How To Test Your Site’s Usability Without Breaking The Bank

When you are creating a new site, one of your first steps is to create an interface that is both presentable and useable. But testing for usability takes time and – frankly – money. Which isn’t easy to come by when you are first starting up a website, especially if your company deals largely in ecommerce, and so you need the initial funds to move forward.

Your budget is important, and so you might think you have to skimp on the frills, like useability testing. What you might not know is that if you don’t make that a priority, you can lose business or visitors. In the end, your bottom line will change and you won’t meet your goals. That is the exact opposite of what you want to be doing, and saving a few bucks will ruin your chances.

Luckily, there are things you can do that give you great useability testing on a budget. There are low cost methods and even tools that you can utilize to make the most out of what you have, without sacrificing the look of your site.

The Methods

  • Cut out the basics before you begin testing. This means anything that you can find just by doing a bit of manual legwork through the site, or even just visual misses you catch as you are browsing. If you can catch it before the tests, you can fix it without needing to spend any money to do it. You would be amazed by how much cash is wasted by not catching the little, easily addressed problems in the beginning.
  • Hire a freelance designer or professional trained in website useability to go through the tests. A few things to remember here: first, they should not be with your firm, or have any preconceived notions of the website design. Second, they should be able to prove they are experienced in catching small, hard to see problems with useability.
  • Go for the real bare bones. A pad, a paper and someone at the computer looking at your site. What does this equal to? Useability testing. It might be at the most basic level, and it could be compromised by human error, but it does count. If you are really strapped, this might be the way to go.
  • Know how many to test. A lot of companies make the mistake of over testing their website. This is very easy to do, because they think the more users being tested, the more accurate the results. It is true that having 15 or 16 users tested will give you a very accurate result. But using just 5 gives you a result in the 85 percentile, and adding a few more bumps up your accuracy significantly.

The Tools

  • UserTesting – This is a fast, traditional and affordable useability testing service that hires visitors on your behalf to take a look at your site. They then give you both a video of their browsing with their spoken thoughts, and a fully written report on any errors or problems they encountered, as well as their view on the interface. The cost is $39 per user, making it a fairly cheap option.  They are used by many major franchises, such as Cisco, CNN, Fox and more.
  • Userfly – Userfly uses video captures and an installed software with a single coding line to gather your data for you. They have a demo you can use for free, which guives you 10 captures a month, unlimited domains and 30 days of recording storage. Their other services range from $10 to $200 per month, with varying levels all the way up to Enterprise. Signing up is simple, as is running their service.
  • Feedback Army – This service is a little bit different. It works by taking questions from you about the site. Then, they set out their little soldiers to test it out and answer it. They are fast, thorough and well trained. Ten questions costs $20, which is a very cheap way to figure out what needs to be fixed. But because they are just answering your questions, you have to make sure to have them drafted properly so you can catch all eventualities and potential problems.
  • Google Web Optimizer – King of all things Internet, Google is an obvious place to find help in this way. Their optimization tool gives you full access to their site useability testing, but you have to have a Google account to run it. This probably isn’t a problem…who doesn’t have Gmail or something similar now days?


Useability testing doesn’t have to be costly. It just takes a little bit of fancy footwork, some plans for cheap alternatives and tools to get you along.

What are some your ideas for eliminating the cost of useability testing?

Guest Author Jessy is a social media geek and marketing blogger.

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