Two Great Tools for a Great Web Site

I just came across two web sites that I believe will help WiseClicker.com readers tremendously. I find it

interesting that I found these coincidentally right after my most recent post “Wait! Don’t launch your

site yet” (http://www.wiseclicker.com/2009/12/wait-dont-launch-your-site-yet/), which is related to

web site usability. These two web sites, “UserTesting.com” (http://www.usertesting.com) and

“WebSiteOptimization.com” (http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/), are totally

different services and can help improve the user experience your web site offers by addressing different

aspects of your site. I found them by chance and wanted to share them with you. I am sure there are

others out there and I would like to learn if there are any tools or services you are using for the same

purpose.

In my earlier article (http://www.wiseclicker.com/2009/12/wait-dont-launch-your-site-yet/) I suggested

that you should make sure that your web site is ready to meet your target audience’s expectations

before it goes live. One of the steps, probably the most important one, is to have your web site tested

by users  that represent your target audience. Usually a simple test done by easily accessible individuals

such as family members, friends or customers can be helpful to determine the very basic flaws of your

web site and its design. However, don’t forget that these may not necessarily represent the people you

are trying to reach. Also, you cannot expect the comments and feedback of people you know to be 100%

objective. So, utilizing the views of a targeted user group is essential for your success.

So, if you need more insight than what your immediate network can provide about the usability of your

web site, “UserTesting.com” offers a practical and cost effective service. You initiate the process by

filling out a form on their web site. You set parameters about your target audience, tell how many

testers you need and describe the task that you want each tester to perform on your web site. For

example, you may ask the user to search for a specific information or buy a certain product on your site.

The task should be something that can be completed in about 15 minutes, though.

Once entered into UserTesting.com’s system, your request is delivered to users who match your target

demographics. The user who is assigned to the test, creates a recording using a special software while

performing the task you have defined in your request. Each test user’s mouse movements, clicks,

keystrokes, and spoken comments are recorded during this process. At the end, you receive the

recording as a Flash video and additionally get the tester’s written comments about your web site. Here

are links demos to give you an idea about how a recording

(http://www.usertesting.com/Popups/SampleMovie.aspx?file=bb4f65fd) works and a sample report

(http://www.usertesting.com/ReviewSample.aspx) looks.

The service costs $29 per tester and they have a 100% money back guarantee if you are not satisfied

with the outcome.

In my opinion, having the video of the user test is a great opportunity to understand how users will

interact with your site. I am sure that such a tool may uncover many user experience issues which

cannot be even imagined. It will definitely help in identifying strong and weak areas, and give you a clear

direction towards improving the usability of your web site. On the other hand, one feature I believe that

can be improved is the availability of demographic parameters in order to increase the quality of

targeted test user selection.

It is very easy to understand and interpret the information you get from “UserTesting.com”. However,

the other tool I would like to introduce is different. WebSiteOptimization.com offers a free and

automated web site speed analysis that will help you fix speed related usability issues of your web site.

Poor download performance is a major cause of frustration and reason to navigate away from a site. The

download speed of a web site depends on various parameters such as the size of the web page file that

needs to be transferred from the web server, the number of multi media components used in a page or

coding techniques used to create web pages. The analysis tool at WebSiteOptimization.com reviews the

components of the web page you specify by entering its web address and comes up with a detailed list

of statistics and recommendations. It really does a detailed job in checking the pieces of a web page that

effect download speed. At the end you get a list of recommendations that address all the reviewed

variables.

Using these recommendations, you can fix the issues and significantly improve the performance of your

web page. I was able to improve the download time of WiseClicker.com’s home page by 16% in a couple

of minutes using some of the recommendations provided by this tool. Unfortunately, if you do not have

the technical skills required to develop or modify a web site, this tool is not really practical for you.

However, you can still interpret the information from the analysis and see if there is anything that can

be improved. Or, you can pass this information to your developer and have him or her take care of the

changes.

As I said in the beginning, I would like to learn if you know any other tools that will help improve the

experience your site delivers to your visitors. Let me know.

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