All too often gut instinct is used instead of the hard evidence from analytics software, and I’ve hinted before that webdesigners need to know their way around analytics packages to make the right decisions on their projects.
With the burgeoning real time web, and rise and rise of social media, the ability for use to receive real time feedback whilst we work has never been more apparent. For developers and designers, there are a wealth of conversion testing tools out there to learn more about your audience activity, and the metrics that matter on your website AFTER completion.
But what if we were able to examine what works during the design phase BEFORE launch? What if we could harness the power of the social web to learn what visitors are likely to click on, or how they interpret parts of your design? The following collection of realtime feedback tools allow you to do just that.
Usaura, whilst not terribly easy to pronounce, is however, terribly easy to use. You have two landing page options when you visit the site for the first time, leaving you with no illusions on how to use the service, and it has no sign-in / register options, which I love. You can choose to either take a test created by another member of the community, or create your own test to gain data and insight into the public perception of your design straight away.
During the creation process you are asked to upload an image, and attach a single question to that image to gain insight into how it is perceived. You can then optionally set it to private (useful if you only want to share it with a particular audience) or public, where other Usaura users will be exposed to it at random. A twitter share option is there, but you can easily distribute your test on as many platforms as you have access to if you so desire. Reporting is done via click detection and heat maps, allowing you to see not only see where people clicked, but what areas of the image they were initially attracted to.
At the moment its a completely free service supported by advertising, and is definitely worth keeping in your arsenal of tools.
Usabilla is a commercial offering which offers a couple of features not available in Usaura. For example, you can not only upload an image, but also specify a URL that you would like your test subjects to see. There are also options for attaching branding to your tests to maintain a uniform look and feel for your customers, and the ability to specify more than one page in a test.
Subjects are exposed to numerous questions about the image or URL, such as ‘What drew your attention the most’ or ‘What are the most appealing images’ – and the web app has a selection of ready made questions that you can use, as well as the option for adding additional custom queries. During the test participants can also add notes when they click, which does give fantastic insight into their thought processes. A widget for embedding your test is also available so theoretically you could create a test, and leave an embedded widget running on your website over say a week period to garner feedback from an existing audience. A really nice touch.
View the test results is a snap, with a Flash based interface that provides a plethora of options, allowing you to view the results from particular questions asked, or hide them appropriately. Test results can also be saved or export for further analysis in other programs, with options for XML export.
The free account only allows ten participants per test, which is more than enough to trial the tool, or for very small details in your design.
Another commercial offering, Loop 11 takes the concept of real time usability testing to a whole new level. Unlike some of its alternatives (listed here) all tests within Loop11 are performed on website addresses, rather than requiring any form of image upload. It’s not a cheap option, but it does have some great features that for many people will be more than worth the money. For one test, with a benchmark of 1000 users, you can signup for $350 per test. (around £214). There is also a completely free trial available.
One of the main selling points for me, is the fact that you can you ask your end users questions and also have them perform tasks. Tasks could be, for example, ‘add an item to the shopping basket’, ‘enter a discount code’, and finally checkout – and this is determined by the final landing URL that the visitor reaches. You can make a change to your design, run your tests again, and finally figure out exactly what makes people respond during your sales funnel. The same process could of course be applied to any website with an end goal in mind.
Once you have established either / or the questions that you would like to ask your visitors, you can begin the promotion of your study. Again, this aspect of Loop11 is great, as you can choose to either:
1) Buy participants that match a certain condition (determined by you, but filtered by Loop11)
2) Promote your study for free
3) Filter partipants using ‘Ethnio’ – a solution which asks your visitors questions, then determines if they are suitable for the task / study.
4) Simply create a popup window that you can embed on your own website.
All of these options provide their own benefits, and the ability to filter participants that take the study is particularly noteworthy, as the results will likely be very different across demographics.
The reporting function with the data received from this in Loop11 is simply superior in comparison with other options out their on the market today, and you can see how long visitors spent on average completing a task, and the impact of design changes as you make them in real time. It’s a great solution with an exciting future ahead of it.
Feedback Roulette allows you to receive an impartial review from your peers about your website. The ecosystem within the system encourages honest and quality feedback from members with a system of ratings and reviews to help match reviews with each other.
To get going, you simply add your website, add a brief overview of the areas for debate, or questions for other reviewers, and feedbackroulette does the rest. Once you have submitted your site, you are asked anonymous questions about other people’s websites in an effort to garner feedback, and in turn, other reviewers are assigned to your site.
Feedback and reporting on your own site is available when you log in, but more active reviewers are rewarded with more traffic, so there is motivation for others to use the system, and indeed share links to the service – which is great, as it will probably provide them with some level of viral growth. Well worth examining if you are keen to just hear what people have to say.
The first thing that strikes you about intuitionHQ, and their landing page – is how beautiful it is. The design team have done a sterling job. The application itself is also easy to use and navigate around, and I was able to create a basic test in less than 5 minutes.
Intuition relies on screenshots to garner feedback from your audience, in much the same way as Usabilla or Usaru, and doesn’t allow for URLs. It is therefore, probably more geared at the design phase than the implementation, as no web based interaction can take place inside the system. What you can do however, is to add tasks for you audience to take, and these can also be A/B tested, giving valuable insight into your designs.
Tests cost $9 each, and promotion is up to the end user.
Optimal Workshop offer not 1, but 3 awesome tools for feedback about your users. With a variety of concepts provided for, you’ll be hard pushed to find data about your website that you can’t find out.
Optimal Sort – uses Card Sorting techniques to discover how people would organise your content.
With Optimal Sort you can answer questions such as:
- What should the navigation categories for my website be?
- How do my customers think about my content? Where would they put it?
- Where on my website should this page go?
- How do I group or label my content?
This video takes you through your first card sort:
Tree Jack – which offers the ability to fully test your navigation with a number of questions.
With Tree Jack you can answer questions such as:
- How valid is this information architecture (IA)?
- Can people find what they want using this IA?
- How efficient is this IA?
- Will this label or structure work for our users?
and finally: Chalkmark – which offers click tracking for first impressions around a screenshots or website designs.
- Find out where people are clicking first
- Find out if certain parts of your site are attracting too little, or too much attention
- Substantiate your decisions
- Benchmark before a re-design project
These are all real world problems that every designer or developer have encountered. We can at least partially base UX and indeed architectural decisions (menu systems) etc. on the results of testing, which is great. The full suite of these products for a 12 month period is $1,990 dollars, and there are alternative pricing options if you don’t want to go ‘all in’.
Concept Feedback is crowdsourced design service, geared towards designers looking to get direct feedback on concepts, mockups and designs. It is very similar in nature to Dribble, with the ability to ‘like’ someones concept, and receive feedback on it. The community is a strong one – with over 30,000 reviews posted on the site at the beginning of the year.
As with feedback roulette, Concept Feedback relies on user participation before you get the freebies. You need to have first supplied five reviews of concepts that are deemed to be “actionable,” before receiving your own free feedback. This encourages sensible and useful reviews with the system, and holds users accountable.