Category Archives: Usability

What Are The Implications of Gall’s Law For Digital Marketing?

What is Gall’s Law?

Gall’s Law is a rule of thumb which indicates that complex systems that work are normally found to have evolved from a simple system that worked.  This means trying to design a complex system from scratch is never successful and it cannot be made to work once it has been created. It is necessary to begin again with a simple system before trying to make it complex.

Gall’s Law originates from John Gall’s book Systemantics: How Systems Really Work and How They Fail. The law supports the idea of under-specification and has been used to explain the success of the World Wide Web and Facebook. Both of these systems began life as fairly uncomplicated systems but have since evolved over time to become highly complex ecosystems.

There are of course many examples of complex systems that have failed, especially in IT, but the evidence for Gall’s Law does appear more anecdotal than scientific. The other principles of Gall’s Law are:

  1. Complex systems rely on many variables and interdependencies that have to be organised precisely for them to function correctly. Designing complex systems from scratch doesn’t work because they haven’t been shaped by environmental selection forces that allow systems to naturally become more complex.
  2. Uncertainty means that designers can never predict all of the interdependencies and variables needed to build a complex system from scratch. This means such complex systems are prone to failure in all kinds of unexpected ways.
  3. Environmental constraints which change over time and are again unpredictable suggest designing a simple system that works in the current environment and then adjust the system over time to improve it.
  4. As prototyping and iteration are so effective as value-creation processes it is much easier to use these methodologies to verify that a system meets critical functional needs rather than try to build a complex system from scratch.
  5. Developing that prototype into a minimum viable offer enables project managers to validate critical assumptions and produce a simple system that can work with real users.
  6. The organisation can then use iteration and incremental augmentation to develop an extremely complex system over time that can be adapted to environmental changes.

Implications for conversion rate optimisation:

1. Focus on critical customer needs.

This means aim to begin by building simple apps and websites that are not overly complex and don’t have too many features and functions that most customers are unlikely to ever use. Snap Chat for instance started out as a very simple messaging app and has only gradually become mo re complex over time.Get the basic right first.

Unfortunately this is not ‘sexy’ or ‘cool’ and so often product teams add features based upon their personal preference rather than evidence. Avoid this if you can.

  1. Get the basic right first.

All too often people get obsessed with the latest feature or functionality that competitors offer without first getting the basics working on their own site or app. For example, most users won’t change default settings and so there is little to gain from giving customers more choice in the settings tab if no one ever uses them.

3. Allow for your app or website to evolve over time.

A key principle of Gall’s Law is that software starts simple and then evolves to become more complex over time. Optimisers and project managers should make allowance for this evolutionary change by building in feedback and reporting mechanisms to facilitate this process. Listening to customers and using A/B and multivariate testing should be part of the iterative process for allowing your app or site to evolve over time.

Conclusion:

Gall’s Law should be a reminder for designers, project managers and optimisers to stay focused on key customer needs and avoid the dangers of mission-creep and over-complicating a new user experience. Get the basics right first and allow for evolutionary change via customer feedback and optimisation experiments.

Gall’s Law could have been written for conversion rate optimisation as one of the key principles of CRO is to establish an evolutionary optimisation strategy rather than going for regular site re-designs. This makes for less disruption for users and it provides optimisers with more opportunities to understand the impact of small changes on success metrics.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

Top Posts of 2016

What happened in 2016?

2016 has been a great year for Conversion-Uplift as I now offer conversion rate consultancy services to a range of organisations. I also migrated from Tumblr to a WordPress and published a Glossary of Conversion Marketing. This has over 250 pages of definitions and examples from the commercial world..

But what caught your imagination most in 2016? Here are my most popular posts of 2016:

1.  How to use card sorting – Card sorting tools to improve website navigation. This post made it to the first page of Google and attracts a lots of visitors to the site.

2. Customer ratings – 6 top E-commerce rating and review platforms to build trust and credibility. This post also got to the first page of Google and is currently the most popular article on the site.

3. Optimisation solutions – Digital marketing toolbox – with over 300 solutions. A regular favourite with anyone wanting to optimise their site or app.

4. Competitor analysis – 10 website audience comparison tools for competitor benchmarking. A popular post since it was published in August.

5. Testing solutions – Which A/B & MVT testing solution should you choose? Now includes AI solution from Sentient Ascend.

6. The EU referendum result – They psychology of Brexit – Why emotions won over logic? A topical subject and a psychological perspective of why the UK voted to leave the EU.

7. Cultural dimensions of optimisation – Cross-cultural website optimization. Cultural differences in visitor preferences can seriously upset the standard template approach to website design.

8. Address look-up solutions – 11 free and paid for address look-up solutions. A must for any sign-up form or check-out process.

9. Referendum & democracy – Referendum a device for demagogues and dictators? Another Brexit post, this time about using referendum to make such important decisions.

10. Psychology of incentives – The psychology of reward and how to motivate your customers. What psychology tells us about creating automatic responses for marketing purposes. 

Many thanks for visiting my website during 2016 and I hope you will continue to return in 2017 and beyond.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

 

Why is auto-play bad for conversions?

Why is auto-play bad for website accessibility?

Do you find it annoying when someone who is playing music or a video in a public place doesn’t use headphones, but expects you to listen to their music or movie choice without you having a say in the matter? Well, how do you think your visitors might feel when they land on your site and they are greeted by an auto-play video of your latest ad, music or at Christmas time, continuous falling snow?

I love Christmas decorations and lights but a few years ago I got the nickname of the Grinch after I asked for falling snow to be taken off a website I was helping to optimise. It had broken an A/B test I was running. But more importantly it can be very distracting and make a site inaccessible for those visitors using a screen-reader. For some users it can even cause  migraines and seizures. This can significantly harm your conversion rate.

 

What kinds of auto-play can reduce conversion?

Animated visual effects, such as falling snow or other moving images that go across or down the screen.

  • A music player that begins playing once a page has loaded.
  • Animated GIFs that automatically play when you arrive on a page.
  • An auto-rotating slider or carousel.
  • Anything else that moves or flashes automatically on a page can be considered auto-play. So, why can auto-plays reduce conversion?

Movement is distracting:

Image of a nuclear bomb exploding as movement is the nuclear option

Conversion expert Tim Ash from Site Tuners refers to movement as the “nuclear option” because our brains are hard-wired to be drawn to any kind of movement in case it is a threat to our existence. We can’t help but look towards anything that moves. If this is your call to action then it may be appropriate, but if it is anything else then the risk is that it will take your visitor away from your conversion goal.

It can obscure vital assets or information:

Falling snow or other visual effects that result in random sections of your page being covered with moving images can make it difficult to read information or instructions. In addition it can actually prevent users from interacting with clickable images (e.g. Add to basket CTA) because the effect temporarily covers the asset concerned. This can result in cart and site abandonment.

Trigger migraines & seizures:

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, around three percent of people with epilepsy find that exposure to flashing lights or certain visual patterns can trigger seizures. These kinds of visual effects can also cause migraines which are a much more common for web users. Moving content and blinking can be a severe distraction for people with certain health conditions such as attention deficit disorder as they find it difficult to focus on other parts of the screen.

Image of Tweets complaining about falling snow on websites
Source: Twitter.com

Audio-auto-play reduces accessibility:

Audio or video auto-play can be especially intrusive as the sound will either cancel or conflict with other audio tracks the user is listening to at that moment. This can be very annoying for a user who is listening to music or someone in a quiet zone. However, for someone using a screen-reader an audio track can make the site unusable as they won’t be able to continue with their task until the audio track has finished playing.

Auto-sliders suck:

Image of auto-slider on Snapfish.co.uk homepage
Source: Snapfish.co.uk

Auto-sliders or carousels are so common it is easy to assume they must work because so many sites use them. Unfortunately this is the kind of herd mentality that many business people use to justify adding an auto-slider to their site.

The evidence from many A/B tests and usability tests is very different because visitors lose control of the user interface when assets are automatically moved around by the slider. Further, low literacy and international users often don’t have enough time to finish reading the slider before it is removed.

As auto-sliders move and they look like banners many users assume they are ads. This means they are more likely to ignore them and as a consequence interaction levels on many auto-sliders are miniscule. Auto-sliders that I have analysed generally have a low level of clicks (less than 1% of visitors) and the vast majority of clicks are on the first position.

Erik Runyon’s analysis of sliders also shows very low levels of click through on these assets. Further, he confirms that most clicks (between 54% and 89%) are on position one of the slider.

Conclusion:

Apart from being distracting, auto-plays make sites less accessible and can trigger or exasperate certain medical conditions. It is also perceived as aggressive and annoys people because they have lost control of the user interface without giving permission.  Once you have annoyed visitors their perception of your whole site and your product will be negatively impacted.

Auto-play advice:

  • Give back control to your visitors. Display a prominent play button (i.e. above the fold) and make your slider user controlled with obvious icons (i.e. not small dots that few users will notice). Even better, remove your slider as they generally don’t engage users.
  • Silent explainer videos can sometimes work as it is the audio element that is usually most disruptive. But make sure there is a prominent button to pause or stop it for returning visitors or those customers who want to continue to browse.
  • Short video clips (i.e. 5 seconds or less) can work, but again have a skip or stop button for those impatient visitors who want to continue with browsing.
  • Avoid any random moving images or flashing assets (e.g. falling snow) as this can seriously reduce accessibility for some visitors and is generally distracting.
  • When users are informed beforehand that a link will take them to view a video clip it is acceptable to use auto-play as this meets their expectations.

 

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

How to improve site load speed to increase conversions

Does site speed matter?

A slow loading webpage creates a poor user experience, but does it really make a significant difference if you have an awesome proposition, product or website? Well, Google discovered that page speed does matter big time and it shelved a potential improvement to its search engine results page as a direct result.

After listening to customers in research express a clear preference for 30 rather 10 results on Google search, Marissa Mayer, Director of Search Products and User Experience, decided to A/B test displaying these two options. The experiment showed that displaying the extra 20 search results increased the time for the page to load by 0.5 seconds. Shockingly this led to a 20% fall in full page renders when 30 results were displayed.  In other words one in five users searching on Google were not willing to wait an extra 0.5 seconds for a page to load.

Research by Google indicates that mobile users are even more sensitive to page loading speed. A page load time of between 1 to 5 seconds means the probability of a bounce increases by 90%

Image of impact of page load speed on bounce rate for mobile devices
Image Source:

 

So how quickly should a webpage load? Research for Akamai and Gomez.com found that almost a half of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less and that many will leave a site if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. This demonstrates that users have relatively high expectations and could help explain the impact on conversion of slow loading websites.

As a rule of thumb if your site loads within 3 seconds that is pretty good performance. More normal is between 4 to 7 seconds, but don’t be satisfied with that, look to reduce it. Anything more than 7 seconds and you definitely should be looking to take action to reduce the time your visitors have to wait to interact with your website. You should seek to reduce load speed provided the ROI makes sense. This can be assisted by A/B testing identical pages that have different load speeds. Provided you see an uplift that outweighs the cost of improving the load speed then it is worth continuing the process.

How to measure load speed?

Image of tape measure
Source: Freeimages.com

All web analytics tools should allow you to see your individual page load speeds. If you are using Google Analytics go to “Behaviour” and select “Site Speed” and “Page timings”. In the drop down menu select “Average Document Interactive Time” as this is a measure of how long before a user can begin to interact with the page. This is a more meaningful indicator of load speed as many sites have content loading in the background well after the page appears to have loaded to a visitor.

 

Google Analytics site speed overview
Google Analytics – Site speed overview

 

Other tools to measure load speed:

  1. Google Developers: Free resource that rates your page speed for desktop and mobile devices. Generally your site should get a score of over 80 to be performing well, but see how you compare to your major competitors to benchmark your site speed.  It also provides recommendations for the main areas to investigate to improve your load speed.

Google Developers Page Speed Tools

  1. WebPagetest: Free tool for the more technically minded user that allows you to define the geographical location and to test different in different browsers. This gives you a detailed breakdown of the load speed of individual elements on the page.

 

  1. OctaGate Site Timer: Provides a Free evaluation of the impact on load speed of images, frames, iframes, script files and it also follows redirects. It also helps you identify the key offenders for you to optimise.

 

  1. YSlow: This gives you a Free analysis of load speed and indicates why page speed is slow based upon Yahoo!’s rules. It also enables you to select the browser you wish to test the page in.

 

How to speed up your site:

1. Minimise page size:

image of 2 weights
Source: FreeImages.com

1.1 Use GZIP compression – Check if your web host is using GZIP compression and deflation as this can reduce file size by up to 70% without adversely affecting the quality of images of videos.  Enter your site URL into the GZIP test tool to find out if your site is already GZIPPED.

 

1.2 Use JPEG rather than PNG images – PNG images don’t compress photographs anywhere near as much as JPEG files can and so make sure you use JPEG’s when you can. Smaller file sizes can help improve load speed markedly.

 

1.3 Adjust JPEG image quality – By setting the image quality of JPEG’s to 50-75% you can often significantly decrease the size of your images without any obvious reduction in image sharpness.

 

 

1.4 Avoid single page websites – Trying to get all your content on a single page is problematic at the best of times, but it also tends to result in very slow loading times because the page is often long and there are no other page to move content to.

Image of popcorngarage.com

1.5 Remove extraneous metadata from image files – Designers often leave a lot of metadata in image files, including comments, thumbnails and other information that they may find useful, but just adds to the file size. Get your designer to create a backup a copy for themselves and then put the website image version through image optimization software to minimise the file size and remove ancillary chunks.

 

2. Reduce the number of browser requests:

 

2.1 Enable browser caching – Provided your page dependencies don’t change too often you should look to enable browser caching so that the browser doesn’t have to dynamically generate the page every single time it loads. Contact your server admin or if you use WordPress you can use plugins like WP Super Cache to significantly improve page load times.

 

2.2 Use CSS sprites to combine small images into one file. Most websites have lots of small images (e.g. logos, icons, buttons etc.) which normally have to be fetched individually from the server. CSS sprites significantly improve performance by combining all the small images on a page into a single file called a “sprite”. This reduces the overhead of having to fetch multiple image files.

 

2.3 Merge related CSS and JavaScript files – Combining individual CSS and JavaScript files can reduce the number of files and thus help your browser load much faster.

2.4 Minimise the number of redirects – Multiple 301 redirects can confuse your browser and slow page load dramatically. Be careful not to create too many redirects as this can kill load speed.

3. Minimise the distance to your site:

3.1 Reduce the distance to your site – If you have users spread out around the globe consider a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to allow access to a server near the geographical location of your visitors. CDN providers such as Amazon Cloudfront and Softlayer provide competitive CDN services that can significantly improve site load speed.

Conclusion:

The evidence is clear – load speed is an important driver of bounce rates and conversion. Don’t let a slow site speed harm your conversion rate as there are plenty of ways to improve load speeds. Make sure you regularly check our site speed and use the above strategies to improve your site’s performance. It could make a large difference to your conversion rate.

Here is a great infographic from Skilled.co on how load speed affects your website.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

9 Tools For Getting Design Feedback For Websites

For many websites there is hardly a day goes by without a new page or updates being rolled out. Rightly or wrongly there is constant pressure to keep websites looking fresh and to add new functionality or content to improve the customer experience and increase conversions. However, from my experience of evaluating website performance one thing is guaranteed, customers will always surprise you with how they interact or don’t interact with a new page or website.

Image of lady lying on the ground next to laptop
Source: Freeimages.com

 

That killer functionality will rarely instantly take-off, if at all. Visitors will not behave as predicted on your new website and they will often complain about the changes you have made. Key metrics will drop, and though they may largely recover, some measures will never be the same as on the old page or website. In some cases this may be welcome, but often conversion rates will suffer. So what should you do to prepare yourself for the launch of the new customer experience?

 

If you can you could A/B test your new design against the existing page or website. This will confirm how your key metrics are likely to change as a result of the new design, but it won’t tell you why visitors are behaving differently. To answer these types of questions you need more qualitative feedback rather than numbers. Below are 9 tools you can use to get design feedback from customers or experts to help identify where users may be having trouble with your new customer experience.

 

  1. Criticue:

This free tool provides you with the ability to get feedback on website designs from a community of entrepreneurs, usability experts and web designers. Reviews for your website are earned by you providing feedback on other community members’ designs. For each review you submit you earn one credit and this gives you the right to request one review of your screenshot. Importantly all reviews are moderated before any credits are processed and so this minimises the potential for misuse of the community.

Image of Criticue.com homepage

2. Five Second Test (Usability Hub):

Get feedback from real people on your landing page, wireframes and mock-ups to understand people’s first impressions of your design during their initial 5 seconds of viewing your design. This helps you evaluate how intuitive your page is by understanding what a person can recall about your design based upon those first few seconds.

Price: $99 per month for access to all services.

fivesecondtest.com homepage

 

3. Loop11: 

Online usability testing with your first project free (up to 5 tasks and 2 questions). Covers over 40 languages, provides heatmaps and clickstream analysis, real-time reporting, and you can test on mobile devices.

Pricing: A Free usability test is available for new customers. Pay as you go costs $350 per project. All plans include 1,000 participants per project, unlimited tasks and questions, testing on mobile, real-time results and 24/7 email support.

The Micro plan costs $158 a month and is designed for organisations with between 1 and 10 employees, plus for non-profits and public sector clients. The SMB plan costs $410 per month and is for 11 to 100 employees. The Enterprise plan is priced at $825 per month.

Loop11.com homepage

4. Peek from User Testing:

Get a Free 5 minute video of a real person using your site. You only need to provide your name, company phone and email address and you can have up to 3 tests per month.

Peek.usertesting.com homepage

  1. Proved:

A crowd sourcing tool for getting almost instant feedback on an idea, prototype or a new product development that you want to check-out before it goes live. Feedback is normally provided within 3 to 4 hours and guaranteed within 24 hours.

Pricing: A free trial is available (English only) for up to 3 respondents for one test per account and with feedback within 48 hours. A starter plan costs $149 per test for 25 respondents and supports 11 languages. The basic plan costs $299 per test for 50 respondents and the Pro plan is priced at $499 for 100 respondents.

 

Proved.co homepage

6. Sitepoint:

A forum of web designers and developers set up specifically to give design feedback from over 350,000 registered users. Sitepoint is a media company which serves the web design and development sector by publishing articles and e-books. Free membership provides limited access to the community, but for $99 per year you can get Premium membership which gives you access to over 5,000 videos, 83 eBooks, and live Q&A and chat with experts.

Sitepoint.com premium homepage

 

7. Usabilla:

Provides insights from users through a customised feedback button for websites, apps and emails. This allows users to select the part of your website that they want to give feedback on and there are multiple targeting options.

Prices: No costs shown on the website.

Usabilla.com homepage

8. UserBob:

 Provides videos of users talking about what they think as they use your website. UserBob recruits people to visit your website. Set a scenario for the user and specify a task for them to attempt to complete. During visits respondents record their screen and voice as they think out loud about the experience. You then receive a copy of the video to learn about what users say about your site.

You decide how many users you need, what demographics match your visitors, and how long each one should spend on your website. The test is instantly made available for users to participate and you will normally have a video to review within a few hours.

Pricing: Start at just $10 for First Impressions where 10 users
will spend one minute each on your website. Users will discuss their first impressions of your website, who they think it is for and what you can do on the site. Task Completion costs $20 for 5 users who spend 4 minutes attempting to complete your task. The price of the Custom test is variable. This involves between 1 to 10 users each spending up to 8 minutes with a specific scenario and user task to complete. You may also specify user demographics for Custom tests.

Userbob.com homepage

9. WhatUsersDo: 

Get videos of users as they browse your website, app or prototype. Respondents describe their impressions as they complete agreed tasks and these are recorded together with their screens and mouse movements into online videos. UX experts then analyse and summarise into high, medium or low UX reports.

A managed service offering is available which covers the WhatUsersDo research platform, instant access to an online panel from over nine countries, lab tests and UX experts to manage research and deliver insight reports.

Pricing: Pay as you go starts form just £30 + VAT per user and
includes tag videos, ability to download videos, download clips and PDF reports (including video). Prepaid Test Pack starts from £300 + VAT and provide for more cost effective user testing than the pay as you go plan.

Prepaid plans: All plans include design and scoping support from
UX specialists, expert analysis of results, and account management and email and phone support.

The Starter plan costs £10,000 per year for 50 video test
credits (1 credit = 1 completed video). The Repeat plan costs £20,000 for 100 video credits and the Regular plan is £30,000 per year for 150 video credits. An Enterprise plan is also available with 200 video credits – price available on request.

whatusersdo.com full service usability testing

 

For other usability testing providers see my post on how to do usability testing to improve conversion and for other online customer feedback tools see my post on how to use online Voice of Customer tools to boost conversion.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

 

How To Improve Your Website Navigation Using Tree Testing

How Good Is Your Site Navigation?

 

How easy is it for your visitors to use your navigation and find what they are looking for? Do you get complaints from users that they can’t find what they are looking for on your site?  Have you tested the findability of items in your navigation structure (often called taxonomy) with real users? If not then you might want to consider a usability technique known as tree testing or reverse card sorting.  This can significantly reduce problems with your navigation.

 

What is Tree Testing?

 

Image of a tree
Source: Freeimages.com

Tree testing evaluates the findability, labelling and organization of topics on a website. Most websites are organised into a hierarchy (a “tree”) of topics and subtopics. Tree testing is a way of identifying how easy it is for users to find individual items in this hierarchy.

However, unlike normal usability testing, tree testing is not carried out on the website itself, but instead users browse a simplified text version of the site structure. This removes the effects of the design, including visual cues, and navigational aids (e.g the internal search box) and other factors that might influence how quickly visitors find what they are looking for.

 

How Does  Tree Testing work?

 

There are 6 steps to complete a tree test:

  1. Users are given a find it task to complete (e.g. “find a portable DVD players for less than £20).
  2. Participants are shown a text list of the top-level topics of the website.
  3. Users select a heading, and then are given a list of the subtopics to choose from.
  4. Participants continue choosing topics in the tree, and can backtrack if necessary, until they find a topic that achieves their aim or they may abandon the process if they can’t find what are looking for.
  5. Users will then repeat the process a number of times with different find it tasks to test the findability of a range of items in the tree hierarchy.
  6. Test results will then be analysed once a sufficient number of users have completed the test.

 

Image of welcome screen for remote tree testing
Example of welcome screen for remote tree testing – Source: Userzoom.com

When Should You Use Tree Testing?

 

If you want to identify the root cause of navigation problems tree testing may be the best solution because it removes the effect of the design of your website and other navigational tools and aids from the equation. With no internal search to assist your user tree testing helps to isolate navigational deficiencies so that you can make the necessary improvements in your taxonomy. Tree testing is often used for:

  • Identify which items, groups or labels are causing problems for your users and set a benchmark of “findability” before you update your navigation. This might then lead you to conduct a card sorting exercise to improve the usability of your taxonomy.
  • Measure the impact of a proposed improvement or implemented change in the findability of items in your navigation structure. This will allow you to validate if the change you are making helps improve findability, makes no difference or actually creates a new problem.

Which Elements  should You Test?

For a small website with less than a hundred items you may be able to test your whole navigational structure. However, for large ecommerce websites with literally thousands of items on the site this is not practical or cost effective. In this instance you should use your web analytics to identify less common paths that can be removed from the testing process.

To decide what to test you should start by defining user’s goals and the top tasks that they need to accomplish to meet their goals. This normally involves getting both users and stakeholders to rank the main tasks so that you can identify what both groups agree on and also identify any low priority tasks that internal stakeholders wrongly believe are important to users. It may also be useful to include some items that cross departments as these create their own issues for users and items that have been identified as problematic from open card sorting or Voice of Customer research.

 

What Sample Size Do You Need?

 

As Steve Krug points out, “Testing one user is 100% better than testing none.” Whilst this is true, we have to bear in mind that with tree testing we may be dealing with a complex navigation structure and that it is important to conduct a reasonably robust test if we are to draw any reliable conclusions. The key outcome metric should be whether the user successfully found the item they were asked to locate and so this simplifies the analysis to a “Yes/No” metric.

I have outlined below the sample size required to achieve a confidence level of 95% and  assumed 50% of users find the item. I have assumed 50% of users find the item because 50% generates the highest possible margin of error and so is the worst case scenario.

Image of sample size required for specific margin of error at 95% confidence level
Sample size required for specific margin of error at 95% confidence level.

 

Generally you should limit the number of tests each participant completes to 10 depending upon how long on average  each task takes to complete.  Otherwise participants may become fatigued and they will also become e experienced users of your site structure which could influence the test results.

Should You Ask Participants Questions?

 

After each tree test it is useful to ask participants to rate the difficulty of the task. This can provide a guide to the usability of finding the item. Keep questions to a minimum but understanding how users perceive a task can add context to the test data. It can be useful for instance to compare task completion data with survey answers to identify any items where user perception does not align with task completion as this could highlight areas of particular concern.

Tree Testing Solutions:

Tree testing may not be one of the most well-known forms of usability testing, but it certainly offers the potential to help organisations resolve problems with their navigation structure. If you want to investigate tree testing further you can check out these solutions:

  1. Treejack from Optimal Workshop: One of the leaders in web-based usability testing for information architecture, Treejack  is a popular solution for evaluating website navigation without the normal visual distractions.
  2. Usability Sciences: Offers a web-based solution and will analyse the findings to determine the effectiveness of your site structure. They will provide specific recommendations on changes to your labels, structure and placement of content within your navigation hierarchy.
  3. UserZoom: Provides a web-based service to identify navigational issues early in the design process. UserZoom will analyse any attempts where participants have trouble navigating to ensure this is resolved before your site goes live. It will also give you a measure how well users can find  items in your hierarchy.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author: Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

14 Free & Paid For Address Lookup Solutions To Improve Conversions.

Why Do Address Lookup Solutions Improve Conversion?

Address finders allow customers to lookup and validate address details as they go through a sign-up or checkout process.    This helps to shorten the form and can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete registration or checkout. By allowing your visitors to enter their address more easily, especially on a mobile device, you can often significantly increase your conversion rate. Hotel Chocolat achieved a 19% uplift in each step of their basket funnel following implementation of a smart address finder.

Image of Hotelchocolat.com address lookup in checkout
Source: Hotelchocolat.com

Real-time verification also improves the accuracy of data by correcting typos at source and enhances the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. This will also reduce delivery problems as it improves the quality of your customer database. Additionally, address verification helps to combat fraud by identifying when bogus information is being entered.

Image of Sky TV promotional email
Source: Sky TV

Call centres can also use the same solutions to capture and validate customer details. Shelving retailer Tufferman  significantly reduced both outsourced call centre costs and shopping cart abandonment on its website. Using PCA Predict’s address lookup and validation solution the call centre was able to cut the time it took to take an order by between 30 to 60 seconds, making a huge cost saving and also  improving the customer experience.

When implementing an address finder check it regularly. I recently came across this address finder on the betfair.com desktop site. When I selected the address from the drop down menu it only populated the first input field and the other fields were left empty. This triggered an error message because the Town and Postcode fields were not populated. This made the address finder pointless and probably reduced their conversion rate as it would annoy visitors.

Image of Betfair.com address finder error message
Image source: Betfair.com

14 Address Verification Solutions:

1.  Streetlayer:  – New Solution – An international address data analysis, verification and auto-complete solution. Maintain high quality customer data by analysing, validating and formatting international addresses in real-time.

The solution offers a simple and secure API using an easy to integrate GET URL structure. It offers full address verification, auto-complete with post code filtering, geocode look-up, reverse validation and standard address formatting.

Image of Streetlayer.com homepage

 

2. Address doctor from InformaticaVerifies addresses from
over 240 countries. The Fast Completion service will verify an address as a visitor enters each part of it and will auto-complete with the best match. This is ideal for organisations that need to validate information quickly, such as online retailers.

image of informatica address verification homepage

 

3. AFDSoftware: Offers a UK postcode lookup product and a global address finder solution covering 230 countries. AFDWorldAddress
validates international addresses on desktop, network or internet.

Image of AFD.co.uk homepage

4. CapAdresseA French company that will verify addresses in 192 countries. It offers solutions for entering an address in a single line or multiple fields and uses real-time validation to improve data quality.

image of capadresse.com homepage

5. CraftyClicks: A UK and Global address look-up solution that uses the visitor’s post code in the UK to provide a list of addresses for the user to select from. Also offers a Geocoding API to calculate distance between any two postcodes in the UK. Updated from the Royal Mail PAF database.  The global solution allows visitors to enter either their zip code or street name to provide a list of possible addresses.

Image of Craftyclicks.co.uk homepage

6. Data8: A global provider that offers a comprehensive range of data validation, cleansing, supply, and management solutions. Data8‘s  shopping cart web services includes auto-fill validation, address, phone, and email validation.

For web forms and checkout Data8 has two solutions; PredictiveAddress which uses predictive search technology to auto-complete addresses, and for the UK, PostcodeLookup, which retrieves addresses from the Royal Mail’s Poscode Address File (PAF).  Data8 also integrates with leading shopping cart solutions including Magento, Opencart and Prestashop.

 

Image of Data-8-co.uk validation page

7. Google: A free auto-complete address lookup solution for forms from Google Developers.  You must include the Powered by Google logo when displaying any returns from the lookup tool. If you only require an address and have no other verification needs this
solution is worth checking out as it’s free! However, the solution is not recommended for the UK as Google are unable to use the Royal Mail’s database. 

 Image of Google autocomplete address finder homepage

8.  Matchcode: Provides UK and global postal address, email address, mobile and landline telephone number validation. Covers over 240 countries and includes commercial, names and geo-coding datasets. Software is easy to use, install and integrate across all major platforms and applications.

 Image of Matchcodeglobal.com homepage

9. Melissa Data: Their API parses, standardizes and validates U.S. and international addresses for over 240 countries and territories. The solution puts addresses in the standardised mailing format for each country and supports any UTF8 language. The tool will also add missing components, including post codes, region etc.

The Express Entry solution uses type-ahead search functionality that makes it easy to enter and complete accurate addresses with up to 50% fewer keystrokes. It works on both U.S. and international addresses.

Real-time email inbox verification removes up to 95% of bad emails and ID verification will add missing address, email ad phone information.

 Image of Melissadata.com homepage

10. PCAPredict (Previously PostCodeAnywhere): The Capture+ is a global smart address finder which suggests results as soon as the user begins typing.  Features a single click auto-fill for the whole address form and works in over 240 countries, correctly formatting international addresses.  Other solutions include mobile number validation, email validation, store finder, Geocoding and payment
validation.

 

image of PCApredict.com address lookup and validation homepage

11. Postcoder: Offers solutions for address lookup, auto-complete, validation, geocoding, IP address to location and email validation in over 240 countries.

Image of Postcoder homepage

12. Postcodes4u: A pay-as-you-go UK postcode and address finder service. Over 15 years of being a Royal Mail re-seller and updated from the Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF) of over 28 million addresses.

Image of postcodes4u.co.uk homepage

 

13. SimplyPostCode: A UK address lookup solution that uses the visitor’s post code to provide a list of addresses for the visitor to select from.  Updated daily from the Royal Mail  PAF database.

image of simplypostcode.com homepage

 

14. Smartystreets.com: This is a global address look-up solution which performs look-ups in real-time to fill out missing information and standardise addresses.  It offers an autocomplete service so that it can suggest addresses as the user types. It can also find and verify addresses out of arbitrary text.

Image of Smartystreets.com homepage

Conclusion:

Address finders and verification tools are win-win solutions as you will improve the usability and conversion of your forms. At the same time you will also benefit from better quality customer contact data for your marketing activities. Not to have an address verification and look-up solution is definitely a false economy.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

 

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

How To Do Usability Testing To Improve Conversions

Why Should You Do Usability Testing?

To create a relatively pain free user experience on any website
or app it is essential that you carry out some usability research of your user interface. Sure, you can ask a few people around the office to check out your new site, but it is also important to get  feedback from users who do not work in ecommerce  and are not connected to your business.

Psychology tells us that as we concentrate on a task or project we are prone to see what we expect to see because our visual cortex unconsciously takes the decision to filter out things that it regards as less important to achieving a task.  This is why we often miss the most obvious mistakes if we proof read our own work.

We also get too close to our pet projects and as a result  we overvalue the things we create, which if often called the IKEA effect.  As a result we are not the best people to evaluate websites that we helped to create. Anyone connected to your business may also suffer from some of the same biases or may just not want to hurt your feelings.

Image of lady lying on the ground next to laptop
Source: Freeimages.com

Testing is not about proving or disproving something works or not. It is about informing decisions and giving you insights into how users interact with your website. If you need a definitive answer then you really should be conducting an A/B test. As I pointed out in another post on whether usability research is reflecting real behaviour all research is subject to bias and limitations.

When Should You test?

Image of ink drawing of the of chairs outside a cafe
Source: Freeimages.com

 

The earlier you do some usability testing the better as this will allow you to respond to user feedback at each step in the development and design process. Wire frames, prototypes or even drawings can be tested to give you useful feedback before you move onto finished designs.    Don’t use focus groups as usability research needs to deal with one user at a time. Otherwise people can get distracted by what other people are doing and you also need to give them your full attention.  It is important that you observe and listen to users and avoid asking questions as people will over-think their behaviour if asked to explain it.

How Should You Test?

Image of an office with a laptop
Source: Freeimages.com

Steve Krug has written an awesome book, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Voices That Matter), which I highly recommend you read. He advocates doing your own usability research if you can. Undoubtedly this is a great idea if you have the time and the equipment.  If you have no or very little budget you might as well do this as even one user test is better than none.

However, there are also some affordable online services available, some of which are free. The benefit here is that they can manage all the admin and recruitment for you, plus conduct the usability testing and if required do the analysis. All you have to do is agree the brief. I would still recommend you get videos of your usability tests as you will often learn more from watching people browse your site than from reading a report. A video brings it to life in a way a report cannot.

One other advantage is that such suppliers offer a range of solutions including remote usability testing, card sorting for developing your navigation, tree testing to evaluate how easy it is find content on a site and eye-tracking to identify where on page attention is drawn to.  Such suppliers can also use their expertise to advise you on how to best design a usability study.

Who Should You Recruit?

 

Image of young women on a laptop computer
Source: Freeimages.com

Some solutions  offer you the ability to serve pop-ups on your site to recruit your own visitors to complete specific tasks. You can then share screens using Skype or other web meeting tools to observe how successful they are at achieving the set task.  Alternatively many suppliers offer the option to recruit testers who match your user demographics.

Don’t get too obsessed though with matching your target audience as usability testing is about understanding how people in general interact with your site. Setting very strict recruitment criteria will just increases the cost and time needed to conduct the testing without adding much value to the outcome.

12 Usability  Solutions: 

 

1. Feedback Army: Simple, inexpensive usability testing for your website. You can begin usability testing your site in two minutes. Submit questions about your site and receive 10 responses from their reviewers. This costs just $40.

Image of Feedbackarmy.com

2. Loop11: Online usability testing with your first project free (up to 5 tasks and 2 questions). Covers over 40 languages, provides heatmaps and clickstream analysis, real-time reporting, and you can
test on mobile devices.

Pricing:Free usability test is available for new customers. Pay as you go costs $350 per project. All plans include 1,000 participants per project, unlimited tasks and questions, testing on mobile, real-time results and 24/7 email support.

The Micro plan costs $158 a month and is designed for  organisations with between 1 and 10 employees, plus for non-profits and public sector clients. The SMB plan costs $410 per month and is for 11 to 100 employees. The Enterprise plan is priced at $825 per month.

 

image of Loop11.com homepage

 

3. Try My UI: Remote user testing which provides videos of visitors undertaking set tasks on your website. You also get written answers to questions you set. Get your first test for Free – normally costs $35.

Pricing: The Personal  plan charges $35 per test credit. A desktop test requires 1 credit, whilst a mobile test costs 2 credits. Includes up to 20 minutes of video and audio feedback, written responses to custom survey questions and the ability to analyse your results with tagged, time stamped annotations.

The Team plan costs $299 per month. This gives you 10 credits per month, testing with your own users for one month, multi-user login, collaborative video annotation, crowd sourced key insights with the UXCrowd, UX diagnostics and the ability to download your video results and test data.

The Enterprise plan is not priced on the website. However, this
includes 100 test credits per month, unlimited testing with your own users, extended 30-minute length for test results and one-click report generation integrated with video playback.

Image of TrymyUI.com homepage

4. UsabilityHub: UsabilityHub have a great selection of simple but effective usability solutions. You can obtain first impressions of your mock-ups and designs, see where visitors want to click or discover how easy visitors find it to navigate your website.

Simply upload an image, and select the type of test you’d like
to run. You can choose from:

  1. Five Second Test to understand people’s first impressions of
    your design.
  2. Click Test to find out where they click and how they interact
    with your interface
  3. Navigation flow test to identify how visitors navigate around your
    website or applications.
  4. Question Test – allows you to conduct fast surveys by uploading an image and asking users questions about the design.

You can then decide how many people you want to be in the test or even recruit your own testers. UsabilityHub then create a report showing a detailed breakdown of the interactions each tester had with your design.

Pricing: Responses from testers you recruit are free. Testers recruited by UsabilityHub cost 1 credit each and responses from
testers of specific demographics cost 3 credits each.

The Free Community plan allows you to create unlimited
tests, with responses from your own users being free and buy responses from UsabilityHub from $1 each.

The UsabilityHub Pro plan costs $99 a month and allows you to
buy responses at 50% off all credit purchases, starting at just 50 cents per response.  Create unlimited tests, customize the test experience with messaging and redirection after the test, use a single link for multiple tests in a row and target particular demographics.

image of UsabilityHub.com homepage

 

 

5. Usability Sciences: Established over 25 years ago Usability Sciences offers a full managed service for usability testing, offering a comprehensive range of solutions including card sorting, rapid iterative testing, mobile & tablet user testing and eye-tracking research.

Pricing: No prices shown on the website.

Image of UsabilitySciences.com homepage

 

6. Usability Tools: These guys provide a suite of tools to optimize your website and improve the user experience.  By adding a snippet of JavaScript to your website you can also access a visual analytics tool to view browser recordings of customers interacting with your site. In addition Usability Tools allows you to:

  1. Find  out about the first impressions on your content.
  2. Create scenario-based tasks to reveal improvement opportunities.
  3. Implement surveys to get Voice Of the Customer data.
  4. Build and improve your websites navigation with card sorting.

The Conversion suite provides insights to generate ideas for A/B testing and identify areas for improvement. This includes:

  1. Understand how your visitors see your website.
  2.  Learn how your visitors interact on your web forms.
  3.  See your website from your users’ perspective.

 

Pricing: 14 day Free trial and plan prices available on request.

 

image of UsabilityTools.com homepage

 

7. UserBob: Watch videos of real users talking about what they think as they use your website. UserBob recruits people to visit your website. Set a scenario for the user and specify a task for them to attempt to complete. The user then goes to your website and tries to complete your task. During their visit they record their screen and voice as they think out loud about the experience. You then receive a copy of the video to learn about what users say about your site.

You decide how many users you need, what demographics match your visitors, and how long each one should spend on your website. The test is instantly made available for users to participate and you will normally have a video to review within a few hours.

Pricing: Start at just $10 for First Impressions where 10 users
will spend one minute each on your website. Users will discuss their first impressions of your website, who they think it is for and what you can do on the site. Task Completion costs $20 for 5 users who spend 4 minutes attempting to complete your task. The price of the Custom test is variable. This involves between 1 to 10 users each spending up to 8 minutes with a specific scenario and user task to complete. You may also specify user demographics for Custom
tests.

Image of Userbob.com homepage

 

8. userlytics: Omni-channel user experience testing. Will supply user testers from their panel or recruit to your specific demographic requirements. Alternatively you can recruit participants using a customisable invitation widget, by posting a link on blogs, websites, twitter, by using TaskRabbit, Mechanical Turk, Craiglist or by using a third party panel provider.

Userlytics allows you to test prototypes, videos, mobile apps,
display ads, search and social behaviour, desktop and web applications, smart-phones and tablets and websites.

Pricing: Starts from $49 per user tester and depends upon the
testing features you require, whether you need respondents recruiting,  demographic needs, session length and reporting requirements.

 Image of Userlytics.com homepage

9. User Testing: Get videos in an hour of real people
speaking their thoughts as they use your website, apps, prototypes and more. Do it yourself or access User Testing’s on-demand panel of over one million users to find an exact match of your target audience.

You can either select your users and write your own tasks or use
the expect research team to complete such tasks as creating and managing tests, long term research road-mapping, moderating tests, annotating videos, analysing videos to identify key findings and creating research presentations.

Pricing: Basic plan starts at $49 per video for the first 10 videos, and then rises to $99 per video. This will provide you with video and
audio of your site or app being used across a full range of devices, 15 minute maximum video length and a storage limit of 25 videos.

The Pro plan offers a Free trial and quote on request. This allows for a maximum video length of 60 minutes, unlimited video storage, screening and video demographic filters, moderated usability testing, competitive benchmarking, user testing with your own customers, highlight reels, customer experience customer experience analytics and for the research team to summarise key findings.

Image of UserTesting.com homepage

10. Peek from User Testing: Get a Free 5 minute video of a real person using your site.

 Image of Peek/usertesting.com homepage

11. UserZoom:  An all-in-one integrated SasS customer and
user experience research and analytical solution. They provide a suite of services including recruiting participants for user tests, and research software for mobile and desktop devices, voice of the customer studies, remote usability testing, UX design tools (e.g. card sorting & tree testing) and an online survey tool. In addition they provide support services from defining a study to analysing the data for you.

Pricing: Annual software subscription starts at £19,000 per year.
All quotes are customised according your individual requirements and dependent upon the number of user accounts and use of premium features (e.g. UserZoom Recorder and mobile testing capabilities).

Image of UserZoom.com homepage

 

12. WhatUsersDo: Videos of users speaking their thoughts
using your website, app or prototype. Participants describe their impressions as they complete agreed tasks and these are recorded together with their screens and mouse movements into online videos. UX experts then analyse and summarise into high, medium or low UX reports.

Support provided includes planning and designing the tasks for
participants to complete. User testers can either be selected from their international panel covering the UK, USA, Germany, France and The Netherlands or you can use on demand third party panels. You may also invite your own customer base with the Private Panel feature.

A managed service offering is available which covers the  WhatUsersDo research platform, instant access to an online panel from over nine countries and UX experts to handle your research and deliver insight reports.

Pricing: Pay as you go starts form just £30 + VAT per user and
includes tag videos, ability to download videos, download clips and PDF reports (including video). Prepaid Test Pack starts from £300 + VAT and provide for more cost effective user testing than the pay as you go plan.

Prepaid plans: All plans include design and scoping support from
UX specialists, expert analysis of results, and account management and email and phone support.

The Starter plan costs £10,000 per year for 50 video test
credits (1 credit = 1 completed video). The Repeat plan costs £20,000 for 100 video credits and the Regular plan is £30,000 per year for 150 video credits. An Enterprise plan is also available with 200 video credits – price available on request.

Image of WhatUsersDo.com homepage

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it useful please share it using the social media buttons on this page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

Does Usability Research Reflect Real Human Behavioiur?

 

Good navigation and the ease with which users can find relevant content on a website is critical for a good customer experience. Card sorting, tree testing and other usability research solutions can assist in this process by providing input from users to improve our chances of making good decisions in designing choice architecture.

 

Are We Measuring Reality?

However, we should acknowledge that when we give a person a task to complete as part of a usability study we are directing their behaviour and in some instance we may have taken them out their natural environment. This will inevitably influence their response. Behavioural scientists have found that many of our decision are made automatically by our unconscious brain, and that the context and our underlying emotions heavily influence the choices we make. We also behave differently when we are aware that we are being observed.

Asking respondents direct questions is especially problematic as people over-think issues because they switch to their slow, rational brain when encountering a mentally demanding task. Unfortunately most of the time when we are browsing a website we rely on our fast, intuitive, unconscious brain to make decisions without really engaging our conscious thought processes.  The implication here is that we cannot even access the rationale behind much of our behaviour when interacting with a website and so there is no point asking us to explain ourselves.

“People don’t have reliable insight into their mental processes, so there is no point asking them what they want.” Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, fast and slow.

 

UserZoom.com prototype testing methods

Source: UserZoom:

How do we deal with these limitations of usability research?

 

Context is important:

Avoid taking people away from their natural environment if at all possible. Certainly don’t use focus groups as this is about far away of a normal browsing behaviour as you can get. How often do you search the web with a group of people you have never met and discuss your likes and dislikes of the site, with full knowledge that someone is observing you behind the mirror?

This is why remote user testing methods have an advantage over some face-to-face methods. Participants can be in their normal environment, with their normal distractions and so their behaviour is less likely to be influenced by the testing process. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be some bias as a result of the testing method, but it may be substantially less than techniques which take the user out of their normal browsing environment.

 

source: Remote user testing –  UserZoom:

 

Observe and listen rather than ask:

You will get more meaningful insights from simply observing and listening to your users during a usability test as past behaviour is a more reliable indicator of future behaviour. Try to avoid verbal interventions as much as possible because people don’t like to admit when they do something wrong and you are likely to influence how they then behave in any future tasks. If you do want some verbal feedback, just ask your testers to say what they are doing as they go through the task.

But always keep in the back of your mind that usability testing is about informing your judgement, and not to prove or disprove someone’s opinions. It is also an iterative process that should begin early on in the development of a design and go through to after it has been implemented.

 

5 second test UsabilityHub.com

Source: UsabilityHub:

Implicit Research Methods:

As I have already mentioned, most of our daily choices are made by our fast, intuitive brain which means we don’t have time to rationalise why we are making those decisions. New implicit research techniques such as functional MRI, EEG, biometrics, eye tracking, facial decoding and implicit reaction time studies (IRTs) are allowing marketers to access the sub-conscious part of the brain to better understand how we respond to communications and designs.

Eye tracking research helps identify which specific elements of a page or message attract our attention, but also the communication hierarchy of messages. Heatmaps allows us to display this data to reveal the proportion of visitors who noticed each of the key elements on a page, plus the frequency and duration of gaze on each element.

Click and mouse movement heatmaps from visual analytics solutions such as Hotjar and Decibel Insights can provide similar insights for existing pages. For true eye tracking research though solutions from  Affectiva and Sticky allow for you to evaluate both new and existing web page designs.

 

Clicktale.com heatmaps

Source: Click Tale:

A/B Test Usability Testing Results:

In the final analysis the only way you will ever know for sure if a change identified through usability testing improved agreed success metrics is to conduct an online controlled experiment or A/B testing as we refer to them. It is only when visitors are acting on their own impulses without any intervention from other parties and with their own money that you will see how they behave in reality on a website or app.

Prioritise the insights you get from usability testing to decide which are worthy of A/B testing and which should just be implemented as they are either no-brainers or unlikely to have a large impact on your success metrics.  A/B testing will give you the evidence to show exactly how much difference your usability testing has had on your conversion success metrics.

Wow, you have got the end of my post – congratulations! If you found this post useful please share using the social media icons on this page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

How To Use Online Voice of Customer Tools To Boost Conversions.

Here is a best practice guide on how to use online Voice of Customer tools to gain insights and increase conversions. I’ve also reviewed over 20 solutions for you to use.

When Is It Best To Get Customer Feedback?

Asking people questions hours, days, weeks or even months after a visit to your website is not going to deliver very accurate feedback on your customer experience. Our memories have to be reconstructed every time we recall them and as result they change on each occasion they are retrieved. On-site survey tools though allow you to gather data during the actual experience, allowing customers to express opinions and feelings when or immediately after an event occurs. This provides for much richer and accurate feedback on your site.

 

Surveymonkey.com customer satisfaction

source: Surveymonkey

How To Use Customer Feedback?

On-line Voice of Customer (VoC) feedback is an important input into the overall website optimization process. It can provide valuable insights to reduce friction and help you develop hypothesis to be validated using A/B and multivariate testing. It can help in a number of areas including:

  • Why –  What are visitors looking for when they come to your site and is it meeting their expectations? Identify the main use cases – what are people trying to achieve and are they successful?
  • Barriers – What is preventing users to complete their task? Find out what is preventing visitors from completing everything they set out to do.

 

Temper.io dashboard image

Source: Temper.io

  • Missing information – Are visitors finding everything they need on a particular webpage? For example, audit your homepage to compare the content with what customers say they are looking for on your website. Segment the data by new and returning visitors as they may have different requirements. This can help identify unnecessary content on your homepage and highlight other information that you should consider replacing it with.
  • Competitors – Which of your competitors’ sites do your customers use? Digital marketing is a zero-sum game, if you can’t convince your visitors to buy from your website, one of your competitors may be more persuasive. It’s important to identify which other similar sites to your own that visitors are going to as their expectations are influenced by these other sites. If your value proposition and customer experience does not compare favourably with key competitor sites you may
    struggle to convince visitors to convert.

Typeform.com mobile surveySource: Typeform.com

  • Value proposition – What attracted new visitors to your website? Identify what aspects of your value proposition are most appealing to new customers as this may not be the same as what you have on your website. Use this feedback to develop and test different proportion messages to see if this resonates better
    with customers.

 

Nebula by Kampyle

Source: Kampyle

  • Bugs –   when your site is broken visitors can provide you with the evidence you need to fix it. Some on-line tools (e.g. Bugmuncher)
    automate this process so that you can get screen shots and technical details sent directly to an inbox for quick and efficient resolution of problems.

Bugmuncher.com homepage

  • Exit surveys –  For those visitors who have decided to leave your site you have nothing to lose by asking them to provide feedback on what they thought of your site. Ask them if they found what they were looking for or what would make them return to your site.

 

  • Abandon basket – When someone abandons their basket this is a great opportunity to get their feedback to understand what is behind this behaviour. Has something on your site raised  concerns or are they struggling to get the delivery date they require? Any feedback from these customers may help you identify issues that you can seek to resolve to improve your conversion rate.

A word of caution:

Don’t take what your visitors say literally. Customers are often not fully aware of their own motivations as emotions and cognitive
short-cuts (e.g. stereotypes and confirmation bias) are often important drivers of our behaviour. This is why people will say one thing and do something completely different. For this reason it is a good idea to validate insights by looking for supporting evidence (e.g. web analytics) and to use A/B and multivariate testing to measure the real impact on behaviour.

VoC Tools:

Ok, so you now want to begin asking your customers and prospects questions to identify insights that can help you improve conversions. Below I’ve summarised over twenty VOC tools that can be used to give you new insights into customers’ opinions and behaviour.

.

1. Bugmuncher: Enables users to report problem &
automatically sends your company screen shots with details of the browser, the operating system, the path they took & even which browser plug-ins they have installed. An ideal solution for any site that has more than its fair share of bugs to fix.  Free trial available.

Price: Plans range from $19 a month for a single user (Personal plan) to $99 for the Corporate plan with up to 5 users. For most small to medium sized companies the Start Up plan at $49 per month offers good value as it allows up to 3 users and 400 reports per month.

Bugmuncher prices page image

  

2. ClickInsightsIO: Sends one-click lifecycle email surveys to your
customers based upon what they do or don’t do on your website or in your app. Create surveys with questions with up to 4 clickable answers and when customers click on their answer they will land on a customizable landing page that allows you to ask an open-ended question for more in-depth insights and the ability to include a call to action to read, download or purchase something.

Price: Free unlimited 2 week trial. A single subscription plan is available at a cost of $49 per month for unlimited questions and responses, plus instant email notifications.

3. Feedbackify: Employs a fully customisable widget on your site
to deliver short surveys for your visitors to complete. The Feedback Dashboard allows you to view answers with full context, including which page it was submitted from, your customer’s geographic location, browser, operating system, screen size etc.

Price: Offers a Free full-featured 15 day trial. A single subscription plan costs just $19 a month.

 

Feedbackify price page image

 

4. getsatsfaction: Recently acquired by Sprinklr, getsatisfaction is
an online community platform that deeply integrates feedback tools into your site to allow customers to connect with your company and other customers. Q&A tools capture, organize and automatically share commonly-asked questions.

Crowd-sourcing tools solicit input and feedback on key topics to gather insights, plan and problem-solve. Idea  generation/ prioritization tools invite customers to contribute new ideas
and prioritise them based upon member input and  feedback. getsatisfaction also promotes experts and super-users
to Champion status to recognise them publicly and give them special privileges, like access to moderation and curation tools.

The widget is fully customisable and allows customers to ask questions, leave praise, share an idea or raise a problem in 12
different languages. This is available across all devices and screen sizes, and social media integration means that you can view customer community feedback alongside other social content and push content from the community to Twitter or Facebook.

Price: Two plans available, Professional and Enterprise, prices not stated on website.

Getsatisfaction.com prices page image

 

5. Hotjar: This is a great new solution that offers a range of visual analytics solutions (e.g. heatmaps, session recordings, & form analytics) together with customer polls, surveys and an on-site usability recruitment tool. The Free basic service offers up to 3 on-site polls, surveys and recruiters for live usability testing each month. The Pro and Business packages both offer unlimited polls, surveys and usability test recruitment. The Business service also allows you to remove Hotjar branding from the feedback widget.

One limitation of the tool is that it does not support cross-domain sites. However, for most surveys this doesn’t need to be a problem as you can just set up each domain as a separate site.

Price: The Free Basic plan allows you to run up to 3 polls or surveys a month and obtain up to 300 responses. The Pro plan costs just
$29 a month and the Business plan costs $89 a month.

 

Hotjar.com price plans page image

 

6. i-Perceptions: A Free pop up that asks three simple questions to
website visitors. The three questions could include: “How would you rate your site experience?”, “What describes the primary purpose of visit?” and “Were you able to complete the purpose of your visit today?” You can use the feedback to understand how people engage with your website and find opportunities for improvement.

Price: A Free and Enterprise plan. No prices on the website.

7. Kampyle: Employs a widget on your website with the ability to
tailor the feedback form for different parts of your website to ensure it is relevant to your visitors. This includes the ability to intercept visitors who are about to abandon their basket or exit your site to ask them questions to understand the root causes of abandonment. Its ability to integrate with Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics means that you can overlay behavioural data with
feedback to evaluate and optimize efficiently.

If you wish you have the ability to respond directly with a built-in response system and you can set up an automated response system
that routes feedback to the appropriate people in your organisation to respond and take action.

Price: A Free plan offers 1 feedback form and 10 feedback items per month. All annual plans offer a Free 2 month trial. Subscription
plans start from $249 per month for Bronze for a single feedback form and up to 200 feedback items per month. The Gold plan ($999 a month) gives you 3 feedback forms, 3 users and up to 1,000 feedback items. There is also an Enterprise plan available for larger organisations.

8. Opinionlab: Global leader in Voice of Customer feedback
innovation and real-time listening solutions. Opinionlab uses the [+] widget on your site to gather visitor feedback. It offers dedicated solutions for desktop and mobile websites to ensure an optimal customer experience. Opinionlab also has the ability to benchmark
across sectors and digital and physical touch points using their patented Customer Feedback Index and Functional Mean Ratings solution.

Price: No plan costs mentioned on the website. However, from my experience not a cheap solution for websites with large volumes of traffic.

Oopinionlab.com homepage

 

9. Proved: A great tool if you simply want almost instant feedback on an idea, prototype or a new product development that you want to check-out before it goes live. Feedback is normally provided within 3 to 4 hours and guaranteed within 24 hours.

Proved uses crowd sourced feedback to evaluate new product
developments. The Starter plan for early stage ideas gets feedback from 20 testers, while the Basic plan for perhaps a prototype gives you 50 testers. Pro allows you to test a fully developed product with 100 testers to reduce uncertainty before launch. Free trial available on request.

Proved.co pricing page image

 

10. Qualaroo: Offers a customisable widget for desktop and mobile
devices. You can target questions to visitors anywhere on your site, and includes exit surveys to capture insights from visitors who are leaving your website.

They offer a Free trial and subscription plans start from $63 a month for desktop. The Professional plan costs $199 a month and includes exit surveys and mobile survey add-on.  The Enterprise plan ($499) provides for integration with CRM tools and advanced segmentation.

Qualaroo.com pricing page image

 

11. qualtrics: An enterprise insight software solution that includes
Site Interceptor which allows you to survey visitors as they browse your website. A fully flexible offering that includes over 100 different types of questions, drag-and-drop ordering, advanced flow logic, rich text editing, and the ability to include images, videos and audio in surveys. It also allows you to randomize the order of response categories, set quotas and set-up email alerts.

No pricing information on the site – quotes can be requested by contacting qualtrics.

12. Survata: A great tool if you have never designed questionnaires
before and want some advice to complete the process. The tool finds respondents for your survey who meet your target audience from 17 countries by age, gender, geography and custom attributes.

You write your surveys questions, build your questionnaire using their self-service survey tool and an analyst will then review it and suggest edits based upon industry best practice. Survata will then find the respondents for your survey and provide raw data in an Excel spreadsheet and in Statwing, a free partner analysis tool.

Price: Plans range from $200 a month for Quick Read for surveys of up to 200 respondents per survey and $2,000 a month for Deep Read which offers up to 2,000 respondents.

13. SurveyGizmo: A comprehensive survey tool that can be used to create fully-customisable surveys for distribution through email campaigns in HTML and plain text, on Twitter, Facebook and by embedding them on your website using JavaScript or iFrames.

For mobile forms SurveyGizmo automatically re-formats questions for the device and only displays one question at a time. Mobile surveys also enable use of their File Upload question to gain access to the respondent’s camera and allowing you to capture photos for the study.

Automated reporting tools offer one-click advanced reports and cross-tabs for full analysis of your data. Export data to other
data analysis packages. You can also schedule reports and email results to fully automate the reporting process.

Price: Plans range from just $25 a month for Basic which offers over 30 question types and $95 a month for Premier. An Enterprise
plan offers multi-user access for an unspecified price.

14. SurveyMonkey: One of the most well-known
and popular online survey tools that enables the creation of most types of surveys, including web, email, mobile, social media, and automated telephone surveys. If you need to find  respondents, SurveyMonkey Audience allows you to define your target audience and will then provide you with the feedback you require.

Offers 15+ types of questions, customisable logo and branding and the ability to set skip logic by page and question.  Fully integrated with the likes of MailChimp and Eventbrite. Comprehensive real-time reporting available, together with text analysis, SPSS integration, custom reporting, cross-tabs and presentation-ready charts and reports. A Free plan is available for 10 questions and up to 100 responses per survey.

Price: Subscription plans start from £26 a month (Select) for up to 1,000 responses to £65 a month for Platinum that offers an unlimited number of responses.

Surveymonkey.com pricing plan page image

 

15. Surveypal: Positions itself as an enterprise survey tool that
uses an intuitive drag and drop style editor to make it easy to build high quality online and cross-device surveys. You can also choose to edit one of their professionally designed templates if you prefer.

They also offer customer support via phone, email and built-in live chat to make the process as stress free as possible. All support
staff are engineers which means you can expect to receive a high level of technical support to quickly resolve any problems.

Allows you to set up automated email alerts based upon your own business rules to instantly respond to certain types of customers or
responses. A flexible reporting tool which provides automated visual
presentations in a variety of formats such as PowerPoint, Word, Excel, SPSS and as an interactive dashboard.

Surveypal integrates with Slack, Zendesk, Salesforce and many other apps. Their API also allows you to send, receive and track surveys.  A Free plan is available for up to 100 responses.

Price: Subscription plans cost $40 a month for Premium for 1,000 responses per month. An Enterprise plan is also available with an unlimited number of responses per month.

Surveypal.com pricing page image

 

 16.Temper: People are emotional creatures and Temper uses smiley faces in its surveys to measure how customer feel about your organisation and the topics you ask them questions about.

It offers three options for delivery of surveys.

1.       Tab – Shows up at  the bottom right of every page you
install it on.

2.       Inline – Is positioned within your page anywhere you’d
like to get feedback on a specific item or experience.

3.       Email – At the end of an email which is great for
gauging how your customer support interactions are performing.

Price: A 60 day money-back guarantee is available on all plans. Subscription plans range from Hobby at $12 a month to White Label at $199 a month.

17. Typeform: Positions itself around delighting respondents, keeping them focused on one question at a time and the versatility of their forms. Provides an enterprise survey tool for use across all devices. Offers Free plan (Core) for basic users.

Price: The Pro plans costs $20 a month with unlimited typeforms and responses. A Pro+ for teams is currently under development.

 

18. UserReport: A Free tool that offers both online surveys and feedback forums. The online survey tool allows you to ask for feedback about your website and gather visitor demographics in over 60 languages. You can either use the ‘ready-to-go survey or customise with your own logo, colours and questions. Survey results are presented in intuitive reports that can be easily shared and exported as PDF or raw data.

The feedback forums give you the opportunity to gather ideas on how to improve your website. It also allows users to report bugs, submit issues, comment on and vote for ideas online. It works across devices and is fully customisable.

Price: The solution is currently Free.

19. UsabilityTools: Offers an extensive suite of UX tools which includes the ability to create surveys by adding a widget to your website, emailing links or hiring respondents. The ‘Click test’ allows users to place their mouse click on a given item on the web page to express their preferences and their point of interest.

Price: Quotations available on request.

 

20. UserEcho: Offers a suite of software solutions for better
customer service and engagement. The main customer feedback tool is their Ideas Forum which enables customers to ask questions, share ideas and learn. Customers can vote and you can gather critical feedback of what they like or dislike.

Users can login via popular social networks which eliminates the need to go through a registration process. In addition, the  Knowledge Base will automatically search for answers when a user writes a query, and in the case of a match will display the item to the user.

UserEcho also enables live chat conversations with visitors on your site. 15 day Free trial.

Price: A single plan is available for £15 a month.

 

21Uservoice: Offers an all-in-one product management platform to
make it easy to give customers, partners or internal teams a voice with private labelled feedback forums. You can collect customer feedback on web or mobile with a native user experience.

Uservoice does not require your customers to register which encourages participating. The forums work by visitors raising a ticket and then vote or discuss ideas and possible solutions. The tickets contain useful information on the user including their OS, browser and the page from which the ticket was raised.

Price: Basic plan costs $499 a month and the Premium is $999 a month. An Enterprise solution is also available with quotations on request.

22. Voice Polls: Create questions or use existing templates to poll
your website visitors by embedding surveys onto your website or blog. If you agree to sponsored polls behind your own polls you will earn revenue for every sponsored opinion collected from your site. You can browse trending polls from other users add those to your website to see if they improve engagement with your site.

Voice Polls are a Free tool for online publishers. They can help you grow your traffic, engage your reader, learn from them, discover who they are and bring some interactivity on your pages.

Price: For non-publishers each question is priced at $12.50 and $0.05 per completed survey.

23. WebEngage: Offers online surveys, feedback forms and in-depth information (including screen grabs) to obtain and resolve customer
problems and notification to display messages to specific audiences (e.g. shopping cart drop-off).

Survey:  Collect insights from visitors. Target questionnaires at specific audiences using rule builder. Get real-time analytics and reports.

Feedback: Add context to your feedback form with custom fields and automatic screen grab features.

Notification: A push messaging tool which lets you display offers, discount codes, product launch announcements etc. to visitors
with real-time statistics.

Price: Plans range from $49 for Basic to $949 per
month for the Enterprise Lite solution.

 Why not start today?

Many of these companies provide free trials and some of these tools have free plans so there is no reason not to give online VoC tools a go. Further, using such tools can also help encourage a more customer centric approach to optimization and website development. People are naturally curious about what potential and actual customers think about their ideas and designs so assist this process by giving your colleagues the opportunity to capture such feedback.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it of value please share it with your contacts by using the social network icons below or at the top of the page.

 

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

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  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.