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eCommerce Blog – Opportunities in US and India (by Darpan Munjal)

Top 10 Low Cost Ways To Improve Site Usability

Posted by Darpan Munjal On October - 22 - 2009
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Very frequently I get called by online retailers who have done significant work in SEO, are driving quite a bit of traffic to their website but seem to have hit a wall in increasing the revenue. They are baffled that despite all the good work in SEO and online marketing, why are they not able to maintain a healthy conversion rate? The one factor that often results in a low conversion rate is site usability. In other words, once the visitors are on your site, are they able to effectively navigate to find what they are looking for and then finally buy the product.

In the offline world, imagine walking into a store and you see clutter everywhere – the only thing that is clearly visible is an exit sign. However good the pricing is, if the store is not organized in a presentable manner, you are likely to walk straight through that exit door. Similarly in the online world, a lot of online retailers do not focus on getting objective feedback from external users on site usability. This is true especially for the small and medium size retailers who feel that things like usability testing are for the big guys who have a lot of money at their disposal. Not any more – there are several cost effective tools available now that would allow you to test and improve the usability of your site in an objective way, without causing a dent in your wallet. Here are 10 low cost ways to understand and improve the usability of your site:

#10 Five Second Test

Five second test helps you easily identify the most prominent elements of your user interfaces. People use five second test to locate calls to action, optimize landing pages, and run A/B tests. Basically, you can upload images that will be reviewed by random Internet users. Users view the image for just five seconds then click on the screen to indicate areas of the images that caught their attention. Using text fields provided on the screen, they describe what they saw on the places they clicked. This works from the basic principle that visitors have a very short attention span and they typically don’t spend more than 5 seconds before moving on to other parts of the page. Therefore, you need to get their attention to the most prominent aspect of the offer in those 5 seconds. This is a free service and can help you identify opportunities with your ad or other image units.

#9 Feedback Army

Start a usability test for your website in 2 minutes. Receive 10 responses from an army of reviewers for $10. This is as cheap as it can get! If quantity is your thing then you can’t go wrong with this site. However, you may have to throw away few responses because at $1 per response, you have to question the quality of some of the responses. However, if some is better than none, you can’t go wrong with them. I dug a little deeper into their offering and it seems the feedback comes from workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. Started by Amazon, Mechanical Turk is the crudest form of crowdsourcing, where you will find workers willing to do small virtual tasks for less than $1. So is it a virtual sweatshop taking advantage of poor people from third world country? According to this study, the answer is no. An interesting observation from this study is that more than 75% of workers are from United States and at least 50% have a college degree.

#8 Loop11

Loop11 is a web-based user-experience tool, allowing companies to conduct remote, unmoderated usability testing on any kind of digital interface. It is a good complement to lab-based user testing enabling you to quantify usability metrics with 100s of participants. Costs $350 to run a user testing project with upto 1000 participants.

#7 Chalkmark

Want to test the design or UI prototypes with real people? You can use Chalkmark to get powerful insights from real people to tweak navigation and layout. As the results roll in, heat maps for each task are dynamically generated. Clusters of clicks are combined to give percentage read outs.Quickly run a test on your UI prototypes to answer any nagging questions about usability. You can get a 30 day plan for $109 and create unlimited tests and surveys.

#6 Concept Feedback

Getting ready to launch a brand new concept? Would you like to know what other professionals think before you release it to the world? Receive quick, actionable feedback from a professional community by uploading a concept (a website, logo, advertisement or other). Each reviewer has a reputation score so you can pick the best feedback.

#5 Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg lets you create tests to figure out what people are doing on your website. Enter the URL of the page you want to track, enter how long the test will run and CrazyEgg provides one line of javascript that can be applied on your site. The results – you can see all sorts of heapmaps and overlays to figure out what people are clicking on and more importantly, not clicking on your website. For $19 a month, you can track up to 25,000 visits per month. Or for $99 a month, you can track up to 250,000 visits per month.

#4 Ethnio

For $400, you can recruit about 200 research participants from your website and perform a moderated focus group session with real visitors from your site. It works using basic JavaScript and DHTML so integration is fairly quick and easy on your website. When a user chooses to participate, a notification is sent to the person who will moderate the session. The moderator can then telephone the participant and then conduct a moderated session or a focus group session.

#3 Google Website Optimizer

Don’t worry about making it perfect. Brainstorm a few site variations and try them out on real visitors. Meet Google Website Optimizer. If you don’t have this tool setup, get it now. This is one tool that lets you test and learn different variations of banner ads, promotions, design and immediately understand which version is driving the best results. On top of that, this is fully integrated with Google Analytics and it is completely free! Need I say more?

#2 uses the Web 2.0 crowdsourcing model to dramatically drop the price of usability testing. It lets website owners easily get pre-screened users to rapidly do usability testing of their websites. It only costs $29 and the results are typically ready in an hour. You get a Flash video of a user speaking their thoughts as they browse your website and a written summary where that same user tells you what they liked, disliked, and what would have caused them to leave your .

And the Winner Is……..

#1. 4Q From iPerceptions

Want to get quick, actionable insights from your visitors? Meet 4Q by iPerception. It is a free online survey solution that allows you to find out why visitors are at your website, and whether or not they are completing their tasks (and if they aren’t, what’s getting in the way?). It easily integrates with any website, requires only a few lines of code and best of all – it is Free!! The reason I like this the most is because it allows you to create conversations with your users using a simple and direct methodology and it can provide key insights in improving the overall offering or the usability of the site.

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10 Responses to “Top 10 Low Cost Ways To Improve Site Usability”

  1. Troy says:

    Great List! I definitely plan on using some of these services for my upcoming launch. Keep up the good work!!

  2. Manju says:

    Darpan, I liked this post.Way to go. Cheers

  3. Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much, Darpan!! We were about to begin usability testing for our site and came across your blog post. Very timely!!


  4. Lee Duddell says:

    Great list.

    You could also mention a new UK based start-up:

    … sorry for the blatant plug, we’ve just launched our public beta so only a few folks have heard of us.


  5. Good stuff. Some or many don’t know such services exist. Way to shed the light.

  6. Aaron says:

    We have used 4Q on our site. It is an excellent tool to get insights. Came here after reading your guest article on PracticalEcommerce. Keep up the good work!

  7. Lynn says:

    Thanks for all the information. Really is a great help and resource for online retailers

  8. Vivek says:

    Hi Darpan,

    Thank you for these great resources.

    Although I haven’t used any of these tools I think I’ll try out ‘Crazy Egg’ sometime soon. As for Ethnio, shouldn’t focus groups be conducted when in the planning and implementation stage? When the site is done it all boils down to usability.

    I, personally, have used the ‘put yourself in the shoes of the visitor’ approach and would like to share some that come at the top of my mind. These are in no particular order.

    1. Prompted Search – Although more relevant for retail sites, this is one of the best ways to help the visitor quickly find what they are looking for.

    2. Extensively use Google Analytics to find out which pages are not faring well and why. Analyse metrics like Bounce rates, Average time on page, Exit rates for these pages. Now revisit these pages and more often than not you’ll have a good idea of what’s wrong with the page.

    3. Use Ajax extensively – This reduces the time taken to go from page to page.

    4. Check if all the relevant and related information is present at one place. Again taking the example of a retail site this should cover Base price, Delivery charges, Total price, Date and time of delivery etc etc.

    5. Remove unnecessary noise on the pages and just show the relevant information in a neat way.

    6. Implement good site wide navigation and display breadcrumbs.

    7. Monitor broken links, page load times etc using various tools available and correct the problems if any.

    8. On the product pages do not show any banners and dilute the visitor’s focus.

    9. Split test the main pages to find out which version is working for you, and then as they say, Rinse and Repeat.

    Hope someone finds this useful.


  9. abhishek says:

    Hi, Darpan

    Can you please give your views on the site

  10. These ways should help me very much. I feel these suggestions are really very helpful. I am a website creator. I hope to implement these suggestions in my work.

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