What’s the best way to test a new website on a budget?

Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

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!


  1. Mike Hittle

    A friend of mine just launched this site, with your specific needs in mind: http://www.youeye.com


  2. Mike Carney

    If your site is lead or sale focused then you should contact some top affiliate networks and ask for their opinion of your site or conversion path. There is no charge for this advice and it's a great way to understand what the competitive pressures are that you will going up against and the conversion best practices as well. Once you come to an agreement of what your path should look like, which promotional channels work best and at what cpa payout to publishers then it's time for a test. At the end of the day you don't pay for impressions or clicks, just results. Test, Track and Tweak – that's the key to finding the perfect solution for your business. Best Regards, Mike

  3. Clint Wilson

    We have found that taking a few simple steps to just launch it after a review by our Philippine website gurus goes a long way as they launch it over there first to test it with 1000's of users who do this as a hobby.

    You can get A/B testing as well with our groups there for less than $10/day with proofreading of your site with a cool tool for $10/prepaid fee — http://checkdog.com/ | http://checkdog.com/plans.php


  4. Rich Melcombe

    Hi, Steve:

    Congratulations on your new site. I don't think that you can count on friends to review your site. They will never be as focused as you need them to be. What worked for me, and I would highly recommend, is to go on a outsourcing site like elance.com and hire a proof reader for typos, and several other blogger-type or tech-like people to go through everything. I found a great woman for $400 US to proof my 400+ page melslife.com site. You can probably get a blogger or tech person to review your site for less than $40 a day.

    Good luck. We miss you in TV.


    Rich Melcombe

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