If you’re like the vast majority of business owners, you’ve created a website to help make your business more easily accessible to customers. You may think that it stops there; you have the website, and so your users will just figure it out. However, you website might not be running on all cylinders, and could potentially use some minor (or sometimes major) fixes in order to get your users what they really need to get out of it.
This is where usability testing your business website comes into play. In short, usability.gov defines usability testing as “evaluating a product or service by testing it with representative users.” The product or service in this case is your business’s website, and the representative users can vary depending on the kinds of products and services that your business provides. For example, if you run a sporting goods store, your representative users would probably be people who play sports or are into fitness and would be coming to the website to look for store information or to buy products.
So, if that’s what usability testing is…why should you usability test your business website? Below are three reasons you should usability test your website, early and often.
Reason 1: A Bad Website Can Affect Your Credibility
One of the primary reasons you should usability test is that a bad website can negatively impact the credibility of your business.
One of the first things a user does to find a product or service is to look it up online, regardless if it’s a major business or a small business. It’s one thing to at least have a website there for users to find, but having a bad website will affect your credibility almost as much as having no website at all. In a recent survey, it was found that over 85% of people claim they wouldn’t buy from or use a poorly designed website.
Doing a usability test of a business website can help you figure out where the problems lie in both the design and performance ends of the spectrum. By improving these issues that customers find on your site, you not only help them find the information they’re looking for, but also improve their impression of your business.
Reason 2: You Only Need a Few Users
When you start to think about usability testing your website, you may think: “oh, we have thousands of customers, we’re going to need to test with thousands of people too!”
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about getting users by the droves to find some of the biggest issues on your website.
In order for you to find a majority of the problems on your site, you only need to test with around 5 users. Testing with just five users can help you find almost 85% of usability problems, on average. Eliminating these major problems can make a huge difference in the efficiency, learnability, and satisfaction users experience on your website. If your business has a diverse customer base, you may need to test with a few more users groups in order to be sure you’re catching all the problems. If that is the case, you’ll want to test with 3-4 users in for each customer group.
As a rule, you never just want to usability test your website using people internal to your organization. As Craig Tomlin cautions, you want to avoid any bias you have in testing your own site. Be careful not to persuade users to complete tasks in the ways you think they should complete them. Also avoid taking your own usability test, or having your employees take it, as you already know everything there is to know about your own website and will skewing the data.
Nevertheless, testing with 5 users is a small price to pay for upping customer retention, improving your business’s credibility, and helping you and your staff avoid major customer service headaches.
Reason 3: You Don’t Have to Break the Bank (or the Clock)
There’s one question you’re probably asking yourself at this point: “This all sounds useful, but how much is this all going to cost me?”
Luckily, just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you have to miss out on quality usability testing that could greatly help your website. There are variety of tools and techniques, such as Lean UX, that can help you quickly and efficiently identify problems and work to fix them.
Essentially, the mantra of Lean UX is:
Rather than spending months designing, or redesigning, a website, why not test early and often with a handful of users? Testing more often with small groups of users, rather than waiting until you’re close to launch and testing with a whole bunch, can help you spot problems early on and case save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in billable hours.
There are many more good reasons you should usability test your business website, including that it’s the best way to build a really awesome website your customers will love. How and when you test is up to you. Whether you hire a consultant or do it yourself is up to you. Just test. You owe it to yourself and your business.