Image by Flickr user kaptainkobold (Creative Commons)

Your website looks good because you followed the 4 Web Design Principles for Small Business Owners, but is it easy to use? Can your visitors find what they need quickly? Why is this even important? Because visitors who can’t find what they need and are confused about how to get around are more likely to leave and look for other easier options. This applies to your website regardless of whether you provide informational content or sell products.

When it comes to getting feedback about your business website, one of the most direct ways is by watching people use it. By observing how people maneuver around your website, seeing what they notice and realizing what they completely miss, you can learn a great deal about what to improve. This method of getting feedback is called Usability Testing.

What do I need to get started?

  • 3 to 5 participants
  • An incentive/gratitude for participation
  • Some standard questions or tasks
  • Access to a computer to show your website

Who can participate?

Just about anyone who isn’t as close to your website – you can start by asking family and friends. If your business caters for a specialized field, getting people from that field will give you better insights. If your products or services are targeted at different groups of people, getting some of these types of people will also give you more relevant insights. Just keep in mind that finding the perfect set of participants is not as important – showing your website to someone is better than no one at all!

What can I give for incentives/gratitude?

Image by Flickr user lonelybob (Creative Commons)

Depending on who you’re looking to sign-up, you may need an incentive for participation. Even if you don’t need an incentive, it is good practice to show your gratitude to your participants. Some affordable and effective options are:

  • Food – doughnuts and coffee OR pizza and soda (depending on the time of day). Just set this up in a corner so participants can eat on their way in or out of the sessions.
  • Movie tickets
  • Gift cards
  • A personal Thank you note in appreciation of their time

How can I set tasks?

List the 5 most important tasks visitors should be able to accomplish on your website such as: find contact information, place an order, schedule an appointment, find a product or service, learn more about the business, etc. Next to each, write down questions/tasks in clear and simple language being careful not to mention the exact words or labels written on your website. Try to use a neutral tone and words that are not leading in any way. Use the same set of questions for each person.

What should I be looking for?

Ask people to talk out loud while they carry out each task so you understand what they are looking for. Focus more on what you see as people click around. As you watch, make notes about things that others do differently from what you anticipated, things that would have helped but went unnoticed, questions that come up and other interesting things that you noticed. Once people have tried out all the tasks, go back and ask them about the things you noticed. Ask them whether they noticed specific items and if not, what you could do to make them more noticeable.

Listening to feedback on something you’ve worked so hard on can be difficult. Remember that this is for the good of your business. Once you have gathered all the feedback, take some time to mull over things and determine what fits in with your business. Make the improvements that seem reasonable to you. Be sure to write down any other great ideas that come out of this activity so you can find a way to incorporate this in the future.

Image by Flickr User KaptainKobold (Creative Commons)

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