This post is part of a series of posts on simple UX techniques you can use in the ongoing quest toward website betterment.
This installment focuses on eliciting user feedback, and since this is quick and dirty style, we'll talk about a tool we use when time and resources are limited.
Wait, I should talk to users?
First, why do you want user feedback? In the simplest of explanations, users are the ones using your site, so why wouldn’t you want to hear from them? You can make all kinds of assumptions about how someone might find something on your site, or what they might see first, or how they might perceive that button or call to action. But until you ask your users, it's a lot of speculation and guessing.
Hearing from your users can be a pretty insightful exercise because it can shine a light on the disparity between what you think users do and what they actually do. It can also identify places where users get frustrated or confused. Reducing frustration and making it easy for users to achieve their goals on your site can improve brand perception and keep them coming back to you, all of which is good for business.
But what should I ask?
Good question. The answer to this question depends on what we want to know. Sometimes we want to know how users are using a specific part of a website to find out how we can improve that part. Other times, we want to know if they respond better to one option over another (also called A/B testing). And even other times, we want to see how they might use something that has yet to be implemented (aka testing a prototype). We can ask users many different types of questions and employ a number of methods to ask them (surveys, in-person user testing, remote user testing, contextual inquiry, and so on). The list is extensive.
For us, many times our questions are straightforward and we want to get answers fairly quickly without using a lot of resources. In that case, we use one of the many usability tools out there, Usabilla. Usabilla lets us ask a variety of questions and get helpful data by which we can then make more informed design decisions. (And, as a great supplement to this post, they have a great blog post on 5 Things You Can Test in Under 5 Minutes.)
How it Works
To be clear, Usabilla is a paid service (with a pretty affordable basic plan — and a 30-day free trial) and they haven’t paid us to write this. I just like using it enough to include it in this series. Usabilla allows you to create a brief visual survey for your site that you can then send to your users (through email, social channels, or right on your site — they provide a handy script for that) and get feedback.
For example, we wanted to improve the shopping experience for a client’s website, Floors to Your Home, so first we started by asking users what jumped out at them the most:
And this is what they told us (the results show up as a handy heat map to reveal areas of concentration):
From this data we learned that users are drawn to the logo, the red bar below the main navigation, price, product photo and the free shipping graphic there in the middle. This was helpful information for us know when deciding how to prioritize making changes to this page.
For this same client, we also used this test to ask users what are the most important elements they consider when purchasing flooring:
These results confirmed our hunch that most of their users consider price to be the most important element. We also discovered that users like the room view and knowing there’s free shipping. Again, this was helpful information to start with when we went to rework the page.
These tests were really easy to create and required very few resources to execute, which is a huge benefit. Usabilla also has helpful analytics that can be used to track time spent on a question, as well as notes that users make when answering the survey (not shown here). Keep in mind that this kind of testing still resides in the quick and dirty sphere: it’s great to use as a jumping off point to make high-level decisions and decide on a direction, but it’s not a replacement for rich user testing evaluations and research.
Let us know if you give Usabilla a try and how it works for you!