When it comes to designing a website, you can do all the tweaking you want, but you won’t know that your design actually works until people start using it. That’s where UserTesting.com, a startup that launched back in 2008, comes in. The service lets you quickly get usability feedback about your site by offering to pay people to complete certain tasks while recording their on-screen actions and voice. The site has recently added some key new features, and launched a new homepage to mark the occasion.
Previously, UserTesting only had a fixed set of standard questions that it would ask all testers after they had evaluated a website. Now, it allows you to specify exactly which questions you’d like to ask in your post-test questionnaire. In addition, the website owners can now ask the testers follow-up questions after the video and initial response questions are complete. Users don’t get paid extra for answering these followup questions, but they’re often happy to do it anyway (the site is also considering adding a ‘tip’ feature that would let you pay especially helpful users a small bonus).
Finally, the site now offers an easier way of sharing the recordings you’ve gathered from testers. Previously, all videos had to be shared through a password protected page (you essentially had to give your login credentials to whomever you wanted to share with). Now you’ll be able to share these recordings through a webpage that is not password-protected.
We haven’t covered UserTesting before, so here’s an overview of how it works: First, you sign up for UserTesting’s services and send a request for a certain number of people who fit your target audience (you can specify criteria like age, gender, and income). Each tester costs you $39 (you get a $10 discount for the first three) and $10 of that goes to pay the tester. Then, you write out the tasks you want the testers to perform. UserTesting will automatically email all of its testers that fit the criteria, and the specified number of them will carry out the tasks on your website. Each tester runs UserTesting’s software as they go through these tasks, which takes a recording of the user’s screen and voice as they use the site. Finally, the recording is sent back to you with the users’ written feedback (the site claims that you’ll typically get your first response within an hour).
There are plenty of other usability testing websites available, including some that don’t use video or audio recordings. Two of these services include Loop11, which can track metrics like the most common path a customer took through your site, and EasyUsability.com, which has a focus on questionnaires. Another way of collecting input is through services like GetSatisfaction.