User Testing – A Small Change can Make a Big Difference

Let’s  say you have just launched a new website.  Your marketing team loves the web design.  Your IT team is thrilled with the security and efficiency and the C class folks are all lining up to salute.  It’s perfect right?  Maybe, maybe not.  What about taking that quantum leap and testing your site with your intended audience, your customers?  Or, as The Net Impact recently determined for the City of Wentzville MO, why not test the site from the perspective of your citizens?

When it comes to a municipality website, the usability of the site by its citizens is a necessary condition for performance.  If the  website is difficult to navigate, people leave. If a landing page fails to clearly state what the municipality offers and what users can do on that page, people leave. If users do not like the access to pertinent informationof the website, they leave. If a website’s information is hard to find or doesn’t answer their questions, the visitors will be left hanging or will  soon be clicking away to a differetn website. Notice a pattern here?

So how do you determine if your website is user-friendly? User testing allows you to roleplay how citizens will navigate your site. At the same time, you record their comments and responses to their efforts to navigate and move through the site in order to accomplish a designed task.  Sound complicated?  It’s really not.   

For an excellent example of  usability testing review the  recent case study conducted by The Net Impact for the City of Wentzville’s website.  After The Net Impact  launched the  The City of Wentzville’s new website, the city worked with our Web marketing team to conduct a series of usability tests to gauge how user-friendly the website’s navigation and overall experience was for visitors and to get a better idea of ideal traffic flow for visitor satisfaction. We created a series of scenarios and tasks for testers to complete on the City of Wentzville’s website.  These tasks were specifically designed to take testers through the navigation pathways of the site and to recreate the experience of a typical visitor to the website.  An impartial  third party service was enlisted to select a broad sample of testers.  A random sampling of testers, with diverse backgrounds including gender, age,  income level, and computer skill level, was determined.  This group best represented the  profiles of actual visitors to the site. As testers performed each task, their mouse movements, clicks and live feedback were all recorded.

Once the user tests were complete, our team of Internet marketing specialist analyzed videos and tester feedback to generate a recommendation report and next steps in order to improve the user experience. From the results we concluded that overall the testers were impressed by the amount of information provided.  Several commented that they wished their own city provided this information and thought this site set the bar high for other municipalities.  However, there were still ample comments from  testers reflecting confusion and difficulty in  finding information .

The Net Impact’s recommendations included consolidating menus, eliminating redundant information and making links to highly requested information more obvious. Some of the tester’s comments also regarded  web design.  The majority of the testers found the site aesthetically pleasing.  Many liked the colors and the rotating photos, but wanted to see more pictures of the city. In addition to suggesting Wentzville add more images to display the character of the  city, The Net Impact suggested different options for the city to make other tools, such as their community calendar easier to find and more simple for visitors to use. – Read more TNI  Case Studies

In conclusion, based on the invaluable feedback from the user testing, our team continues to work with the City of Wentzville to revise aspects of their website to in order to continue to increase effectiveness and functionality. 

Bottom line: User testing is an important aspect of any Internet marketing campaign. The Net Impact employs usability testing as part of our analytics methodology in order to construct  complete online marketing strategies. Remember as well that website testing is an ongoing process, but when managed properly it will drive your efforts and help visitorsrealize a greater satisfaction with your municipal website. Contact The Net Impact today to learn how we can help you find the most effective way to make your website visitors take action.

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