Whether you’re launching a new website, a mobile app, or just a new version of a checkout process, there are countless decisions to be made. What color should the header text be? Should the text be left-justified or center-aligned? How many fields should be in the contact form?

We’ve covered the importance of using A/B testing tools to improve existing web properties — a similar tactic can be used even before a page goes live. Think of user testing like an online focus group for your product, offering feedback and insights from actual human perspectives. User testing frequently offers a smaller sample size for data, but gives more well-rounded feedback for your consideration.

When to Test

A typical web launch involves strategy, concepting, wireframes, design, development, and launch phases. If a significant flaw or area of improvement is discovered post-launch, it can take weeks, if not months, to restart the entire process and relaunch an improved product.

So, when is a product ready for user testing? For a successful test, all you need is a visual (whether it’s a wireframe, a static design, or a functioning prototype) and a set of questions or objectives to put in front of subjects. The most effective testing can begin with a round of high-fidelity wireframes, where testers can begin assessing basic user flows and content placement.

Wireframe sketch on digital tablet screen by ronstik
Wireframe sketch on digital tablet screen by ronstik

What to Test

Aligning your user-testing objectives with the phases of your launch cycle will help create the most efficient feedback for your team. As you progress through the project lifecycle, utilize user testing to gain insight and feedback into the following questions:

Project Phase: Wireframes

Is content prioritized appropriately? It might sound obvious, but putting the most important content at the top of the viewing field is critical for a successful interaction. Make sure all essential information is being seen by your users.

Do users understand what action they need to take (fill out a form, click to a second page)? Every page needs to have a strong “what next” component that compels users to progress toward their ultimate action. If users can’t find the “Add to Cart” or “Learn More” buttons on your wireframe, there’s a clear issue that needs to be addressed.

Is navigation intuitive? For the majority of users who land on your homepage, it’s especially important to ensure they can utilize navigation to find the information they’re seeking. If users only click on top-level navigation items without reading through a long drop-down menu, you may want to reconsider how the navigation is structured.

Project Phase: Static Designs

Are images distracting from user objectives or helping them? Many user-testing products offer eye-tracking, which can show you exactly what’s catching a person’s eye on a page. Make sure these elements are leading users closer to the intended action, not simply dressing up a page.

Are there enough visual elements on the page? On e-commerce product pages in particular, having a large volume of images or videos can strongly impact a shopper’s decision-making process.

Is color used to effectively prioritize and highlight content? Strategic use of colors should be highlighting the prioritized content and “What Next” calls-to-action that were established during the wireframe phase, further reinforcing a user’s pathway.

Project Phase: Beta Product

How do users move throughout the site? Take a close look at whether people are finding the shortest path from start to finish on your website. Are testers using a search functionality because it’s convenient, or because they can’t find what they need elsewhere?

Where do users spend the most time? Observing where people naturally gravitate can help prioritize additional content creation for these areas.

Where do most users give up? Understanding any specific hurdles that remain will allow for quick pre-launch fixes and serve as the beginning of an A/B-testing laundry list for post-launch optimization.

Designer drawing website development wireframe by ronstik
Designer drawing website development wireframe by ronstik

How to Test

Facilitating focus groups manually can be a serious investment, but online user testing is easy to set up, execute, and analyze. Consider the following products to help you get started.

UserTesting

Used by the web’s top properties (including Google, Facebook, and Apple), UserTesting is the gold standard in gaining actionable insights. All tests on this platform include video and audio of your product in use, so you can see exactly what people are experiencing in real-time. Keep costs low with a beginner plan that costs just $49 per video, or commit to a yearlong subscription for access to UserTesting’s research team and recruiting to meet your user profile needs. A new spinoff product, Peak, offers a free 5-minute review of your site, based on a predetermined checklist of common review questions.

YouEye

This product also offers video and audio capture of user-test sessions, but goes one step further with a face-recognition algorithm. This technology claims to recognize 50,000 micro-expressions, which can pinpoint feedback beyond what the users may even be consciously aware of as they navigate your website. Custom pricing is available based on the testing volume and frequency needed.

UsabilityHub

Without providing expensive (and time-consuming) videos, UsabilityHub relies on simple tests and a high volume of participants to offer quick and inexpensive feedback. This platform works best for one-step tests (e.g., Where would you click if you wanted to shop for coats?) without the need for deep analysis. Plans start at just $20 per month, and enable you to create custom URLs to share with your own testers outside of the UsabilityHub platform if needed.

Do you have any other favorite methods for user testing you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

Top image: Flat illustration design business concept by pixome