If you run or manage a website, you probably have experience with a web analytics package (like Google Analytics). These tools are great at answering the quantitative questions, the “what?” questions that every good webmaster should ask themselves. Questions like, “How many visitors did I have last month?”, “How many conversions?” and so on. However, they aren’t so great at giving you qualitative insight, the “why?” questions that are just as important. Questions like, “Why is my bounce rate so high?” and “Why are conversion rates so low?”.
The list below represents a compilation of some of the best qualitative tools out there, all of which you can start using to improve your website today. These tools will help you understand how users interact with your site and, most importantly, why they act the way that they do.
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This list is certainly not comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. However, it is meant to give you a sampling of the wide variety of qualitative tools available. So what are you waiting for? Pick one from the list that you haven’t used before and give it a try, I guarantee you’ll discover a new way to improve your site.
The Rundown: Concept Feedback is a brand new community for designers, developers and marketers. Members can upload a concept (a website, logo, advertisement and more), specify an objective and start receiving constructive, actionable feedback from other members. A system of reputation points keeps users honest and helps prioritize advice. Sensitive concepts may also be posted privately for client or co-worker review. Best of all, it’s free!
The Benefit: Getting a second opinion on your work is never a bad idea. Concept Feedback hosts an active community with a lot of talented members willing to give you quality advice. Oftentimes, the reviews spark new ideas and provide a unique perspective that can help you improve your projects. The interface is easy to use and rather addicting!
The Benefit: While watching videos of your users may seem a little creepy at first, it can provide you with insights that you would never have come up with using a quantitative analytics package. The first time I used it, I noticed a user get stuck on a page with a bad link. His mouse wandered back and forth until he finally abandoned ship. Needless to say, I quickly corrected the issue.
The Rundown: Just like it sounds, Five Second Test is a “simple online usability test that helps you identify the most prominent elements of your user interface”, according to Angry Monkeys, the founding company out of Melbourne, Australia. Once you’ve posted a visual, random visitors can take part in a test where they are asked to write down the top 5 things they remember from your piece after only 5 seconds.
The Benefit: The concept is great, and the tool is easy to use and very simple. If you get enough people to take your test, you start to see some interesting patterns, including what people noticed most, and perhaps more importantly, what they didn’t. The only problem is, after 45 days, I only had 12 results. This could stem from a lack of users, or an overabundance of concepts. So, if you do try this tool (and I recommend it – it’s free!), make sure to take advantage of the invite tools to give your concept more visibility and better results.
The Rundown: Usabilla is a nice tool that allows you to collect feedback on wireframes, mockups or webpages. Participants point and click to share their opinion using markers and notes. Usabilla provides visual feedback as well as the reports and statistics to analyze the results. In their own words, “Usabilla provides you insight in the attitude and opinion of your users.” Although it is currently in beta, it’s also free, so get it while it’s hot!
The Benefit: The great thing about Usabilla is that it provides visual feedback. The tool is easy to use and administer, plus you can customize the questions asked based on your needs. One drawback is that, like Five Second Test, you are required to invite your own participants to provide feedback. If your network is relatively small, you may not be able to come up with the results you’re looking for.
The Rundown: Loop11 is an online tool for gathering unmoderated usability testing. In a nutshell, the system is an overlay on your website which allows you to present specific tasks on your website to participants. For example, you might say, “Find the contact information on this website”. The user can then navigate the site and either select “Task Completed” or “Abandoned”. Reporting tools give you the ability to see statistics like task completion rate, time per task and most common navigation path. Sound valuable? It sure is, but it also comes with a $350 price tag. Fortunately you can try it once for free.
The Benefit: Loop11 provides the context that both Userfly and ClickTale lack, however, by its nature, participants must be invited and are not live visitors. Despite that, Loop11 helps you understand typical behavior on your website and is great for improving navigation and conversion paths. If nothing else, give the free trial a spin and see what you can discover about your site and how people use it. What you find may surprise you.
The Rundown: Like Loop11, UserTesting.com provides unmoderated usability testing, except this time they provide the users. The premise is simple, you provide the demographic you’re looking for, the number of users you would like and what tasks you want them to perform on your site. When the testing is over, you can access videos (usually 15-20 minutes each -watch a sample) that allow you to watch and listen to the participants, as well as read a written summary describing the problems they found. Prices start at $29 for a single user.
The Benefit: UserTesting.com is great because it makes live user testing affordable. I recently used it on one of my websites and came across some interesting insights that I would have otherwise overlooked. It’s not fully disclosed as to how they find their participants, but fortunately they provide a one-year money-back guarantee.
The Benefit: Unlike the heatmap offered in Google Analytics, CrazyEgg shows each and every unique click on your page. It also allows you to segment clicks by traffic source, giving you some powerful information. The best thing about a visual is that you can come to an educated conclusion quickly, without wading through data and numbers. I was able to make some minor, but important, changes to my homepage after just a few minutes in CrazyEgg. So whether you use CrazyEgg or not, you should give heatmaps a chance.
The Rundown: Kampyle is a small tab that sits at the edge of each web page, allowing you to collect, analyze and manage your website visitor’s feedback. The feedback form is easy to use and its simple structure lets you organize feedback in to various categories, like bugs, suggestions, compliments and site content. Real time reports let you analyze the data and a built-in response system makes it easy to respond to customer inquiries. The free package includes 1 form and 50 items. Basic packages start at $99 per month.
The Benefit: Whether you are interested in actively administering usability tests or not, Kampyle is a passive tool that gives your users the opportunity to provide feedback on each page of your site. With Kampyle’s reporting tools, you are able to get feedback 24/7 from real visitors. Having it present on every page gives you a better understanding of your website, it’s bright spots, as well as needed improvements. Unfortunately, for those of you with a pretty website, the large orange tab might not be a welcome addition.
The Rundown: Like Userfly, ClickTale gives you the ability to watch videos of real users on your website. However, ClickTale also provides a number of extra features, including heat maps, link analytics and form analytics. The reporting tools are impressive, and go in to great detail, sometimes more than you need. While they do offer a free plan, paid subscriptions start at $99 per month.
The Benefit: One drawback, and common complaint about both Userfly and ClickTale, is the lack of context (meaning audio or user intent). While it would be ideal to understand why a user chose the path that they did, something is better than nothing. In the end, ClickTale provides a lot of bang for the buck if you can take advantage of the data it provides.
The Rundown: Google Website Optimizer (GWO) is a free website testing and optimization tool that lets you test and optimize site content and design. Upload a few variations of a web page and GWO will serve them in an alternating pattern to your visitors. Behind the scenes, GWO’s reporting tools are monitoring which combinations lead to the highest conversion rates. At the end of the test, you’ll have a definitive result, allowing you to continually optimize your designs and improve site performance.
The Benefit: While GWO may not be a purely qualitative tool, it should be one of the most important in your toolbelt. Using some of the tools listed above, you can come to better conclusions about which designs and layouts should work best, but GWO provides a real-life litmus test. GWO takes the guesswork out of design and gives you a virtual laboratory to test your assumptions.