How often have you heard that whatever website or product you make you need to listen to your audience! You need to get real customer feedback from real customers to find out what they really need but also... what they are willing to pay for!
Instead of random IG polls or FB posts that don't produce enough valuable feedback, why not use a tried and tested method used by big corporations like Google and Facebook when they test their products?
This method is called “usability tests” and is a research method part of the user experience (UX) optimization process.
Usability tests are driven conversations between you and your customer, where you get to observe them interact with your product. The aim is to identify possible flaws or improvement opportunities that will satisfy your customers' needs and provide them with a positive experience.
The best thing about this method is that it is totally doable in DIY fashion and you don't need to spend thousands of dollars in the process. Let us show you what strategic moves you need to do.
1. Planning how to collect customer feedback
First, you need to follow 3 steps and do a bit of planning and research. before you begin collecting customer feedback.
Create a test plan (to collect your customers’ feedback)
Define a goal for your test. This is where you define what product (e.g. website), parts of your product (e.g. shopping cart) will be the subject of testing and what you are trying to learn from your customers or target audience.
For example, if you want to test your new e-shop, you may want to learn how your customers go from browsing products to adding them to their shopping cart. Nother example; are certain buttons and links visible enough or self-explanatory? Do my customers understand the checkout process or are they leaving the shop earlier than expected? Is the shopping journey disengaging?
These are questions that can be answered and you need to be clear about them before running the test.
Your test plan should include:
- A subject product
- A defined list of the areas, features and journeys to test.
- The main goal, (this is the one thing you want to learn from your audience). E.g. Are they leaving the site before check-out?
- A shortlist of secondary goals. E.g. What is their general perspective of the brand? How often do they need our support?
- The session format: Tests can be performed remotely (eg. via Skype) or in person.
- No. of participants: The recommended number is between 8 and 10 participants that represent the major groups of your target audience. Aim for variety so different target groups are represented. Quality over quantity.
- Recruiting options: Via social media, email campaigns, surveys, paid ads, phone campaigns.
- The estimated duration of each session. The recommended length is between 40 and 60 minutes.
- Schedule including the participants' names, location, time and target group representing.
Getting your website (or your product) ready to collect customer feedback
If you intend to test an upcoming product (or a change in your current product), you can create a mockup of that new product or feature.
That means you can use prototyping tools instead of implementing the final product.
This approach is usually cheaper, depending on your product, it can also save you a lot of time and effort.
On top of that, when you are not the developer a mockup will facilitate the way you communicate with your designer or developer.
What does a mockup look like?
In principle, a mockup of a digital product is designed to show where all your main content pieces will be placed and how the customer will interact with them.
3 tools to make mockups
- Pen and paper: yes you can actually create a whole website mockup with just pen and paper. Check out this video of how paper mockups are used to test: Rapid Prototyping 1 of 3: Sketching & Paper Prototyping
- Photoshop (or any other similar tool) Adobe products can be very powerful but the learning curve is pretty steep.
- Figma (FREE) Especially useful if you work with a team or outsource your website design.
- Other options are: Visio, Balsamiq, Justinmind or Adobe XD
What to include in your mockup
By now, you must be wondering whether you need to create your entire website or product on paper.
The answer is definitely no.
Start with the most common pain points. You might have an idea of where your visitors are struggling. Take a closer look at the feedback you receive, check what your audience usually complains about.
Now, if you don't have any information you can use, check out the next step.
2. Start collecting your customers’ feedback
Prepare a survey
Praises and reaffirmations are great to hear as they will keep you motivated and give a bit of a boost to you and your team’s ego - and that's ok.
However, if you want to grow you need to start listening to your critics and haters. That is where the meaty feedback will be hiding.
Now, yes you will need a thick skin and good filter to pass through the hate and rage and distill the real feedback.
Running a survey will start giving you clarity about where your website (product) might be failing your customers. And again, no rocket science here, you can DIY the whole thing.
Preparing the questions
You will need to include questions about 3 areas: Profile, behavior and perception.
- Profiling questions: These questions are about the demographics of your audience. ( Age groups, gender, location, occupation, income range )
The number of questions that you include in this area will depend on how much you already know about your customers (e.g. data already provided in the past as part of their purchase process)
It will also depend on the demographics aspects that are most relevant to your offer. Do not include a question if you are not sure how you are going to use the results.
Most important, do not make assumptions. For example, if you think your audience is mainly 20 year-olds but you don’t have hard evidence, make sure to investigate this with your survey. You might be surprised.
- Behavior questions: These questions are about the common behaviors of your audience while using your (or similar) products.
- How did you find our (product/website)? e.g. social media, email, Google, referral
- How often do you visit our website?
The most important there is to focus on very few key aspects. Exploring behaviors and going deep into the why is something you will be able to do in the next steps while interviewing your customers.
- Perception questions: These questions evaluate your customers' view of your brand and products. Keep in mind these are personal perceptions and not exact facts about the effectiveness of your products.
- How easy was to find what were you looking for? (scale from very easy to very difficult
- What was missing or disappointing in your experience with us?
Launch the survey
Now that your survey is ready, you will need to make sure you can get a sufficient number of answers to be able to consolidate enough conclusive data For this purpose you need to put your survey before the eyes of your target audience. If you have already an established product or online presence, you will know exactly where your audience is, so that won’t be a problem.
If you are just starting to build an audience or you intend to reach a different target group, here are some options that you can use to promote your survey:
- Social media (business page, groups or direct messages to friends)
- Your email list
- Public online forums
- Your local community
- Ask for help from another influential business in the same field.
Everybody is more or less familiar with surveys; we have all filled in a survey at some point in our lives.
However, when you are running your own survey there are some rules to follow for a successful response rate.
- Keep it short, 10-15 questions maximum. Make sure the time required to complete the survey does not exceed 5 to 8 minutes.
- Keep it very simple to answer. Do not include too many open questions. People don’t like to type in survey answers.
- Keep it in context. Make sure that each question has a purpose and that you are clear on how will you use the answers to each question.
- Always include a question that allows you to contact responders for future interviews (see next step)
Prepare to interview your customers face to face
A survey is a way to collect quantitative data which gives you a general idea of who your audience is and their preferences. It also allows you to collect volunteers for future research.
In order to investigate more deeply what motivates your customers to take certain actions, you will need to talk to some of them.
Recruit customers to collect feedback
- Prepare invitations with clearly stated objectives and expectations.
- Make sure to include your proposed dates and an indication of the timezone.
- Send invitations no more than 1 or 2 weeks prior to the test.
- Include profiling questions on your invitations. E.g. How often do you use similar products? When was the last time and what did you do?
Dear <candidate name>,
My name is <your name here>, <your role> for/at <your business name>.
Earlier this year you kindly took the time to fill out a quick survey to give us feedback and help us with improving our <system or product name>
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to fill in the survey and agreeing to help us with further research.
We are currently running a usability study to gain further insights into the needs of our users in relation to our <system or product name>.
What does a usability study involve?
You will be asked to do several short tasks using our <system or product name>. Afterward, you will be asked questions about your experience and perceptions of the tools.
How long does it take? 30-40 minutes.
The study will be held remotely (online) <or in person, if you can>. You can participate using your office or home computer.
If you are interested in participating, please reply to this email or call me at XXXXXX. Please indicate your full name, current location and preferred time:
15th Aug 2019 – 10:00 am – 11:00 am (PST)
16th Aug 2019 – 10:00 am – 11:00 am (PST)
5th Sept 2019 – 10:00 am – 11:00 am (PST)
When you have replied, we will book you in for your preferred date and time, and contact you to confirm your slot. If we can’t book you in at your preferred slot, we will be in contact to suggest an alternative.
If you have any concerns please contact us and we will be happy to talk to you further.
Thank you again and I hope to hear from you soon.
Prepare an interview guide
The idea is not to follow a strict script but to have a guide in front of you at the moment of the interview so you don't waste time; you get the right answers and avoid drifting onto different topics where you end up obtaining only personal opinions.
The interview should include:
- More profile in-depth questions
- More behavioral questions
- 5-10 common tasks to perform on your system, product or website.
Run your pilot test
This is equivalent to a dress rehearsal.
- Ask one of your colleagues, friends or family to participate in a dummy test.
- Perform the test as closely as possible to the real deal.
- Use the tools, technology and questions that would be used on the real tests. (This will help you identify possible issues either with your mockup or interview flow.)
Finally, you will need to assess the exact amount of time that it will take you to go through one session so you can adapt your session to the expected time. Remember to keep it to a maximum of 60 minutes.
Showtime: Run the test sessions
- Be punctual - Give yourself enough time to get everything ready, especially if the test is done remotely.
- Introduce yourself, the test and the product.
- Set time and content expectations and what you need your participants to say aloud.
- Start with some easy, warm-up questions e.g. do you remember the last thing you did on the website?
- Ask to observe or show how do they perform specific tasks e.g. could you show me how do you normally find our downloadable resources?
- Observe and record the sessions.
- Take notes, and possibly ask a colleague or friend to also take notes at the same time. Having two perspectives will give you further insights and one of you can concentrate on the conversation while the other takes notes.
- Fight the urge to speed things up to assist the testing.
- If the participant asks you how to do something or is this correct? Return the question with “what do you think ?”, “what would you expect to happen?”
The most important thing is to be very observant and listen. You should not be the one doing the talking, let your users talk, express their ideas, concerns or just simply talk. You are there to learn.
3. Summarize your results and consolidate your customer feedback
The most important results to collect will be common patterns. This means the most common expectations, journeys, behaviors that you can identify through the session.
The format used to summarize your findings depends on what you plan to do afterwards. If you work with a team or have outsourced the design and/or development of your website you need to make sure that your findings are clear enough and have actionable points for team members or the designer/developer.
If you are flying solo, having a clear checklist of the further actions to be taken based on the findings will be enough.
Your findings summary should answer questions like:
- What is the most wanted featured?
- Which one is the most common user journey?
- What content piece are users missing?
- Which format is mostly expected?
- What is the most common frustration?
These questions can be answered for the overall website or you might have answers for each featured or section of your website.
The important thing is to take the time to review each user interview once again and recognize which patterns repeat most often?
Based on your survey (step2) you should get enough data to have a clear picture of the common profile of your users. Whether there is one or multiple common profiles, you should have received enough answers to identify them.
Review your avatar and update your avatar profile with the learnings from the sessions regarding, their personality, pain-points, expectations and familiarity with the product.
To collect valuable feedback from your customers, you need to have a very clear idea of how customers perceive your brand and product today in order to make improvements tomorrow.
The best feedback will come from real users of your products, so make sure you take the time to learn from them and talk to them directly.
Surveys and interviews are great tools to open the communication channel directly to your customers.
Keep the communication open as this is not a one-off exercise. Our suggestion is that you talk to your audience at least twice a year.
Now it's your turn
Uff.. that was a lot of information. Now we would like to know what questions you have about this topic. We would also love to hear your experiences testing your digital products or collecting feedback from your customers.