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The "Optimizing for Conversion & User Testing" Lesson is part of the full, Web UX Design for High Converting Websites course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul emphasises the importance of A/B testing. Content that can be tested includes brand keywords, visual hierarchy, and calls to action. Initial usability testing on a current website or a competitor's website will give early insight and provide better benchmarks for future testing.

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Transcript from the "Optimizing for Conversion & User Testing" Lesson

[00:00:00]
>> Okay, so let's wrap up our final session of this course, on occurring high converting websites by looking at the subject of optimizing your site for conversion. At the end of the last session I started talking about testing and introducing testing as a way of getting design sign off and design approval.

[00:00:21] But testing actually is a lot more fundamental to that. The idea of testing, and improving, and iterating upon your website is the lifeblood of conversion. I've been doing this job for 26 years something like that, which is depressing in itself. And over all of that time the one thing that I've learned above everything else is that to maximize the conversion rate on a website you need to test, right?

[00:00:54] All of my knowledge, all of my experience is meaningless in the face of user behavior, users do weird things that I don't understand and I don't get even after all these years. They continually surprised me on what they like, and what they dislike, what they respond to, what they don't respond to, is always a surprise.

[00:01:09] And the only way that you get to real results is through testing. So, that's what we're gonna look at in this last section is, how to kind of optimize your site over time. We're gonna look at why testing is so important, when and how to test, and reviewing any more websites before we wrap up.

[00:01:27] But basically, we're gonna look at optimizing and testing your website to go with. So, why is testing so important, why is this absolutely fundamental to our success? Well, for all our knowledge, and expertise, and years of experience, as I say, that's only gonna take you so far. You might produce the best design that you possibly could and follow all the advice that I've given so far.

[00:01:58] But it still won't be as good as it could be, if you're actually carry out some testing. Testing has huge power. For a start, it reduces costly mistakes. If you design something and roll it out, only to find that it's wrong only, if you wasted the time and money of designing it, and rolling it, and developing it in the first place, you're also wasting money, then having to change it afterwards.

[00:02:22] So, if you test early, you can catch potential problems and mistakes you're making in the design, and improve it, so it converts better when you roll it out. Secondly, it reduces time with those time consuming debates you have about aesthetics, as I was saying, in the last session, that the amount of time we waste debating about what color blue it should be, well, we could just test it.

[00:02:46] Now, I'm not saying we should do what Google did and test 41 shades of blue to see which is best. But I'm saying that the testing can help break deadlocks in conversations, where different people come to different conclusions about what's working and what's not. And at the most basic level, testing will dramatically improve your conversion rate.

[00:03:07] And it really will make an enormous difference, as I'll show you in a minute. The other thing we're testing is not only will it help with an issue orders, but it can also help with repeat orders. So, if you create a seamless easy user experience on the website, people will tend to use that website time and time again, we are creatures of habit.

[00:03:31] If we find something works, we will just use it again and again, is exactly the reason why sites like Amazon and Booking.com succeed. It's not because they've got the best user experience or even the best conversion optimization, although they both have those, the second one in particular, is because people know those sites, and it's easier just to do what we already know.

[00:03:55] So, if you get the first experience right, and it's a pleasant experience, and it's good, then people will order from you again and again. And the more times they order, the more that they're likely to stick with you over the long-term. And then finally, of course a great experience in a well-optimized website is gonna encourage word of mouth recommendation, right?

[00:04:16] That's how a lot of sites become so popular these days, is because they provide a great experience, and that they get shared from one person to another. So, just to give you a sense of how big a difference, just a little bit of testing can do. Let me tell you about one change that I made that caused 6% increase in sales.

[00:04:39] So, you remember, I talked about an e-commerce site I worked on, which sold frozen ready meals to the over 80s. So, this is an old audience. And we created the website, we had a checkout process. And we were finding that a lot of users were dropping out when it came to credit card payments.

[00:04:57] So, we were looking at the analytics. And we saw that, when they hit that credit card page, they were dropping out, and they weren't finishing the order, which proved very frustrating. And we kinda hypothesized different potential problems, and one of the problems was that they didn't feel the website was secure.

[00:05:17] Cuz this is an elderly audience and not necessarily particularly comfortable with online transactions. And even though obviously it was a highly secured site, and it had the little padlock in the address bar, and we even had a one of those VerisSign secured logo. But we concluded that actually nobody had a clue what that meant, that was our hypothesis.

[00:05:41] So, our step one, was identifying the problem page, which turned out to be the payment page. Step two, was then identifying a potential problem item on the page, which was our VeriSign secured logo. So, what we did then is ran a little bit of A/B testing. So, we replaced the verify phone logo with various combinations of icons and text, that hopefully made it a little bit more secure, more obvious.

[00:06:08] And so, we then ran that as an A/B test. And we saw a 6% increase in conversions by introducing the text you see on the right-hand side of the screen there, right? Just by doing a little bit of A/B testing, wasn't an expensive, wasn't time consuming, and yet it made a big difference.

[00:06:30] Now that's a drop in the ocean compared to my friend Jared Spool, I don't know whether you know of Jared Spool, but he's a brilliant expert in user experience design. And he tells the story of one of his clients, where they changed a particular form field button. And by changing the one button, they increased sales by 300 million.

[00:06:54] And they didn't do that, because Jared Spool is the genius, although I like to think he is, I like to hang out with genius or really think I do. He just a magic guess, it was just done through systematic testing of what he was doing. So, testing makes a huge difference, it saves you time, it saves you money.

[00:07:14] It saves your sanity, if you're the one responsible for the design, and it improves the conversion rate. So, the question then fairly obviously becomes what to test? There is a lot of different things that you can test on a website and where you begin is not always obvious.

[00:07:32] There are several things I like to start with, one I've already talked about, which is testing brand keywords. So, we're saying we want the design to be trustworthy, friendly, that kinda thing, so we can test those. We can also test our visual hierarchy, right? Are people seeing the content that we want them to see?

[00:07:50] That's something else that we can definitely test. We can test our calls to action, are people clicking on the calls to action, are they compelling, are they being noticed, etc? And then finally, we can test the content itself. Is content compelling, does it communicate what we want it to, is it as optimized and as good as it could be?

[00:08:11] So, those are the kinds of things that we're testing. The next question then becomes, well, when and how do we go about testing, cuz there are lots of different phases in a project, a lot of different opportunities to test. And when we talk about A/B testing, like I was talking about with Jared Spool and also on the the frozen ready meals website, those were both existing websites that were already running.

[00:08:36] So, you could do A/B testing. But in actual fact you're better off testing early, the earlier you test, these are estimate changes, right? If you're just testing a wire frame, then you can change that easily. If you've waited until you've built half the website and run a bit of usability testing at the end, because you feel like you should do, then it's really expensive and difficult to make changes.

[00:09:02] And so, you tend not to bother and see your website goes live being suboptimal. So, really there are lots of opportunities to test. And I'm not somebody who is into heavy duty testing, right? For me it's all about return on investment. You wanna put the minimal effort in for the maximum results.

[00:09:24] So, I'm not talking about usability labs, or two-way mirrors, or stuff that takes weeks. I know that most of you and me myself don't ever have budget set aside for testing, and the client is reluctant to do it, cuz they're worried it slow up the project. So, everything that I'm gonna propose is really lightweight, easy stuff that anybody can do with no money and very little time.

[00:09:49] So, first of all, before you begin, before you even start on a project, you can actually do testing. Now, I know that sounds weird, but bear with me it is possible. The first thing you can do is usability testing on your existing site or on your competitors site.

[00:10:06] I love competitor's websites, right? Because they're effectively a free prototype that they've built kindly for you. So, you can rip it apart, find all the problems, find what works, find what doesn't, and copy what you need to and improve what they've done wrong, it's great. So, just spending a little bit of time running two or three users through using a site like that, your various competitors sites, getting them to complete key tasks, really doesn't need to take long.

[00:10:35] And you've got a couple of ways you can do that. You can either do what's called facilitated usability testing, where you basically arrange a Zoom call with them, right? And you jump on a call, and you say, show me how to do dot, dot, dot, how would you contact them more, how would you buy this thing, or whatever their primary call to action is, right?

[00:10:57] Just watch them do it. There's no magic to it. You don't have to use fancy words. Yes, you can get very sophisticated with usability testing. But even just having a chat with some users, getting them to complete some key tasks, you'll learn valuable stuff for that. If you wanna test a few more people and you're really short on time, then you can use what's called unfacilitated usability testing, where you use a tool, like look back or another one that I use quite a lot is maze.com.

[00:11:30] And on those tools, you go in, you write out what the task is, right? So, how would you contact this organization, right? And put in the URL, and then put in the page, where they complete the task, where the task is considered complete. And then what the tool will do is give you a unique URL, you can pass out to people on social media, email or wherever else.

[00:11:58] And they can go to the URL, follow the instructions and complete the task. And then you'll get videos back, where you can watch them try and do these things. Now, what you do is ask them to speak out loud, while they're doing it. So, they can express their frustrations and difficulties that they're having, but it's that simple.

[00:12:13] And often, if you've got a big mailing list or a lot of people on the social media channel, you can get results in a hour. And if you're in a real hurry, and you've got a little bit money to spend, they'll even recruit people for you to complete the tasks on your behalf, sometimes as little as $1 or $2 per user, though the more complex the task is, the more that goes up.

[00:12:35] So, really to do that kind of initial testing just to kind of let you know where you're at is super, super easy. Also, if it's your own site that you're testing, you can run things, like session recorders. If you've ever come across a talk on Microsoft Clarity, where you might have heard of Hotjar a lot of us have heard of Hotjar, which you get session recordings of people moving around the site.

[00:12:58] Well, there's a free version called Microsoft Clarity, which is Microsoft trying to get in on the Google analytics game. And actually, it's a great little tool, where it will record users move around the site, show where they're getting angry or frustrated, because they repeatedly clicking or clicking on things aren't clickable.

[00:13:16] You can learn loads from just looking at a few of those videos. So, that kind of upfront testing, great starting point, highly encourage it. The other thing that I often do up front is something called an exit intent survey. So, we're only showing this as the user is going to leave the website.

[00:13:33] So, it really only works on mobile, because as the cursor moves off the screen, it triggers not. It only works on desktop, because it needs to track the user's cursor going off the screen. But as the user's cursor goes off the screen, and they look like they're about to abandon the site, then you just display a survey.

[00:13:51] I don't like interrupting people who might be in the middle of doing a task right? So, we try and get them just as they're leaving. And I asked them one simple question, before you go today we would love to know why you decided not to sign up or buy, whatever the task is?

[00:14:12] That's it, that's all I'm asking them, and I give them a multi choice list of things that I think are common objections or problems. But then I allow them to add more, if they want to. And that single test tells you so, so much, because you then know, well, okay, price is the problem, right?

[00:14:33] That's why people aren't buying, cuz the price is too high, okay, so what do we do about that? We need to handle that objection. We might reduce the price, or we might reprime them, like with the ConvertKit example, by focusing on the features, or we might make it so compelling that is worth paying the extra money, whatever it be.

[00:14:55] And just from that one question, you can begin to really build up a picture of what you should be focusing on the website. So, that's what I do before I even start. Then I obviously start doing some wireframing typically, just kinda getting the structure in the field, normally grayscale wireframes, just laying out some of the content and how I want the page to flow and that kinda thing.

[00:15:19] And again, you've got some opportunities to test here. Even with something like card sorting, so even when I'm just looking at the information architecture. They've renamed themselves now, I don't think there are oxShops anymore, but you can still type in oxshops.com. And you get to a great website, where essentially, you can run card sorting tests, you can get people to organize information in ways that make sense to them.

[00:15:49] This is really good for deciding on e-commerce categories, right? How should the products be categorized, or pout blog post categories will be another example, or navigation, and that kinda thing. You can create the whole information architecture through card sorting exercises. But you could also, then test the results of that, you can create a tree structure.

[00:16:12] And you can ask people to navigate those trees to find a particular page. So, do they find easily the particular page there after? So, even at the information architecture stage, you can start testing it, start playing around it. And again, you can get results in a few minutes.

[00:16:29] You don't have to do huge study with the hundreds of people, even half a dozen people, you'll begin to see insights. And again, you can do this on facilitated, in other words, you don't need to sit with people, while they're doing it. You send out a link, then you'll get data back.

[00:16:48] If you want you can do some facilitated remote testing on your wireframes, where you get people to click through them, and navigate around them, and see how they get on. But if you don't have time, that's fine. Don't do that, right? Do what you can, when you can.

[00:17:03] But doing some testing is better than doing no testing at all, in terms of improving things.