User testing is expensive? Wrong. This is a common misconception, not just amongst startups but also within well-established businesses.

In fact, user testing – otherwise known as ‘usability testing’ – is one of the most powerful tools for UX research and should be the first component in the strategy for acquiring further investment.

Question: would it be more cost effective to have an MVP model which was proven by qualitative user research?

In this article we explore how website usability testing can provide ROI and the best ways to conduct UX research – specifically for startups (Although the principles apply to any business).

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design” — Ralf Speth

Man on bike with pound sign in middle, illustrating ROI

What is User Testing?

Fundamentally, user testing is all about seeking validation from target prospects. Conducting the research in a robust manner and removing bias, however, is where things can get more complex.

How does User Testing work?

The general set-up is to invite a sample of prospect users to test your website or application. This doesn’t have to be the fully-finished product; it can be tested whether it’s in a prototype or live state. Sessions are recorded, reviewed, analysed and can be used to form actions such as optimisation plans or fixing core blockers within the user journey.

Did you know? From just 6 users it is possible to identify at least 80% of core issues with a website.

It’s a critical component of UX research which can help validate assumptions and steer the design direction more confidently as well as highlight key issues you may have never thought about.

Why should you do User Testing?

User testing is all about validation and reducing risk. Which, for a startup – where every penny counts – it’s important to ensure your product is fully validated. Otherwise, it will be doomed to fail.

It’s also far cheaper to identify blockers earlier in the process. Alternatively, you end up launching a product only to find issues later on, when investment may have already been gone.

User testing steers development

Typically, the website build process looks like this:

Graph showing the traditional approach to digital strategy.

By investing in web user testing early on insight and feedback helps steer the direction of the next stages of development:

Graph showing the process of InsightfulUX.

How to do User Testing for free?

For many startups and small businesses, cashflow is the biggest issue and user testing therefore may well be perceived as a premium asset in the planning stages of the business.

However, even at grass roots level there are ways to gather feedback very cost effectively. Some of these tools are even free!

The most inexpensive method is literally “paper prototyping”. Draft your web journey on paper and get users to review the process. This can also allow the designer to be involved in the process of creating the initial interface by drawing the wireframes.

Taking this a step further and using digital tools to achieve the same output which then then easily be tweaked and forwarded onto your design and dev teams. Here are some useful tools to consider:

Don’t forget, user testing doesn’t even have to be face-to-face. Using some of the screensharing tools mentioned above you can even do remote user testing.

For more detail on the process of conducting user research check out part 2 of this post -The 7 stages of UX research.

UX research gif, showing user research in action

Remember to remove the bias from UX research

To get the most out of user testing it’s important the moderator removes any bias from the question set and user journey. We’re not here to guide the user to the solution, the purpose is to understand what the user is really looking for and identify the blockers.

If you’re moderating the session, it’s important to first make sure that your own state of mind is right.

To do this you need to:

  • Distance yourself from the product. Don’t take feedback personally.
  • Be open minded, the feedback will inevitably contradict your own ideas.
  • Don’t argue with the user. Remember the objective is to understand their perspective.

To support the process and get the most out of user testing it’s important to:

  • Ensure the participant experiences the user journey as opposed to thinking about it.
  • Ensure the users are real prospects, don’t recruit fakers.
  • Ideally you need the participants to test using their own devices in their own environments, hence remote user testing can be even more powerful than in a UX lab.

Measuring the ROI of user testing

This is a difficult question to answer. Defining the ROI for every user testing project is always going to be challenging. It largely depends on the objectives of the research in the first instance – that’s not a cop out answer, honest!

As we’ve already highlighted, over 80% of core issues in a website can be identified from just 6 users.

Let’s say 80% of the issues were causing a lower than expected conversion, or an excessively high bounce rate. If those issues weren’t present imagine what could be achieved from launch, let alone later down the line.

As an example, we provided a user testing project for a major corporate insurance firm looking to improve the quote and buy journey for one of their home insurance brands. Following the research project and the delivery of a brand-new journey conversion from click to sale increased from 6-22%.

Higher returns from research

This represented a x4 return on investment from the initial cost of the research. Whilst the client had significant budget for the redevelopment of the website, which included a re-brand and an entirely new question set – we’ve seen similar results for much smaller builds.

Know exactly what you’re in for

As a startup, launching your idea into the market place is all about confidence. Your investors need confidence, your third parties, agencies and employees need confidence and most importantly you need confidence in the solution.

Website user testing is all about validation and ensuring the product you put out to the masses will hit the KPI’s you set whether that’s to acquire further investment, second round of funding or grow the business organically.

If you want to find out more about web user testing or would like help with conducting your own research we’d love to hear from you, get in touch.

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