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Economical site testing

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Friday September 12, 2008 )

Back in the days when I worked bricks and mortar retail, managers were shifted around between stores to prevent “store-blindness”. The same store-blindness certainly occurs with web sites.

When you work in a certain store (or on a site) for a period of time, it’s easy to miss issues that are glaring problems to customers/visitors. Being store-blind isn’t laziness, it’s just that you simply don’t see the issues any more, or their importance doesn’t register.

My own site could do with a lot of TLC – navigation needs to get sorted out, design revamp, etc. etc. but often the issues we know about aren’t the whole story.

In order to pick up on problems that we don’t see, we need to engage testers. Testers shouldn’t be your mom, your spouse or your pals – there’s too much bias. A tester should be an entirely fresh set of eyes who won’t be influenced by any association with you.

Web site testing is a little different to software testing in my opinion – that’s a whole different ball game requiring a great deal of skill. Having done software testing, I now understand why some companies require their software testers to a university degree. Getting your site tested for general usability however is best left to Joe Surfer – the people who may be your clients.

To get that sort of testing done on a site used to be very expensive – but there’s a great looking service I came across a couple of days ago that puts it well within budget for the average site owner.

The service is called ahem, User Testing, and for $19 you get a video of a user speaking their thoughts as they browse your site, plus a written review of issues they came across.

You can have more than one person testing – according to usability expert Jakob Nielsen, you’ll discover most of a site’s problems with as few as five user testers. You can also have your own customers be the user testers for your site.

It’s not just small online business owners utilizing the service, some big names have also jumped on board and the reviews have been great.

User Testing’s services also come with a money back guarantee. Well worthwhile checking out!

Another way to get feedback from your visitors and clients is with surveys – these can reveal all sorts of interesting snippets, plus provide you with a plethora of new ideas. Learn more about implementing polls and surveys.


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