Forget Best Practices: Great Websites are Created Through User Experience Testing

Many businesses rely on best practices to run their businesses instead of listening to their users.

This is primarily due to lack of knowledge and lack of experience. If you do not understand A/B testing or don’t have experience setting up and running testing campaigns, then relying on best practices is your only option. And there are so many resources out there readily available to tell you how to create the best ecommerce website.

People rely on these best practices out of necessity when they are starting out…but best practices are not the best method.

The best method is to let your customers tell you what is best through user experience testing.

Best Practices: The Good and The Bad

What are the drawbacks of relying on best practices?

There is a lot to be said for best practices or industry standards. And we are not saying they should never be applied. In certain areas, it usually makes sense to stick with industry standards. For example, in ecommerce stores, the cart icon is almost always placed top right in the navigation. We are not saying that you should not test other implementations of this. Perhaps you could use a floating cart or a cart that sticks to the bottom of the window. But to start, following this standard of a top right cart button is likely the best option. This is what customers expect. It is the way customers are used to shopping.

However, your business is not like every other business out there. Your product, your target customer, and your brand are unique. So the same recommendations on product images, button size or color, product page layout, or upsell offers will not work for your business, even though they work incredibly well for some other businesses.

When it comes to these things, test various implementations, and let your customers tell you through their actions what they prefer.

The Testing Advantage

What advantage do companies that test everything have?

There is huge potential if you commit to testing. With a full testing schedule, over time, you get a complete view of what your customer thinks and how they interact with your site. In this way, you have a huge advantage over the competition. You are no longer making guesses on how to update your website, but instead have a roadmap based in data telling you exactly how to improve conversions.

What types of things should businesses test?

First, look at your analytics to identify areas of opportunity or low hanging fruit. Focus on areas with low conversion rates, drop offs in your conversion funnel, or pages with a high bounce rate from certain traffic sources. For example, social traffic, while very important in the lifecycle of a sale, generally has a very low conversion rate on the first visit. This is a huge opportunity to customize the experience for this segment and test new ways to increase the conversion rate from this source.

In addition to looking at your analytics, focus on highly trafficked areas and decision points. Below are some pages or areas that we often start with:

  • Homepage: this is a highly trafficked area where traffic often comes in cold, with little or no background or experience with your brand. It is important to test this page to make sure that you are displaying the most vital and relevant information for these new visitors.
  • Product Page: this is a key decision point where visitors decide whether or not they are interested in a product, so getting the layout and information correct on this page is key.
  • Cart: this page is the step immediately for checkout, and often where people make the decision to purchase or not. Depending on your business, this may be a good place for upsells or promotions, but you also do not want to distract too much from the CTA to check out.
  • Checkout Flow: the goal is to make the checkout as seamless and easy as possible. This is the area of highest friction for users, as it’s cumbersome to input all of their information, especially on mobile where more and more purchases take place. Apple Pay, Shopify Pay and others have made huge strides to make checkout easier, but checking out is still a pain, and an area we recommend testing.

What user experiences testing tools are available?

There are several options for suer experiences testing tools. Below are the 3 that we recommend.

What skills are necessary to perform user experience testing?

The most important skill is the ability (and willingness) to put yourself in your customers shoes. You have to put your opinion and your instincts aside. This is often the most difficult part. As business owners, managers, and marketers, we often think that we know what will work best based on instinct and experience…but once you start testing, you will realize that you are often wrong.

The other necessary skills are the ability to read analytics data to identify areas of opportunity, UX and design to design alternate experiences, and development in order to implement the tests.

Can you manage user experiences testing yourself or should you outsource to a third party?

In the end, only you can answer that. Consider how much time it will take away from other activities and if you have the skills and expertise in-house in order to execute.

If not, an outside vendor can be a great solution. Often, an experienced testing partner brings not only the expertise to execute your tests, but also can bring ideas to the table and speak into your testing strategy.


Interested in beginning user testing?

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