website usability testing

8 strategies for comprehensive website usability testing

Building a user-friendly and accessible website is key to optimizing your e-commerce shop and improving your business’s online performance. A good website is powerful. There’s no point in having a great ecommerce marketing platform if your website is a let-down. 

A user-friendly website can lead to increased conversion rates, longer website visits and much more. Usability testing enables you to embrace all these benefits when it comes to your brand. Here’s how. 

What is e-commerce website usability testing?

Usability testing is the process of understanding and analyzing the experience of your website users. Usability test strategies help to assess the website design’s functionality, accessibility and user-friendliness. 

Essentially, the goal of usability testing is to see if your website visitors have a good experience and to identify any areas of your web design that could benefit from improvement. 

What is e-commerce website usability? 

You can call your website usable if the testing proves it’s intuitive to user needs and easy to navigate and use. When defining your site’s usability, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Is it simple for users to navigate and do basic things the first time they use the website? This includes observing the functionality of elements like font, text, clear links, working buttons and easily identifiable search options.
  • When users have learned how the design works, does it take them long to complete tasks?
  • Is the design satisfying and agreeable to use?
  • Is it easy for users to remember the functionality of the website even after they haven’t used it for a while?
  • Do users make many errors while using the website? If so, how many and which are most common?
  • Is the website design functional? Does it achieve its purpose (do what it’s meant to)?

Answering these questions can help you identify the areas where your website’s usability may be lacking. It also points to some standard elements you should consider when conducting usability testing. 

Website elements to evaluate with e-commerce website usability testing

Homepage

When trying to make a good first impression, your homepage matters. It needs to make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for, with clear CTAs, nudges to different products and clearly defined navigation to your other web pages. 

Navigation

As mentioned above, one thing to consider on your homepage is the visibility, clarity and structure of your navigation menus. Your navigation must make it easy for visitors to find what they want. It must also serve a strategic purpose, making navigation to products and purchases possible with minimum effort. 

Font & text

There’s nothing more frustrating than an illegible font, and nothing more overwhelming than a barrage of written information. Avoid funky and illegible font colors and styles, and find a comfortable font size. Typography matters. Also, be conscious of the amount of text you clump together. Try not to use clunky paragraphs, only snappy two-liners. 

Product page visibility

At the end of the day, you want your visitors to buy something, so make sure your product is easily accessible. This begins on the homepage where you should display some popular product options and any product specials you’re running (with clickable links, of course). 

Your navigation menu should point to clear and categorized product pages. For example, if you sell digital downloads, you can categorize them according to download formats or themes. 

On this page, select font choices that distinguish different elements like the brand name, product type, price and inventory availability. The aim is to make product information easy to pick up for the user. 

Call to actions (CTAs)

Use CTAs to nudge customers to your goods. This could come in the form of a large clickable product sale image on your homepage or be links in your blog articles or reviews. You can also use CTA buttons like ‘Add to cart’, ‘Buy now’, and so on. CTA optimization is important for website performance and retail operations

Content & graphic design

Knowing how much text to offer your viewer also has to do with getting the right balance between graphic and visual content, like images, videos, etc. Your design needs to prioritize two things – product visibility and site usability. 

Loading speed

Nothing will cause customers to run to your competitors faster than slow-loading web pages. Users want sites that are speedy and responsive to their demands. Remember, modern-day shopping and e-commerce centers around customer convenience. Why use Shopify if you have to wait ages for website content to load? 

Plus, while using professional SEO services might help, having a slow-loading website is one of the factors Google considers when collating the best results for their search engine.

Why Is e-commerce website usability testing important? 

For most e-commerce startups, websites are important digital touchpoints in the customers’ shopping journey. Customers analyze and judge sites as part of rating their experience with a company.

A Hubspot survey illustrated that what consumers want is usability. 76% said the most important element of a website was that it made it simple for them to find what they were looking for. Only 10% said the website design needed to be visually appealing. 

most important factor in website usability

Image source

This leads us directly to the need for testing. With no usability testing, businesses cannot work to improve the areas that customers find inaccessible and/or difficult. Bad usability can affect conversions and deter prospective buyers. Implementing usability testing can thus improve customer satisfaction, retention, sales, sales engagement and churn rates. 

Your business’ positive performance and the customer experience you offer therefore depend on the usability of your website, which testing helps you to improve. 

8 strategies for comprehensive e-commerce website usability testing

There are many different techniques you can use for your website usability testing. While some of the ones listed below don’t exactly qualify as types, they are tools you can use to create a more usable and functional site. 

1. Paper prototyping

In the development phase of the website, you can create paper models or prototypes that give you the general feel of the website design. However, this is only an initial overview to give you an idea of the site’s theoretical usability. 

What it cannot do is show you the website response from an operating e-commerce platform. Think of it like how many early-stage online stores manage their fulfillment on paper or by spreadsheet. It’s fine as a starting point, but eventually they need more comprehensives tools and processes like Shopify Amazon fulfillment.  

2. A/B tests

A/B testing is a process that allows you to observe the usability of different versions of a web page or site. It’s useful in telling you which web design works better. You get to compare the user experience between variations. 

3. Surveys

All businesses know the benefit of conducting a good survey or poll as a form of customer feedback. You can do the same for your usability testing. Utilize surveys to acquire direct feedback on your website design and the experience of prospective customers and other visitors. A great way to implement this is to place a pop-up or use a chatbot on your website asking for user input. 

4. Focus groups

For your usability testing, you can gather a focus group and facilitate a discussion about users’ experience of the site. This can prompt individuals to be more honest and detailed than they might be in a survey. 

5. Click tracking

Click tracking or heatmaps track the movement of the mouse on the screen. The heat maps spotlight the places on the screen that picked up the most mouse activity, informing you of user navigation habits. 

6. Eye-tracking

You can use expert software to track the movement of a user’s eyes, monitoring how their gaze travels over or through your website. This technique gives you important insight into which elements of your site pull a user’s attention and how they navigate through the site. 

Thus, it points to how effectively (or not) you use your call-to-actions (CTAs), font, button placement and other elements to lead your visitors to where you want them to go on the website. 

7. 5-second usability test

Unless they deem it useful, first-time website visitors are likely to spend a very brief period (a few seconds maximum) on your platform before they leave. This is where using the five-second usability test is useful. 

The test reveals the website to users for just five seconds and then they have to answer questions based on what they recall from the reveal. This feedback highlights what elements users take note of first and what they think about your web design and functionality in those determinant few seconds. 

8. User acceptance testing

This is usually done at the end of software development, as a quality assurance technical test to see if software functions accurately. Of course, the technical accuracy of your site and design has a direct effect on whether the user experience will be satisfactory too. 

Final Thoughts

Websites form an important part of your customer’s shopping experience. A fussy link, a slow-loading webpage or a site that just doesn’t make for easy shopping can turn a potential customer off just like that. 

Make the best of your business’s digital storefront and homepage through usability testing. That way, you can get customers all the way to the checkout, make sure they convert, and boost your bottom line!


Author Bio
Nick Shaw, Brightpearl

Nick Shaw has been Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Brightpearl, the number one retail-focused digital operations platform which encompasses sales and inventory management software, accounting, logistics, CRM, and more, since July 2019 and is responsible for EMEA Sales, Global Marketing, and Alliances. 

Before joining Brightpearl, Nick was GM and Vice President of the EMEA Consumer business at Symantec and was responsible for a $500m revenue business. Nick has written for sites such as Hubspot and G2. Here is Nick Shaw’s LinkedIn.

nick-shaw-brightpearl