scooter hires went down despite scooter popularity increasing in the market, and bicycle hires remained steady for the business
  • The scooter cleaning menu item had a total engagement of 2%, with the other two menu items taking up the remainder of the engagement

Despite those issues, the business was booking scooter cleaning. The issue wasn’t the service as an offering to customers. The poor placement of extremely wordy text had negatively impacted the business. There were no other changes made to the business, and later usertesting showed that the customers looked for scooter cleaning services as they hovered on the ‘Scooters’ menu item.

Having usertesting data available would have prevented the business from losing sales and hiring of scooters to competitors because there would be proven insight into how customers interacted with the website.

The reasons

Reason 1: Good website experiences drive return sales

Customers love websites that are easy to use. Well, obviously. But the stats don’t lie. SWEOR says that 88% of online customers say they are less likely to return to a website if they have a bad experience.

Even if they do return to your website and share feedback on how much they hate browsing your website, it’s too late.¬†That’s not really feedback – it’s a customer complaint, and by that time it’s too late.

How many other customers have not chosen your business because the website is difficulty to use? You’ve already rolled out flawed website features to your whole customer base and you’re threatening real sales.

Reason 2: Measured analysis justifies change

Would you design your core product or service while wearing a blindfold? You wouldn’t, that was rhetorical. So why make decisions on website design without knowing what will work for the rest of your customers?

Knowledge is power. Knowing what works for a handful of customers is a solid indication for what will work for a larger audience. You’d be surprised what seemingly obvious way to interact with a website is not-so-obvious to the customer. I personally love analysing user experiences for this reason. There’s nothing better than knowing you are making decisions on real customer insights.

Trust me on this. A time will come where a colleague or executive will come out of the woodwork with a great idea you simply must implement. Maybe the idea is great, but chances are, it comes with the biases we spoke about earlier. Having usertesting data and analysis to refer to when new ideas are raised will save you from throwing away hours on an idea that “is worth a shot”. You can bring the usertesting analysis up to show what is proven to work, eliminating any risk of being seen as someone who just wants to be a roadblock.

Reason 3: Avoid money pits

Making bad decisions that need fixing later on only leads to double-spending. Sure, the website design team will be happy to do the work twice, because that’s twice the money or twice the invested time with no real sweat off their brow. Your budget will blow out if you need to rework aspects of the website based on feedback from real customers.

Getting complaints from customers is useful in making positive change to your website. Getting things right the first time is even better.

Why you should do usertesting on your website

Where do you stand on usertesting?

Honestly, giving you three reasons you should do usertesting on your website is far too few reasons why you need it. There is simply too much at stake with your business to take a guess at what your customers would find easy-to-use.