Usability testing: the next big game changer for small business

4 MINS Team

Who is your audience? What are their biggest challenges? What do they need?

If you answered “Um…” to that last question, you are not alone. A lot of small business owners kind of know what their clients need, but they don’t really, truly know.

Instead, you guess. And then you start building – a brand, a website, a product, or a service – based on what you think your audience wants rather than on what your audience really needs.

Tech startups are notorious for doing this. “They will go feature crazy thinking more is better,” Sara Mastro of MediaBarn told me over coffee recently. “Less is usually better, but you don’t know unless you do usability testing.”

I was nodding along as Sara talked, because I’ve been rewriting a lot of websites lately to ensure their user experience is no longer horrid – at least from a messaging perspective! Usability is Sara’s area of expertise. She’s the senior director of experience design for MediaBarn, a full-service design agency with an in-house research and usability lab (I saw it in person – it’s really cool).

Anyway, you can see how important usability testing is for your small business. Unless you know what your audience needs, you are wasting time and money – and you’re very likely losing out on converting leads into clients.

Sara talked through usability testing for small business with me. Here’s what you need to know:

Do market research first

Get your idea out there. Share it with people. Ask them to try it out and give you feedback. Maybe you built an app for preschoolers, but kids in kindergarten through 2nd grade like it better. You won’t know until you ask kids to use it.

Pivot if you need to

As the above example about the app illustrates, you can either change what you’re doing to meet your target market’s needs, or you can pursue a different target market. One thing is certain: You cannot always fit your target audience into your idea. It’s a quixotic pursuit akin to trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

Be creative with research and testing

Research and testing do not have to be expensive You can test out anything from your website to a brochure with friends, colleagues, family – whoever your target audience is. People love to help and provide feedback – and they’ll do it for free.

Other options for conducting research and testing:

  • Send files to your testers, set up phone calls (with or without screen sharing) and talk through your idea.
  • Conduct surveys with your target market to gauge their interest for your idea.
  • Hold a cocktail hour, demo your product, and get feedback – it’s like an informal focus group.
  • Put together an advisory board of people you trust in that demographic – and ping them with questions or surveys. If you go this route, offer some sort of compensation or give them a discount on a product or service.

Track their experience

Know the paths your audience take on their way to deciding whether or not to buy from you. What kind of experience do you want them to have on your website? How does your audience move through the sales funnel?

You absolutely need to look at your website analytics, and then you need to do something with that information. Google Analytics is great out of the box. You’ll know where people are going, what they’re clicking on, where they’re dropping off.

If you see a 60% drop-off on a particular page, do usability testing to figure out what is going wrong on the page. Testing and research will help you figure out the why – WHY are you losing people? Maybe it’s the price. Maybe the process is too cumbersome. Maybe they’re just confused. Talk to your users – even just a handful – and they’ll tell you.

If you want to do some serious, heavy-duty testing, contact MediaBarn. If you want to give it a go yourself, though, you’re all set!

Have you conducted usability testing, informally or formally? What is the most surprising thing you learned?

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