In the closing moments of conference season this year, it occurred to me that search engines are desperately trying to appeal to the masses on several different levels, especially of late. Google and Bing have both made significant investments to improve user experience including:
- Measuring speed at which results and landing pages are served to users.
- Improving the quality of short and long search query results.
- Injecting as much local content into search results pages as possible.
- Factoring in social media influence and reach from various platforms.
- Optimizing experience on each and every user screen.
Take note of each of these developments because optimizing for conversion starts with fulfilling each engine's promise of great user experience -- regardless of device.
How do you optimize conversion and improve user experience? Here's a list of free, inexpensive, and premium tools to get you started in collecting qualitative feedback and objective data on factors affecting user experience on your website and landing pages.
Free and "Freemium" User Experience and Testing Tools
FiveSecondTest.com, NavFlow.com, and ClickTest: All three of these usability sites offer designers and marketers the ability to earn "karma" toward the submissions of your own tests. Although you don't get any bells and whistles, it can be a great way to get nearly instantaneous feedback on a project you're working on.
- FiveSecondTest specializes in user recall, so it's a great tool to determine whether messaging or branding on your site is memorable.
- NavFlow can be used for conversion optimization through navigation analysis; test a call to action for instance.
- ClickTest allows you to analyze wireframes or design engagement by allowing you to specify a specific task for users to complete.
Usabilla: Uses an extremely intuitive interface that allows you to quickly determine problem areas of your website design. Free versions allow you to run one test with 10 public participants, which should be plenty to gain some really solid actionable insight.
UserPlus: This one is a little bit different from other free usability tools, as it allows you to get an objective (and potentially controversial) "usability score" based on answers to checklist questions and scanning a page design or mock-up. It's free for a limited time, so check it out soon.
Inexpensive User Experience and Testing Tools
Usertesting.com: Great entry-level tool for panel testing that includes a number of different result options, such as watching tester screen activity, vocal feedback of users walking through their thought process while using your site, in-depth written summaries of problems users encountered, and the ability to ask users follow-up questions. Cost: $29 for first time users, $39 per test after that.
AttentionWizard.com: From the brilliant mind of Tim Ash, international keynote speaker, testing expert, and founder of SiteTuners.com, comes one of the most advanced visual attention prediction tools available. Particularly useful for landing pages, AttentionWizard uses a proprietary algorithm to automatically identify triggers and problems in your design.
Premium User Experience and Testing Tools
ForeSee Results: Perhaps the most comprehensive set of user experience tools around, with tests and surveys available for a variety of testing needs on a wide array of platforms. You've probably seen ForeSee before when navigating popular ecommerce websites -- for good reason. If you're serious about analyzing your website, you need voice of customer data as well and thus far, ForeSee is the only place you can gain those insights across user segments and devices.
Although only a few tools are listed here, I encourage you to share your tools of choice below. What do you use to improve user experience on your website?