Last time, we discussed how Web analytics related to the content on your Web site can help you uncover and prioritize potential site problems. Today, we'll continue the discussion with some additional techniques to find conversion issues, including onsite search, usability testing, focus groups, and surveys.
Onsite search can be a source of information about what is not working on your site. Many searches produce no matching results, indicating a mismatch between visitors' desires and expectations, and the ability of a site to provide relevant content. By taking a careful look at such empty search results, you can identify the type of information that is not effectively being found on your site.
A very common search may also be a candidate for inclusion in the site's permanent navigation. In other words, you may want to enshrine the search result with permanent visibility to help even more people find it (since a small minority of them will bother to use the search function).
Usability testing can often be done inexpensively and rather informally. After running as few as three subjects through your mission-critical conversion task, you can often uncover significant issues with your landing page.
All you need for this kind of informal approach is a quiet room, a mock-up of your proposed design (possibly just hand-drawn on paper), and a clear task statement (of what you want your subjects to accomplish). You then simply ask the person to talk out loud about their thought process as they work through the task.
You don't always have to conduct full-scale usability testing. Hiring usability experts for a high-level review of your landing pages is often a terrific investment.
Usability experts have seen anywhere from dozens to hundreds of poor designs, and have learned to extract subtle commonalities. They can quickly focus on potential problems without even conducting a usability test.
Besides their testing expertise, usability experts also bring an outside perspective and a mandate to uncover problems. Often, organizations that are reluctant to take input from their own staff will listen to the advice of a hired expert.
Focus groups, like usability tests, draw on people from the target audience. Via a moderated group discussion, insights can be gleaned about user needs, expectations, and attitudes. These findings can be compared to the proposed solution to determine if key elements are missing or incorrect.
Of course, more outgoing and assertive participants can bias focus groups, and the moderator's influence is important. But this is OK because the purpose of focus groups is to provide qualitative information that can serve as input into deciding what to test.
Eye-tracking is particularly useful in detecting problems in the earlier stages of the visitor's decision process (awareness and interest). If most test subjects don't look at the desired part of the page, they aren't even aware that the conversion action is possible. In effect, for these visitors to your site, the conversion action doesn't exist. Such studies are an excellent source of problems regarding page layout, visual presentation of information and images, and emphasis.
Customer Service Reps
Customer service representatives deal with your Web site visitors' problems all day long. Customer service representatives' interactions can lead to valuable information about how to actually fix the underlying problems.
Feedback can be collected in two ways: direct interviews or surveys of your reps, or a review of actual visitor interactions. Chat and phone call logs can be used to classify problems into categories. The prevalence of particular types of problems can be used as an indication of its severity. Such analysis can also point to where on your site the majority of problems originate.
Several easy Web-based and telephone surveying methods and companies are available. Surveys among your target population can be a useful source for discovering additional problems with your site.
People who have already completed your conversion action would seem to be the best group to sample. However, you should generally avoid surveys and interviews of existing users. They're biased because they've already made the decision to act on your offer. Randomly sampling a pool of people from your intended target audience is better.
Forums and Blogs
Many industries have specific communities of interest and popular discussion forums. Even if your company isn't a market leader that is mentioned directly in forum posts, you can still gain valuable insight into the concerns and problems of your target audience.
Blogs and public comments about blog postings serve the same kind of communal discussion function. Such venues allow you to gauge the loyalty or frustration of people, their immediate needs, and attitudes toward your industry, company, or product.
If you follow even a couple of these problem-finding ideas, you should be able to quickly identify many potential conversion issues with your site. Now you can come up with improved alternatives for each issue and use these as the basis for your landing page test. Focus on the negative and you're well on your way to higher profits!