A lot of website designers will offer to do a free design review of your website, identifying any weaknesses on your website & suggesting how things could be improved. This is a valuable service – a good website designer will know what to look out for.
HOWEVER… (yep, you knew that one was coming!!)
Website designers are sometimes a bit techie (note I said sometimes, not alwaysJ). A website designer is also just one person with one point of view.
I’m guessing you have a huge pool of untapped helpfulness in your friends, family, colleagues, associates, pets and others. You’ll know how closely they represent your ‘ideal customer’, but even if the fit is not that close, they’re each individual, unique human beings with a unique viewpoint.
So although it’s not a scientifically robust testing methodology, getting these people to look at, use and feedback on your website is an extremely valuable exercise. All the more so if you do it properly (important – if you just ask people what they think of your website, they’ll tell you it’s lovely). How?
Try and get as varied a group of people as possible – don’t stick with people all the same age/gender/opinions as you
Write a list of instructions for them. As I said, if you just ask them to look at your site & give their opinion, they’ll tell you it looks lovely. Instead, how about the following:
- Judging from the home page alone, tell me what my company does/offers/the need it fulfils.
- What do you want to click on the minute you arrive at the website?
- Imagine you are looking for [example service here]. Find the relevant info on the website.
- You want to contact us – how easy is it for you to do this?
- Did you reach any dead-ends, or did you keep finding things to interest you & take you from one page to the next?
- Imagine you didn’t know me. What impression do you get of me/my company?
… you get the idea. Think of more questions, based on your company & context.
Ask people to be brutally honest. I can’t emphasise this one enough… tell them you really really really want them to be brutally honest – because it’s going to help you in the long run. And don’t ask your Mum… if she’s anything like mine, there’s no chance of getting the rose tinted spectacles off.
Ideally, rather than sending your request to people via email and getting them to go through your website remotely, ask if you can arrange an in-person visit, so you can sit beside your volunteer while they process the above tasks. Don’t give them any help, but just jot down what they do, where they’re struggling, any ‘mistakes’ they make and any feedback they give. Don’t challenge or question what they’re doing – remember – you’re trying to simulate what a potential user or customer might experience when looking at your website (& you’re certainly not going to be looking over their shoulder to point them in the right direction!)
So here’s the challenge – take action now & ask a few people whether they have a bit of time to spare to review your website. Start off with just one or two… if you get valuable information out of it, then do some more!