Category Archives: Usability research

Why Should You Use A Google 5 Day Design Sprint?

What I learned from a Google 5 day design sprint

I was recently asked to use my expertise in user behaviour and conversion optimisation to contribute to a Google 5 day design sprint run by New Haircut. It was a very intensive, but enjoyable five days working on a new digital concept. It’s a great way of making rapid progress with a digital project and so I would like to share my thoughts on making the most of this process.

 What is a Google 5 day design sprint?

It’s basically a framework for rapid development and testing of a design prototype to challenge assumptions and create a user experience that meets agreed business objectives.

It achieves this by bringing together the business owner/decision maker with other key stakeholders and people with relevant expertise (e.g. product and conversion experts) and skills (e.g. UX designer). A suitable member of the CRO team should attend the workshops as they can provide valuable insights for both user motivations and what influences online behaviour. The process at a very high level comprises:

  1. Preparation:  Briefing and recruit 8 participants.
  2. Day 1: Develop a team-wide understanding of the challenge and visualise it using a simple user journey map
  3. Day 2: Team members individually sketch their solutions
  4. Day 3: Each member votes on the most compelling solution(s) and the UX designer visualises the whole user experience through a storyboard.
  5. Day 4: Create a realistic working prototype.
  6. Test the prototype with at least 5 prospects and record detailed reactions and feedback.

The framework for designing a user experience is very effective at making rapid progress with an idea. However, before proceeding you need to have agreed a clear vision and completed research to understand the market, users and the competition as otherwise the sprint is likely to lack direction. It’s important you have a specific problem that requires a solution. 

The Home Depot (THD) for example used a 5 day design sprint to generate and develop ideas for a new personalised homepage. The vision was to design a page that would dynamically deliver relevant content based upon targeted user segments. They defined their business goal as follows:

“Homepage will act as a personalized dashboard that serves relevant content to each customer and can be accessed from anywhere.” – Source: The Home Depot, 2017

OK, so you’ve got a high level appreciation of what happens during a a 5 day sprint. How is this implemented in reality? If you want more details of how a 5 day design sprint progresses  read on as I have broken the process into 7 stages:

 1. Preparation:

 The workshop preparation is very crucial for the design sprint’s success. This begins by selecting up to eight participants from different areas of the company including marketing, product, design, conversion and IT/platform to provide an understanding of technical limitations. You should also consider recruiting external expertise if necessary as it’s important to get different perspectives on the challenge and possible solutions.

A briefing document can then be circulated to all the participants to explain the nature of the challenge, the desired outcome of the sprint and the agenda. The logistics, such as location, resources available and food should also be confirmed. Personally, I also find it useful to do some preparatory research on related subjects such as looking at how other sectors deal with the challenge and refresh my knowledge of the conversion related topics that might be needed.

2. Understand:

On day one it’s good to re-iterate the vision and discuss the overall goal of the design sprint to ensure nothing significant has changed. During a warm up session each area has the opportunity to brief the team on their area of responsibility so that everyone understands the specific business, marketing, design and technological challenges faced by the sprint. This should include feedback on the customer and the competitive landscape.

Image of sprint questions to be answered on a flip chart
Image Source: New Haircut

 

As an external expert my briefing focussed on user motivations and how they are goal driven. I used the BJ Fogg model to outline a useful framework to consider when designing a user journey.

Image of BJ Fogg's behavioural change model
Image source: BJ Fogg

 

During these talks each member of the team wrote down “How might we” question on post-it notes to capture thoughts and ideas generated by the discussion. This kind of question encourages participants to challenge existing ways of thinking and find new solutions to the problems the group is faced with.

After all the briefing sessions have been completed it is time to vote on the “how might we” statements. Each person in the team gets three dots to vote with and the sprint owner is given six dots.

3. Define:

This stage involves defining the nature of the challenge in more detail such as creating buyer personas and identifying the individual steps of the customer journey. The user journey map is especially important as it allows the team to identify which step or steps they want to prototype and test with users.

Often the team will also generate a design principles list. This comprises adjectives that we would like customers to describe the product or service. At this point the decision maker should be ready to select three “how might we” statements as targets for the prototype.

4. Diverge:

This step is based upon the view that group brainstorms aren’t effective and so team members work individually to generate ideas for possible solutions. But as research suggests that our first idea is often not the best solution, this process uses the power of iteration to improve on our initial thoughts.

Each participant is asked to sketch a potential UI to get started. We were then given an additional seven minutes to sketch a further seven potential UI solutions. This activity helps generate lots of different potential solutions to the problem.

Image of outputs from the sketching exercise
Image Source: New Haircut

Participants are then given 30 minutes to sketch out all relevant UI screens for either mobile or desktop. This can be based upon any of their iterations they sketched in the 7 minutes. All user journeys are then displayed on a wall in the workshop room for everyone to review.

5. Decide:

Each member of the design sprint team now votes for their preferred solution(s) by placing dot stickers on the sketches on display. The project owner also votes but they have a different colour sticker to show their preferences.

Image of voting on UI sketches
Image Source: New Haircut

 

Each member of team is then asked to choose another person’s design to walk though and explain to the rest of the team. After each user journey sketch is discussed the person who designed it explains their thinking behind the design.

The project owner then decided which elements of the different customer journey sketches we would take forward. However, some sprint leaders use the “Risk vs Reward” scale to evaluate each popular solution. This shows what’s easy to implement and important to customers so that the team can decide which designs to prototype.

Image of storyboard in Google 5 day sprint
Image Source: New Haircut

We then create a storyboard of the chosen design iterations to be discussed with the team. This allows everyone to visualise the whole user journey that will be prototyped and tested.

6. Prototype:

Here the team was split into two groups. One group worked on the design of the prototype and the second group wrote the copy for the designs. It’s important to produce a prototype that is accurate and professionally designed to ensure it is clear and easy to test. Otherwise the danger is that feedback will be overly influenced by usability and design matters that will be resolved before the product is launched.

7. Validate:

The final day of the design sprint is spent watching around 5 to 8 usability tests undertaken using the working prototype. Although the number of participants may be small this kind of study can help validate whether your proposition and user experience are delivering what you set out to achieve. Usability testing is especially good at helping to refine the user journey flow, identify shortcomings and challenge assumptions.

During each session we wrote down thoughts and ideas  on post-it notes.  We then placed  these notes on a whiteboard which was divided up into the individual stages of the prototype user journey and other relevant categories (e.g. the proposition). This provided the backdrop for our final discussion about what we had learned from the user testing and how we might change the prototype and the proposition as a result.

Conclusion:

As a conversion rate optimiser I have often been expected to help develop new concepts or product enhancements without the time or budget to validate the assumptions behind them. The 5 day design sprint provides a great opportunity to develop a concept using quick validations without using too much scarce resource.

Technology now allows us to create quick prototypes for minimal cost and by incorporating user testing into the sprint we can obtain timely feedback to assess the potential for the solution we’ve developed.

The process avoids early stage projects getting stuck in the bureaucracy of an organisation and breaks down silos by recruiting participants from across multiple departmental functions. From a conversion optimisation perspective it is also beneficial because it puts the customer needs at the centre of the process which is not always the case with new ideas and enhancements.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope you found it useful. Please share using the social media icons below if you like this post.

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.

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.

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. 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

 

2. 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

3. 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

 

 

4. 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

 

5. 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

 

6. 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

 

7. 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

 

8. 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

9. UserTest.io: This is a similar platform to UserTesting.com but is less expensive. You receive recordings of your users completing set tasks whilst they voice their thoughts and opinions out loud. UserTest allows for rapid testing and provides actionable insights without breaking the bank.

Prices start from £10 per test for your own testers and £18 a test for UserTest.io’s qualified testers. There is also an enterprise solution in association with User Conversion.

Image of usertest.io 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.

Card Sorting Tools To Improve Information Architecture

What is Card Sorting?

Updated 3rd September 2017

Online card sorting  is a usability tool that  helps categorise your webpages by identifying how visitors would expect to find content or functionality. Online card sorting is a quick and simple way of evaluating  your information architecture, workflow, menu structure or user navigation journeys. Card sorting  tools ask users to organise topics into categories and may involve them naming these groups.

Card sorting is sometimes used after a tree testing (or reverse card-sorting)  exercise identifies  findability problems with current navigation journeys. Tree testing  evaluates how easy it is to find an item by getting participants to solely use the website’s navigation (i.e. without any use of internal search or other navigation aids) to complete a set task. Card sorting using online solutions allows you to  quickly identify how customers group topics together.

How Does Online Card Sorting Work? 

The card sorting online provider will recruit a sample of people who are roughly representative of your target audience or customer base. Participants are then asked to organise topics into categories that they feel make sense. They may also be asked to label these groups to ensure the words you use are what users would expect.

Image of online card sorting screen
Source: Userzoom.com

Benefits of Card Sorting Online:

Online card sorting tools allow you to understand your user’s expectations and their comprehension of your topics. Further, when we discuss our websites internally we often unconsciously use jargon and words that are not generally used outside our organisations to describe aspects of our websites. Knowing how people groups and describe topics can help you:

  • Organise the structure of your website
  • Inform what content to put on your homepage
  • Label categories and navigation
  • Identify how different groups of users view and organise  the same topics

Limitations of Online Card Sorting:

It does not make allowance for users’ tasks. Card sorting is a content-centric process and if used without considering users’ tasks it can lead to an information structure that is not usable when dealing with real tasks. Make sure you evaluate the output from a card sorting exercise by discussing the potential impact on key user tasks.

It can be superficial as participants may not fully consider what the content is about or how they would use it to complete a task. Card sorting results may also vary widely between participants or they may be fairly consistent. Ensure you don’t rely on too small a sample of users to reduce the risk of a few participants overly influencing your results.

Card sorting online tools should be used to inform your decision making and be viewed alongside other research and usability testing to ensure it is used appropriately. For example you might want to consider tree testing (reverse card sorting) to evaluate the findability of items in your navigation structure to validate your card sorting findings.

Like any research technique card sorting tools cannot tell you exactly how users will respond on a live website . For this reason  it is wise to consider A/B testing any major navigation changes first if they risk having an impact on key success metrics.

 

Open and Closed Card Sorting:

Open card sorting involves participants being asked to organise topics into groups that make sense to them and then give a name to each of these groups that best describes its content. This is great for understanding how users’ group content and the terms or labels they apply to each category.

Closed card sorting is where users are asked to sort topics using pre-defined categories. This is normally used once you have clearly defined your main navigation or content categories and need to understand how users organise content items into each category.

Often organisations use a combination of the two methods to firstly identify content categories and then to validate how well the category labels work in a closed card sort.

Below I have summarised 7 of the top online (remote) card sorting tools and 4 software solutions for using off-line.

Online Card Sorting Tools:

Online card sorting solutions allow for remote user testing so that you can save on the cost of a lab and it allows participants to conduct the test in the safety of their natural browsing environment.

Remote user testing can also be incredibly quick as participants can be recruited online and asked to complete the study almost immediately.

Here are seven online card sorting tools summarised for you to consider. An additional four offline cards sorting solutions are summarised below the online tools.

1. Optimal Workshop: Discover how real people think your content should be organised and obtain user insights to make informed decisions about information architecture. Priced at start from $109 per month, $149 per survey or $990 for an annual subscription.

 

image

2. Provenbyusers: A new online card sorting solution that is in Beta and is currently free for users to try it out. Add or import your cards, add a survey and test your card sort before you launch the exercise. Email your participants a unique URL and you can view results immediately. The UI allows you to analyse data using industry standard tables or download your data to analyse as you wish.

Image of Provenbyusers.com homepage

3. SimpleCardSort: Online card sorting with the ability to turn on subgroups to capture multiple levels of card placement. This PRO feature allows users to drag one grouping of cards into another grouping. An additional PRO feature offers participant replay which logs every decision made by users and logs each time they sort a card, create a new group or rename an existing group.

Free demo-account allows you to try out the service with a simple card sort. A Basic subscription starts at $49 for 30 days or $99 for the Pro 30 day plan.

Image of SimpleCardSort.com

4. usabilitiTEST: Online card sorting tool that supports closed, open and hybrid testing. Offers a no-obligation Free 3-day trial with all features available for your evaluation. Provides a Prioritization Matrix tool that helps rank tasks by a frequency and importance criteria. This can help identify which issues are of most importance and give priority to resolve first.

Image of UsabiliTest.com homepage

5. Usability Sciences:  A full-service supplier of usability research, Usability Sciences has been established for over 25 years and will design, manage and analyse the result of your card sorting research for you. They offer both open and closed card-sorting solutions for you.

Image of Card Sorting page from Usability Sciences

 

6. Usability Tools: Card sorting is just one of the tools in their impressive UX suite. Supports open and closed card-sorts, and randomisation of cards and categories. Offers a 14 day Free trial and you can obtain a price quote by submitting your details using a short form.

 

Image of UsabilityTools.com homepage

7. UserZoom: Offers clients a full usability suite, including web-based card sorting. Supports up to 100  items and 12 categories. Supports open and closed card-sorts, randomisation of questions to reduce participant bias, and follows a responsive design so participants can take studies on either their desktop or iPad. Using an iPad makes the process more of an intuitive experience by harnessing the power of touch-screen technology.

UserZoom is Ideal if you are a large organisation looking for a comprehensive usability testing programme, including information architecture/UX design, benchmarking and market research. For businesses subscriptions start from $19,000 a year.

Image of Userzoom.com homepage

Off-Line Card Sorting Tools:

If you prefer to conduct card sorting offline with users you have recruited locally there are a number of free software solutions available to use. Summarised below are four free card sorting software tools you can use.

8. UXSORT:  This is a free open-sourced card sorting software that you can download onto a computer running Windows (Windows 7 is preferred). It allows you to import a list of cards using Word or Excel and the software enables you to sort up to 1,000 cards. Users click and drag cards into pre-set categories and you can view results using real-time reporting.

Data can be exported and merged, with each participant’s data presented and exported individually. The software does allow you to aggregate results and run a cluster analysis. The reporting uses a dendrogram or family tree to present results.

However, the software is not for everyone as it requires basic knowledge of SQL databases because installation includes SQL Compact. However, the site does provide a step-by-step installation guide to help you complete the process.

Image o UXSort.com homepage

 

9. Uzilla Mozdev: This is a free DIY card sorting tool which uses open-source Mozilla based software which is compatible with Windows, Macintosh and Linux. The software allows you to create open sorting and closed sorting projects where participants drag topic options into the category blocks. For closed sorting you can disable the feature that allows respondents to add new labels.

The software only runs in Mozella and you will need to download the UzCardSort software library. The analysis is more limited than some of the cloud-based solutions but the developers plan to release new features over time.

Image of uzilla.mozdev.org card sort homepage

10. The Web Category Analysis Tool (WebCat): This is a free open source card sorting software solution that works on Windows or Apache web servers and on Unix systems running Apache.

The software creates a Java applet that provides an interactive user experience where participants clicks and drags items from a list to one of several category bins. Labels can be moved back and forth between bins until the participant is happy with the outcome and submits their choices for analysis.

The project manager can view collected data using the integrated clustering algorithm and interactive tree. The reporting tool also includes a link to the raw data, subject by category results and a table of any verbatim comments from respondents.

Image of WebCat page from http://zing.ncsl.nist.gov/WebTools/WebCAT/overview.html

11. XSort App: This is a free card sorting tools designed for Macintosh. The tool offers both open and closed sorting, plus a combination of the two. The software simulates a table with cards on it so that participants can click and drop cards into the relevant category. It also allows respondents to create sub-categories if needed which can be useful for developing drop down menus.

The reporting functionality allows you to view results in real-time and export data if required. The developers plan a web-based version of the software to allow participants to respond to studies without having to be on a Macintosh.

Image of XSortapp.com homepage

 

Finally:

Many of these online card sorting tools offer a free trial or demo so don’t let cost put you off trying out card sorting to improve your information architecture. This is such important element of the user experience don’t leave it all to chance. Get some input from real users. You should also seriously consider using tree testing to validate card sorting results and evaluate the findability of categories or products on your site.

Thank you for reading my post. I hope you found this post useful and if you did please share using the social media links on this page.

 

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.  I also have a glossary of over 100 conversion marketing terms.

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  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk, partypoker.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.