Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cool website user testing

I was a guinea pig this evening for user testing for a prominent news and investor website.

They actually paid me to do the test - even though I would gladly have done it for free.

User testing is a great idea to really get an accurate idea of how your users actually use your site. People often say they use a site one way but do something else - or they say they want X feature but in reality they never use it.

What made this testing unique was that they recorded my eyeball movements and click-throughs as I scanned various news and investing pages. So it wasn't what I said I would do, but more like what I would actually do.

The only problem was that the pages I click-through on didn't actually load so in reality I would have ended up on different pages and may have then gone somewhere else. I probably wouldn't have spent as long on the homepages and landing pages as the study encouraged.

At the end of the study, they showed me my results. My web visit usage was way more erratic and frenetic than I imagined. While the standard pattern, the researcher and other studies I have read, for our culture is left to right and up and down. I was surprised by how much back-tracking I did. I did manage to deftly avoid all banners, fluff and navs. (Hope these studies don't eventually prove that there is actually no point in banner graphics and kill a lot of necessary advertising revenue.)

And yes, I sheepishly admit I "clicked" on the legitimate news item with the word porn in it. And the only ad I looked at all was the Telus adds with those irresistibly adorable monkeys.

I wasn't familiar with eye-tracking studies that were so conclusive - so I'm excited to see the results.

The research was conducted by Sensory Logic. I'm looking forward to seeing more from them - even if I don't get paid for it.

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