The people who are drawn to your site may not be anything like you. They may hold on to some very different views on what they want from your site and how it should work.
While this has many implications regarding how we treat our visitors, one of the biggest is that a site designed to be intuitive and easy to you could be baffling to its visitors. If those visitors are leaving too quickly, you may never know what the problem is or have a chance to correct it.
Fortunately, on the Web usability testing is easier than ever. Furthermore, with studies showing that you can effectively test usability with as few as five visitors, usability testing is no longer in the realm of large companies planning major campaigns, but rather, is approachable even by the smallest blogger.
If you’re interested in testing your site’s usability, here are ten low-cost or free tools that can help you get started.
Recording Current Visitors
ClickTale lets you track user mouse movements, keystrokes and other behavior. Aggregates this information to form heatmaps to show you what on your site visitors are looking. Also provides attention and scroll reach heatmaps to show you what your visitors are looking at. Clicktale is free for up to 400 pageviews per month and has paid accounts starting at $99 per month for 20,000 pageviews.
ClickHeat is a simple, free tool for generating heat maps based on user clicks. A simple solution for those who want something self hosted, meaning they don’t have to rely on a third-party service.
Instant User Testing
For as little as $29 per user, UserTesting.com will send a panel of visitors to your site to complete tasks you specify and answer your questions. Results can be returned in as little as an hour and the tests can be very thoroughly defined.
For as little as $15 per user, Easy Usability lets you make a request to send visitors to your site to answer questions about your usability and get feedback. Test parameters aren’t as tight as UserTesting.com but you can set up a total of 10 questions.
The cheapest solution of this kind, Feedback Army is able to provide 10 users for just $15 though you can only ask 6 questions and can do little to customize the test. Tests generally take about eight days though you should start seeing results quickly.
FiveSecondTest is unique in that you can actually earn free tests by giving feedback to other customers, paid accounts are billed monthly, starting at $20 for 100 visitors per month. However, you can only present users with a screenshot or a mockup of your site, not direct them to your actual page.
As with FiveSecondTest, you can only use mockups of your site but ChalkMark presents heatmaps based on what your testers clicked on when given various assignments. Basic accounts are free and paid ones start at $109 per month.
Google Website Optimizer
GWO is a simple, free tool that lets you run both A/B and multivariate testing to see how different pieces of content work on your site and which performs better. Setup can be a bit difficult, especially for novices, but it is free and effective.
Starting at $19 per month to test 2,000 visitors, Optimizely specializes in making A/B testing fast and easy. Even lets you test a certain percentage of your traffic at a time so you can look at results over a longer period.
All in all, these tools provide excellent resources to make usability testing easier and cheaper than ever before.
Given that you only need to test with a handful of visitors to get useful information, there’s little reason not to take a seriously look at your site’s usability, especially considering improving it can help you keep visitors longer and make more money.
This is a guest post by Lior Levin who works for an online task management start-up. You can also guest post for us and share your tips with our readers.