A WordStream study found that the average website conversion rate is 2.4%. Yet the top 10% of websites in the study converted over 11% of users. To move from the middle of the pack to the top, you need to understand your website’s weaknesses. For that, you need data.
Many user analytics platforms claim to offer meaningful data access. Very few deliver the insights needed to make changes that meaningfully impact conversion rate or revenue. Metrics like bounce rate and average session length are useful but limited. They tell you there’s a problem, but not what it is.
User testing is the perfect solution. In this article, we’ll explain what it is and how you can use it to get insights that will transform your website into a revenue generating machine.
User testing is the process of getting users to test your website. It’s a broad term, encompassing different types of tests for various purposes. However, all forms of user testing share one common objective—to understand how users interact with your website.
Knowing how well your website meets user needs is a necessary prerequisite for making changes to improve it.
The factors—like user experience, messaging resonance, and ease-of-navigation—that make your website a good-fit for those needs can’t be reliably strengthened using instinct alone. Data is the only guiding light worth following.
This is why businesses of diverse sizes across all sectors perform user testing. Yet, not all forms of user testing are equal. The most insightful types:
In contrast, the simplest forms of user testing, like using Google Analytics to capture live usage data, don’t fulfill any of those criteria.
The terms user testing and usability testing are often used interchangeably, but are different.
Usability testing deals with the most fundamental and practical aspects of user experience. It’s oriented to deliver insights about how easy users find your website to use. Participants in a usability test will be asked to complete objectives on-site.
In the process, you’ll see how they use your navigation to get around and how well they interpret information. This gives you information about the quality of your site’s functionality.
User testing is much broader. It doesn’t solely focus on the purely practical elements that constitute website usability. It also aims to provide insights into how the user feels while using the website. This involves monitoring users’ emotions, perceptions, and preferences, rather than simply recording how well they can complete a given task.
The results of user testing can inform vital elements such as messaging, UX design, and imagery.
Differing circumstances and varying appetites for data call for diverse methods of user testing– each with its own benefits and drawbacks.
Usually, when we're talking about user testing, these are the types we usually refer to:
But let's take a look at them one by one.
Video walkthroughs aim to record a full user experience. They involve combining screen-recording software and a webcam video feed to show a full view of how users interact with the website and how they feel while doing it. This makes them one of the most comprehensive forms of user testing.
Dedicated video walkthrough solutions such as Wynter’s User Testing tend to be highly customizable. Participants can be chosen from a panel to perfectly match your ideal customer profile (ICP). This selection process is aided by variables including their job title, industry, and company size.
Watching testers navigate your site, interpret your messaging, and evaluate the value proposition in real-time is invaluable. The output of video walkthrough testing can feed directly into website improvements that truly move the needle of user experience.
One key drawback is that all data collected through a video walkthrough test is qualitative, and therefore potentially difficult to interpret quantitatively.
Focus groups involve collecting a group of users (typically between 5 and 15 people) to walk through the website and spark open discussion. A focus group session is oriented to foster an environment where the users feel free to raise their concerns, difficulties, and preferences. They generally last upwards of an hour and can be done in-person or remotely.
A focus group is led by a moderator who can steer the conversation and start new threads of discussion. This makes it a particularly useful format if you’re looking for specific insights. Participants can be prompted to provide feedback on how well the messaging resonates with them or how they feel about the brand image. Focus group members can also be chosen for good-fit, ensuring that the group is representative of your ICP.
The main drawback of focus groups is the limitations imposed by their cost and relatively small scale. 15 people’s thoughts are arguably not enough to make decisions from. This often means that several focus groups have to be arranged and conducted to get a meaningful return.
Surveys fall on the low-complexity end of the user testing spectrum. They involve collecting a set of questions to put in front of relevant users. These questions might be open-ended, closed-ended, or a mix of both, depending on your preferences. Surveys can range in size from 10 to 100 questions, and can be dispersed to vast audiences of up to hundreds of thousands of people.
Conducting a remote survey is one of the cheapest, easiest, and quickest ways to gather data en masse. The only input required is in the creation of the question set. It’s a testing method well-suited to businesses looking for quick, simple, quantitative responses.
However, surveys fall short when it comes to the granularity of detail provided. You can spend hours perfecting your question set but the data you get back is limited by the effort put in by the respondents. There’s also generally far less capacity to tailor the test audience to your ICP.
A/B testing is possibly the most common form of user testing, with Invesp data showing that up to 77% of businesses use it on their website.
An A/B test involves splitting an audience in two and presenting each side with a different version of the website. By comparing the resultant data from the test, you can learn which website version performed better.
A/B testing’s popularity is partly down to its simplicity, with tools like Optimizely making it quick and simple to deploy. It’s well-suited to delivering insights about the impact small changes—such as different CTA messaging or a new header image—have on user experience.
However, its main drawback is that the data collected is purely binary. A successful A/B test will tell you which version of your website is better, but not why. If there’s more than one variable element involved in the test, the data is limited to being indicative rather than prescriptive.
User testing offers many benefits–all of which involve improving website sales. Here are some of the benefits most prominently-linked to website revenue growth.
Users aren’t interested in reading everything you want to tell them. You could argue they’re not interested in reading at all. That makes clarity and conciseness extremely important virtues for website messaging.
A study by Nielsen found that only 16% of web users read pages word-by-word. Most instead scan pages to pick out the most important information. Unbounce data also shows that landing pages with less than 300 words feature the highest conversion rates. That puts a lot of pressure on key elements of your messaging like headings, sub-headings, and paragraph introductions.
User testing can tell you how well your ICP understands your product, value proposition, or brand based on your website messaging. If the feedback you receive implies that they’re struggling to grasp what you’re offering, improving clarity should be your number one priority. If test responses agree you’re saying too much, improving conciseness is the goal.
People buy SaaS products because they have a problem that needs solving. Addressing those problems in your website messaging and demonstrating your product can solve them is key in generating sales. Before you address them, you need to understand them.
Generating user personas will give you a head-start in this regard. However, the output of user testing will improve your understanding of the problems your ICPs face. This is especially true of the highly-qualitative forms, like video walkthroughs and focus groups. These methods offer deep insights into how well your website addresses the primary problems faced by your ICP.
Those insights can directly lead to revolutionary messaging tweaks that transform your landing pages’ efficacy. Properly addressing how your product solves common problems removes customers’ largest potential objections.
Emotions are deeply involved throughout the marketing and sales funnel. They’re particularly relevant when users are making the final purchasing decision. Despite their importance, very few brands actually attempt to measure how they impact sales.
Klarna carried out an in-depth study investigating the impact of emotions on user behavior in ecommerce. Distrust, frustration, and familiarity all ranked highly as factors that turn users off converting.
User testing is ideal for identifying whether your website elicits these emotions. It tells you what elements of your website are triggering negative emotional responses. This is especially true if it’s qualitative and detailed in nature. Armed with the data, you can make changes that soften the emotional experience.
Finally, user testing can reveal insights about how well the way information is structured on your website meets user needs. Effectively structured information, both on a single page and across a navigation journey, results in a smooth user experience. Done well, it can overcome user objections and gradually qualify your product in the user’s mind.
However, this is more easily said than done for complex SaaS products that require a lot of explanation. The results of user testing can illuminate where users feel that the information provided is insufficient, poorly ordered, or difficult to follow. This can be instrumental when applied in your page design process, improving user experience significantly.
Effective user testing can revolutionize your website performance. Like all forms of testing, it is most useful when the process is tackled with forethought and thoroughness. No matter which user testing method you’re using, following these steps will make sure you get data that’s perfectly suited for steering website improvements.
This step will have ramifications on each subsequent part of the process–especially in determining the best method to use.
Some tests are geared towards understanding users’ thoughts on a specific facet of the website, like the messaging. Others will prioritize cataloging emotional responses to how the brand is presented.
To decide, think about what information will best guide changes that influence revenue growth. In some cases, you will already have a suspicion of what’s holding back sales. Prioritize an approach that focuses on that element.
Whichever objective you settle on, make sure that you deeply consider the implications on the rest of the test before moving on.
This step is critical for B2B SaaS brands, who tend to have a narrow target audience. Data collected from testing completely irrelevant users is practically useless. It’s crucial that the audience you test on is a close match to your ICP.
To ensure this is the case for your test, you must first understand your ICP through user research and creating data-driven user personas. By creating personas, you’ll better understand the demographics, values, and needs of your ideal customer, which equips you to choose an appropriate user testing method.
For example, if you’re testing an email marketing automation platform website, you may find that a survey isn’t appropriate because the audience is too broad. Instead, you should focus on more options with more personalizable audiences, like Wynter’s User Testing or focus groups.
As you set up the test, refer back to your objectives to ensure that you’re focused on collecting the data you really need.
If you choose to user test your website using video walkthroughs, for instance, create a full test brief to guide users through their session. If you’re using a mass survey, you’ll need to spend time putting together a question set that covers all the bases you’re interested in.
Once the test is completed, you’ll have a set of test results that needs to be analyzed to uncover game-changing insights. The format of this data will vary depending on the test you ran. Quantitative survey data offers the simplest output and video walkthroughs tend to require more analysis.
The purpose of the data analysis is to develop a cohesive output that relates back to your initial objective. If you set out to understand what emotions people feel when they’re browsing your website, for example, you should compile the responses, digest the sentiment, and write up a conclusive summary.
With the output of the test analyzed, start making improvements to your website. What this step entails is entirely dependent on the objectives and outcome of the test. It may mean tweaking messaging to achieve better resonance with your ICP’s pain-point. Alternatively, you might have learned that users have difficulty finding key pages, meaning you need to re-think navigation.
Making improvements based on the data you’ve collected is the final step in the user testing process. However, it’s far from the last thing you can do to grow revenue.
Following-up with additional tests, such as message testing or preference testing, can provide you with even more data to work from. The process of testing, improving, and repeating is foundational to long-term website sales growth.
There are innumerable ways to make your website better at converting leads. However, without data, you’re unlikely to stumble upon any of them. That makes user testing a crucial element of any strategy that aims to strengthen website revenue performance.
Choosing the right testing method and following the process to prepare for, run, and analyze your test comprehensively delivers an invaluable return. The insights you get are a candid look into the mind of your target market. Needless to say, that power can be transformational as you strive to address them more effectively.