Proofreading your own writing invariably leads to missing massive mistakes hidden in plain sight. How many times have you sent that email or filed that story in haste only to later go back and see breathtaking gaffes in grammar and spelling that make you question your very ability to comprehend the English language? This same principle applies to a user experience that has slowly evolved from a straightforward concept in the mockup to a complex, over-revised mess in the final product: potentially large usability problems hidden in plain sight because of project fatigue.
Fortunately, the same solution can be applied to fix these obscure usability flaws: have others proofread your work. Crowdsourced user testing and a variety of user behavior analytics platforms are the new proofreading tools of usability testing that highlight issues never visible to your development team entrenched deep in the weeds of the project. These tools are generally paid-for services, but what you get in return for those costs are real humans looking at your site and their reactions and behavior on the site. These services yield empirical, objective data that illustrates how outsiders comprehend your design and experience.
There are many services out there that provide testing and behavior tracking, but I’ve listed here two selections to show an example of the contrasting types of crowdsourced testing:
Review Driven Testing: UserTesting.com
Who has the resources to keep on staff a whole team of testers for web and mobile app projects? The answer is not many. What UserTesting.com does is give you access to a pool of testers that you may borrow per project to implement individual tests. When you submit a test to this service, you specify how many testers you want, what demographics of testers you want, and what you want them to test. Pricing is per-tester starts at $39 for the first person. When each person is done testing you get a video of them providing feedback as they go, and they fill out a short survey of response questions that you specify. All this and UserTesting.com even promises a one-hour turnaround.
Analytics Driven Testing: CrazyEgg.com
In the analytics space, Google reigns supreme, but it is still just a traditional analytics platform that tracks vanilla, while important, web metrics such as bounce rates and unique visitors. What companies like CrazyEgg are doing is providing analytics for the new frontier of metrics: usability. With terms like heatmap, scrollmap and confetti, this service tracks user actions such as clicks and scrolls on select pages of your site. After it tracks a set amount of visitors (pricing is based on thresholds of visitors), you can see visual representations of the most performed actions on your site.
Similar to the initial wireframe and design phases of a project, it is important to keep your audience in mind when performing user testing. With services such as UserTesting.com that require you to specifiy the type of testers you want, having in mind who will be using your site (or app!) and the goals they should be accomplishing going into the testing process will yield more usable interfaces and better final products.
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