User experience has come along way from a person doing 10 steps to complete a task to a person completing the same task in less then 4 steps. Yet, many companies and organization fail to realize spending a little money on usability testing and user centered design will not only get the user engaged but have them come back and recommend the site to others. It seems logical to develop and design based on user experience and by doing so you can guarantee a higher turn out for your efforts.
More often then not you will have clients who will not have the budget to have extensive testing specifically on user experience, design or development. Most designers and developers who track trends (not follow trends of course) will have an idea on how to gather case studies and show clients. It can’t be stressed enough, we need to keep tabs on studies and articles posted by influential bloggers. By tracking usability studies we can effectively educate the client on what will be the best way to form their site.
A way to start some testing that will not cost you much is to start wire-framing every page and stapling them together. Your next step is to get a couple of volunteers to complete a few tasks. This can range from:
• Find the contact page
• Select and buy a product (offered on a clients site)
• Find the form to sign up or sign in
• Find a specific page based on a keyword used on the home page (the home page should always be the place to start because we all know that most people enter the site through the home page)
Make sure you don't say a word while the user is trying to find what you’re asking for. We have tendencies to baby our project and when someone is having trouble designers and developers jump to the rescue, which makes the testing useless. You want to track and reform your efforts with each person you do this with. I am sure you can find at least 5-10 (friends, family or co-workers) people to test what you’ve created in your wireframe.
What I tend to use for usability testing when a site is live or in beta mode is to have heat maps on important pages (home page, product page or contact page). With heat maps you track clicks and see if your call to action or your most important page is being clicked on. And on these pages you should create a goal in Google analytics and track what really happens behind the scenes.
Remember, web marketing no longer just includes SEO (search engine optimization). Were officially in the era of behavioral design and marketing. Search engines are getting smarter by the day. Here are some examples of what is now important to search engines or will be in the future:
• The bounce rate
• The time spent on the site
• The quality of your referral links
• User trends
• How often the content on your site is shared
• Is the site mobile friendly
• Do you offer an app etc.
You can research web 3.0 to get a better idea where the next trends seems to be going.
A design, developer and a web marketer might assume that showing the value of user centered design and development is actually involving the client in the process and showing them the results. This will definitely get their attention and have them invest a little more time and capital. When they see how simple but valuable the process is they can appreciate the results and the work being done to improve the site. How can you argue with facts and statistics to improve metrics and ROI?