User testing for websites is a step that is often overlooked or intentionally skipped during the development process. I read a fantastically well-detailed post this afternoon over at Smashing Magazine’s blog. The article discussed the author’s online experience in shopping for sheets by comparing the buying process of three major retailers – Macys.com, Target.com, and Overstock.com.
What the article truly is is a reminder of the importance of usability testing.
Usability testing, not just once before launch, but regularly over the course of your website’s life cycle is crucial in making sure your potential customers are getting the online experience they expect. These expectations change with time and technology upgrades, and if you are last to adopt a simpler method to achieving your site goals, visitors will notice and stop coming back. Why wouldn’t they? No one wants to work at giving a company their business.
After all, as the article points out in excruciating detail, site visitors – more accurately potential customers – are the ones who will recognize if their experience is seamless, or if the process is a challenge to work through. Both positive and negative experiences are strong enough to impact a customer’s memory of your brand.