There's a growing community of crowdsourced remote usability testing options avaiable for marketers. Here are six of the top tools.
If you're at all involved with conversion rate optimization, you already know the importance of usability testing. After all, if users can't effectively use your site they will have a slim chance of converting.
But you don't always have the time, money, or staff expertise to conduct live research in a test environment. That requires identifying and screening participants, hiring a moderator/facilitator, setting up the technology to record their screen movements as well, and video tape their verbalization of their thought process as they attempt to complete the given task.
Fortunately there's a burgeoning community of crowdsourced remote usability testing options that are available for ad-hoc as well as ongoing projects. The benefits of leveraging one of these options are numerous: the pricing is generally affordable and straightforward, you don't have to worry about finding participants, and you can often launch a test and receive results in a matter of hours. Sound too good to be true? Check out these top tools for remote user-testing, from simple to extensive:
The TryMyUI service offers a pool of screened testers who are trained to articulate their thought process as they attempt to complete an assigned task on your site. You simply create a scenario as well as a list of tasks you wish testers to perform. Specify your demographic profile and how many testers you want to use, and within hours you'll receive fully narrated videos of each tester navigating your website. Each video will show the user's screen, mouse movements, and keystrokes, as well as an audio track of everything the user says as he/she attempts to complete the assigned tasks. You also get written answers to a questionnaire that you create for the user, which he or she fills out after completing the usability test.
TryMyUI puts a lot of effort into quality control, so even though their prices are modest (just $35 per test result), each test result is checked for usefulness before you receive it. They also carefully screen and categorize their testers, allowing you to specify the gender, age, annual income, computer expertise, country or residence, education level, family status, social networks usage, and employment type of your testers. To refine the audience even further, you can add your own qualification criteria, such as must be an avid gamer, or take at least one prescription medication.
If you don't want to pay per user test or if you prefer to recruit testers yourself, you can buy a license to run a test with an unlimited number of your own participants for $99.
If you love the whole process of design and user testing, you probably already know about Usability Hub. This community of designers and Web builders tests each other's work to earn "karma points" on the site, but you're welcome to enter the circle. You can invite your own friends to join the testing pool as well, and when you publish a test on the site you can even request certain demographics. You won't find many naive users on this pro site, though.
You can run three different types of tests on this platform, and they give you plenty of help deciding which one is best for you: A five-second test, a click test, and a nav flow test. Once you publish your test's availability on UsabilityHub, you can receive as many responses as you feel would be useful. The site says that in general, you can expect to receive 50 responses within 20 to 30 hours.
This service can be free if you want to provide some test responses yourself. Paid plan options begin at $20 per month for up to100 responses.
This company is a fresh face in the user testing field, just emerging from a successful start-up phase. Crowdsourced Testing emphasizes the professionalism of its testers, stating that most of them have more than six years' experience in the field of software testing. Also noteworthy is that its' testers are spread across 111 countries (and growing), making it a good choice for marketers with a multi-national audience.
For $49 per platform/per tester, Crowdsourced Testing will test your site or app for the following: functionality (spelling mistakes, bugs, broken links), localization (language and culture appropriateness for target region), and usability (ease of use, overall website experience). Thus, unlike some of the other options listed here, you won't have as much flexibility in specifying a demographic profile for your testers.
When you sign up with Crowdsourced Testing, you simply provide some basic instructions about your site or app, and then your project is assigned to a group of expert testers, a project manager, and a lead tester. This team immediately gets to work, reporting issues in an easy-to-use bug tracking system. At the end of a testing session, you'll receive a clean, clear, and concise list of issues that you can easily consult on-line, review and share with your developers to be corrected.
Userlytics lets you choose between their recruited group of demographically filtered testers or using a test invitation link to recruit your own. They promise rapid results, although they also permit clients to ask testers up to 100 survey questions following the live testing.
The primary feature that distinguishes Userlytics from other crowdsourced testing solutions is that you'll receive a video of the tester themselves during the entire duration of the test. Being able to see the tester's face allows you to capture subtle cues (e.g. a furrowed brow or a frown) that could indicate a level of frustration or confusion that isn't evident on the audio recording.
Pricing can be as low as $49 per respondent session, but larger organizations will appreciate the enterprise options that include an indexable executive summary of test results and quality assurance on custom and one-off projects.
UserTesting has staked out a leadership position in the crowdsourced remote testing field, with a portfolio of notable corporate clients. They claim to have recruited more than 1 million testers, and although you should probably take this number with a grain of salt, they definitely do have a very large testing pool. UserTesting claims that, using this pool, 79 percent of clients receive test results within an hour. You can apply demographic filters to their testers, or have your own customers be the testers instead.
Since UserTesting works with major corporations, it goes way beyond basic testing. Add-ons include a broad selection of customized enterprise solutions, including one-on-one interviews, focus groups, expert user testing, customized test creation, and detailed reports. A particularly unique feature is that UserTesting allows clients to interact with testers after the test, asking them follow-up questions about their experience. The cost is $49 per test, with an introductory offer of $99 for three tests.
At UserZoom, crowd-sourced user testing is only one small aspect of their UX services. They don't recruit their own testers, but you can contact one of the sampling companies that UserZoom partners with, and (for a separate fee) to receive a set of filtered participants for your testing. If you're looking for a way to draft testers from your own customer base, UserZoom offers several customizable recruitment and feedback tools.
More than just a remote usability testing company, UserZoom offers intercept surveys, card sorting, tree testing (for evaluating the findability, labeling, and organization of your site's structure), prototype and concept testing, plus a host of other services to help you measure and manage customer experience and usability.
This list was compiled with the assistance of the Conversion Ninja Toolbox site, a resource directory for people involved in conversion rate optimization. Do you have a user-testing approach not listed here? Write a comment and tell us about it.
Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' AttentionWizard.com visual attention prediction tool can be used on a landing page screenshot or mock-up to quickly identify major conversion issues. He has worked with Google, Facebook, American Express, CBS, Sony Music, Universal Studios, Verizon Wireless, Texas Instruments, and Coach.
Tim is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. He is the chairperson of ConversionConference.com, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he's host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm. His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
He received his B.S. and M.S. during his Ph.D. studies at UC San Diego. Tim is the author of the bestselling book, "Landing Page Optimization."
Connect with Tim on Google+.
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