Question: My startup is launching a new website. It’s in “alpha” right now. I need to test it out before it goes to public “beta”. What’s the best way to test a new website on a budget? I can’t afford costly focus groups or expensive usability studies.
Answer by Naomi Kokubo, Editor of Founders Space
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good results. I seldom use focus groups or other more expensive methods. From my experience, the best and cheapest way to test out a new website is to invite “new” users (often friends and colleagues) to try it out. Instead of telling them what the site is and does, you shouldn’t say a thing. Instead, you quietly watch over each user’s shoulder and take notes as they try to figure it out for themselves.
I actually find that the less I say, the more I learn. I make a point of listening to what the users say, and I don’t answer any questions until the session is over. Another good trick is to ask the users to say everything that comes into their heads as they use the site. You’ll be surprised at what comes out of their mouths.
Even if a user gets hopelessly stuck and you’re itching to help out, don’t do it! Ask the user to keep trying and see what happens. Take detailed notes the entire time, and share those notes with your entire team.
This method works like gangbusters. It’s easy to get too close to a website and lose all perspective. This allows you to see the site through the eyes of a virgin user. In fact, this method works for testing any type of software, from a video game or iPhone app to an enterprise solution.
I hope this helps make your site a winner!