Website usability is crucial because it assesses how visitors find your website from the point of utilization. If a website is user-friendly with potential customers able to find what they want and make the purchase easily, you are going to develop a loyal customer base. Visitors who find your site difficult to use will quickly leave and go elsewhere.
Website usability involves human test subjects being asked to perform certain operations on your site, such as proceeding to check out and payment. Usability tests allow you to check how easy it is to use the site, to catch glitches and issues causing visitors to be inconvenienced, frustrated or simply downright unhappy.
The issue becomes “How much will this cost?”
The answer is, “Not very much!” if you use these low or no cost usability tools.
Google Website Optimizer
This free tool from Google allows you to perform split-testing, also known as A/B testing, which involves running two different versions of the same page to see which produces the better results. A development on this is multivariate testing, which uses multiple versions and elements to find the optimal version of a web page.
Google Website Optimizer is a free utility which allows you to perform multivariate testing by presenting different elements of a site to surfers. Photographs and images, headers and content are provided in multiple combination’s on a random basis to site visitors. At the same time, the tool tracks what visitors are doing so you can assess how well each variant page is performing in achieving conversions.
Chalkmark is a low-cost application (from $98 for 30 days) for testing specific actions by users on your website. It tests how users find navigating to perform specific actions, such as clicking through to checkout from a product page.
User clicks are tracked by the tool and the results are immediately available, while tests can be established in minutes. A very simple tool to use and extremely flexible , Chalkmark simply requires uploading a task and a screenshot of the section to be tested. Chalkmark then generates a url for you to place on your site, or email out to invite users, to perform the survey. Chalkmark also times how long users are taking with tests and generates a report in a pdf format.
ClickTale captures user actions on your site including mouse clicks, scrolling and keystroke input and produces a heat map indicating where the mouse cursor spent its time on the page. There is also a link analysis tool, for measuring how long a mouse hovered over the link or clicked through, as well as form analytics.
Pricing starts at nothing with a free plan providing 400 page views per month, however features are restricted unless you move up to a paid plan which starts at $99 per month.
Simple Mouse Tracking
This is a free mouse tracking tool for monitoring and reporting on user mouse movements and clicks on the site page. It does not record keystrokes or other information, but simply tracks the mouse cursor and clicks, so it is a very bare tool which takes you to the heart of what a user is doing on a page. You need your hosting server to run PHP but only a small piece of Java script is needed for the web pages.
Five Second Test
As the name suggests, respondents are given five seconds to answer a feedback question. This is a free service providing three tests – Classic, Compare and Sentiment.
The Classic test quickly shows a page of your site and then tests users recall of the elements of the page. The Compare test asks which of two pages a user likes best, and the Sentiment test asks which elements of a page a user likes best.