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Busting Website Myths: Installment #9: User Testing Should Only Be Done at the End of a Website Project

by Uriz Goldman
Post Date:04/17/2017

You’re frustrated with your website and decide to start a redesign. You want to make sure your new website meets the needs of your users, so you decide to incorporate user testing and site analysis into the process. In this scenario, what do you envision testing with them? When do you envision involving them? If you’re like most people, you may think, “I know my current site is broken, so there’s no use doing any testing there. I’ll bring in users once I have an idea for the new site.”

However, I argue that it makes sense to incorporate user testing into each stage of the website development project – including testing on your existing, broken website - to understand all of the pain points of your users and what adjustments need to be made before launching.

The Beginning: Discovering What Works and What Doesn't

Rather than assuming your website is completely broken, consider testing your existing site to identify current pain points that can be corrected in order to enhance the site, limit the scope of work, and provide a roadmap for creating a customer-centric website.

Testing your existing site can also unveil more details about your users and their behaviors. One of the benefits of user testing at this stage is you can see where users encounter issues that prevent them from completing their online tasks, such as confusing navigation, broken links or inaccurate search results. Additionally, this data-driven research approach can uncover:

  • Where site visitors are coming from
  • How they’re accessing your website
  • The information and services they search for the most

Testing in the beginning of the project phase can help your teams determine where efforts should be focused, leading you to make the best and right decisions for your redesign. It can also uncover hidden pain points that your residents encounter that you may not have otherwise identified.

The Middle: Making Adjustments Before Finalizing

Conducting user testing in the middle of the project can help you validate your redesign decisions, allowing you to determine what does or doesn’t work before you go too far down the wrong path. As an example, using the card sorting testing method can help you make sure your new site navigation is intuitive to users before programming a single line of code. Testing and tweaking your decisions based on this iterative feedback before officially launching will give you a chance to resolve any issues more quickly and cost effectively.   

Beyond: Continuing to Refine

Testing at the end of the project can help verify that the site’s initial problems have been resolved and the new site meets your users’ expectations and needs. This final check can help ensure a smoother website launch.

Your users’ needs, wants and expectations will evolve over time – frequently requested service can change, new social media platforms may require implementation, or more people may visit your site from a mobile device. Therefore, periodically testing the new site – even after it has launched – will allow you to make necessary adjustments and refine it over time to ensure you meet those needs.

User Testing Should Be an Ongoing Part of Your Website Development Project

The better you understand the needs of your users, the better you can design experiences that exceed their expectations. Testing at each phase of your website development project is only the start. Once your new site launches, continue to monitor and refine over time.

While website analytics will help uncover insights to how many people are visiting your site, what they’re clicking on, and for how long they’re staying, user testing is essential for determining how to create a good user experience to ensure your residents’ needs are met.

Interested in learning more about Vision’s data-driven approach to website development? Contact us for a free consultation, or discover 5 quick ways to improve your website’s usability.

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