How to maximise the commercial value from usability testing

The user experience of a website. Everyone is talking about its impact on the bottom line. And because of this, everyone talks about usability testing – testing your website with actual users – and how it delivers recommendations for improving the site’s user experience.

But how can you maximise the commercial value of usability testing?

If you make an investment in user testing, you want to see the clearest possible return on investment (ROI). Eye tracking – one form of user testing – delivers strong visual results, communicating webpage success and failure to executives and developers alike. However, you still need the experienced interpretation of eye tracking results to deliver feasible and actionable improvements to your website.

In essence, user experience services that don’t deliver measurable ROI are like elaborate magic tricks – all very entertaining at the time, but afterwards you can’t help feeling you’ve been conned.

So how do you select an agency to deliver user experience research that will measure up to those all-important commercial yardsticks?

Agencies can vary is size, capability and technical expertise so the answer to the question is not straight forward. However, there are common elements that need to be considered when planning to conduct usability testing. We have listed below the ones that will help you select the wheat from the chaff and ensure you maximise ROI for any usability testing undertaken.

Have commercially-driven goals

User experience services are a means to an end – in many cases, the success of your online business.

Don’t commission user testing, eye tracking, or any user experience service for its own sake. Instead, detail what you’re trying to achieve commercially. A good agency should translate your goals into the most appropriate service, or combination of services. Also, detailing the commercial goals can help measure the success of the research once completed.

Agree a clear, detailed approach

Just because you’re not the experts in user experience, doesn’t mean the agency shouldn’t clearly explain what they’re going to do. A good agency will document everything about its testing and make it available for your review (should you so wish). This means scripts and criteria for recruiting participants (for the testing), tasks they’ll complete on the website, measures to record, and forms to complete.

Also, don’t be afraid to get your oar in and suggest some tasks: your agency should still be able to guide you towards a set of tasks that best address your needs.

Measurable success metrics

Once you’ve completed user testing on your website, how will the project be deemed a success? For example, once any recommendations have been implemented, will ‘success’ be 2% higher conversion rates in three months’ time? A good agency will be confident in helping you meet commercial targets. It’s also a great way to make them think about the way to maximise the return on any work they do for you (there’s nothing like targets to focus the mind).

Appropriate recommendations

Recommendations for improving your website are worthless if they aren’t technically feasible, or could translate into commercial disaster. A good agency will not only conduct the research, they’ll also talk to your commercial and development teams to make sure the recommended improvements are tangible and actionable from the start. Check their design, technology and marketing credentials to make sure they know their stuff.

Finally, get the proof

No matter what an agency says, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – in this instance that means demonstrating experience. Review the agency’s case studies, speak to their clients, and, above all, feel confident that the agency will deliver the user experience results you need. You will help to maximise the commercial effectiveness of their work, and hopefully in the future you’ll go back to them for more.

Ultimately, it’s that simple.