As we all know, websites are an extremely important component to both the marketing and operations for any given company. At this point having a website is unlikely to be a competitive advantage for most industries, but ensuring that your web presence is thoroughly optimized for its visitors may very well be. Through secondary research we know that what the user sees in the first 10 seconds of a website visit is of utmost importance, as you are likely to lose the visitor after that period if they do not find what they are looking for.
Let’s assume we have a local business website. The most common reasons for looking up local business online are to either get their hours of operation or contact information (address, phone, etc.). Knowing this, we’ll be sure to prominently display this information on the home page of the website rather than burying it within a sub-page – where the typical visitor may never venture. Other websites may have a different priority, such as a free trial sign-up or a product’s key-feature overview. With the variety of unique businesses, it’s important to not only know the reason users are visiting your website, but to also validate that the information they are seeking is easy to find.
When we work with clients who are looking to improve and optimize their current website or a brand new website (either prior to the design process or during the process of rolling it out), we offer a few different options for research. Analytic data can be extremely useful for providing insights on page views, average duration of visit, referral sources, and how users are navigating through the website, but when it comes to website usability we typically recommend qualitative research. Qualitative research lets us focus on the “why?” (i.e. Why are you visiting the website in the first place? Why did that link catch your attention? Why did you stay on this page for so long?). The answer to these questions can be extremely useful to the design process and ultimately lead to creating an effective web presence. In the same way that research is important to print advertising, spending the extra time and resources to ensure that the website is done right can ultimately lead to a much better return on investment.
Here are two common components of our website usability research:
- In-Depth Interviews – For website usability research we often conduct in-depth interviews. There is a lot of flexibility and variability with the way that we conduct these interviews, and we always work with the client to develop a unique approach that is right for their business. Sometimes we’ll use our on-sight focus group facility (in Syracuse, NY), QualiSight, to conduct the interviews, allowing the clients to watch from the viewing room. Other times, we’ll conduct the surveys over the phone. These phone interviews are sometimes referred to as tele-depth interviews. We also use screen sharing software to watch and record the website walkthroughs. The interviews are a critical component of website usability research due to the depth that we can dig into the reasons for usage and the ability to target key users. The ultimate end-product of the interviews is a comprehensive evaluation of the website that has actionable feedback and recommendations for improvements. The back and forth conversation that we have with the user allows us to understand what your potential clients/customers will be looking for during their (potentially short) visit to your website and what could be done to improve the current layout to produce results.
- Heat Maps – Heat Maps typically show us a map of “click points” when used in a quantitative setting (pulling large amounts of data from analytic tools). However, we also create heat maps from data obtained in qualitative setting. These visuals go hand-in-hand with the in-depth interviews we conduct with the key users regarding their usage of the website. The heat maps will show us what elements of a website are attracting a customer’s eye. We will be able to answer very important question of, “what elements of the website did the visitors see first?”.
All-in-all there are multiple components that go into User Experience (UX) design and website optimization. Research is a critical component to developing an effective web presence. Website usability research can often be overlooked when all of the resources are being devoted to strictly the design. The research component can make sure your website is optimized for customers/clients from the get-go, and in doing so, ultimately prove to be a good return-on-investment.
If you are interested in conducting website usability research, please contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling (315) 635-9802.