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Website User Testing in a Nutshell

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Website user testing is one of the most valuable weapons in our arsenal. In our experience, it consistently finds some incredible insights for our customers – uncovering fixes that can seriously increase conversion online. We regularly run user testing and customer research for our customers and they’re always delighted with the results.

So – what is user testing in a nutshell? How can I do user testing? Read on to find out.

What does website user testing mean?

Website user testing is a one-to-one recorded session where a real user tries to complete tasks on your website. A moderator probes for the user’s thoughts and feelings as they navigate through the tasks. The tasks are then repeated on competitor sites.

Women looking at a computer doing user testing.

Okay, but what does that really mean? What does website user testing do?

That’s fair enough. A dictionary description doesn’t really do it justice. Think of it another way:

For one session, you hop inside the brains of your real customers. Suddenly, you’ve got unlimited access to the very people you’re trying to reach in your business.

That means you come to understand a customer’s frustrations and desires as they browse for a solution to the problem in front of them. When you make their searches, needs, and purchase decisions easier, it makes them more likely to complete the tasks in front of them.

Does user testing work?

You may be surprised to learn that putting just 6 users in front of your website can uncover up to 80% of the core issues affecting it. This sort of research really is that good.

What am I looking for when moderating a user testing session?

Don’t try and prove a point – be as impartial as you can. Remember, you’re testing how effective the user journeys are to complete core tasks on the website.

Let’s say you’ve set your user the task of signing up for an account on your website. As the session goes on, note down if the user is frustrated or they can’t find what they’re looking for. Prompt your user to see if they’re struggling with anything in particular.

User behaviour trends

As you moderate these user testing sessions, you’ll begin to see trends appearing amongst users. You can begin to draw your own conclusions from the correlations found in your research.

What if my user goes off-topic?

Humans have a remarkably tendency to go off-task and fill their brains with more information – information that may not totally relate to your tasks. Author Eric Barker, cited in this Flock blog, says:

“The information-seeking part [of your brain] is way stronger than the “cognitive control” part that allows you to complete tasks.”

Going off-topic is totally fine and generally how people browse websites. Think about this: have you ever started researching a topic on Wikipedia, only to look up from your screen several hours later from totally different topic to the one you started with?

You’ve fallen down the Wiki rabbit hole. Yep, that’s a thing – it even has its own Wiki article (please, click at your own risk!). Your mind is naturally curious and hungry to devour any and all information in front of it.

Why would off-topic insights be important?

Taking the Wikipedia example, our relationship with the online encyclopedia would be very different if its usability was poor. What if all of those tantalising blue links took you to error pages? We’d never browse for as long as we do.

Inversely, if all you want is a user to purchase a product you’re selling on your website, consider at all the links and banners that have distracted the user from completing that task. Maybe your website will be better off a little more streamlined – and that’s exactly a conclusion the testing process can deduce.

So – in a nutshell – what is user testing?

Are you ready? This really is user testing in a nutshell:






















Image of two UX professionals sitting in a nut shell.



It was worth scrolling down this far for the pun alone, wasn’t it?



Written by
Angela Barnard

Angela Barnard


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