Dead simple user research for websites

Stop guessing and understand how people react to your design and message

Jul 22, 2021

Jan 13, 2022

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5

 min read

No business plan survives the first contact with the customer. Just like no design concept survives the first contact with the user. You don’t have to be a researcher to do enough research that confirms your assumptions.

What is user research? 

If analytics give you an idea of “What” is happening. With  Google Analytics or Splitbee for example. Research tells you “Why”. 

Today we have great tools to do quick user research. After designing your website you can validate it. Do it the same day with your potential visitors.

Freemium tools to do quick User Research
Free tools to do quick User Research

Do some research before having a design mockup. One of the best ones is surveys or just planned conversations.

Before building the landing page

Desk research

Desk research is checking what research is already there.
It can be in the public domain, like research done by public organizations. Maybe some competitors shared research. It happens a lot. 
Most importantly check the communities where your potential customers hang out. See what problems are they facing. What words are they using to describe it?

For example: If somebody complains that with a tool they “don’t get sales”, don’t use words like “optimize conversion funnel” in your solution text. 

Example of people discussing Calendar tools on Reddit and Twitter
Example of people discussing Calendar tools on Reddit and Twitter

Surveys 

Surveys are great to get insights at scale and remotely. 
The key is to find the right audience and craft the right questions. Questions should not imply anything already and should be broad. 
If you have friends or followers ask them to do the survey. As long as they might be interested in what you’re offering. 
Again like with desk research: pay attention to what words they use. It will be useful for refining the website copy.

My favorite tools for surveys are  Typeform  and  Google Forms.

Example of a question in a Typeform survey
Example of a question in a Typeform survey

5 seconds test 

When a concept is done but not yet coded you can share the prototype or JPG with users. For 5 seconds.
Ask them if they get it or what are you offering. 
I love this method. It’s simple and removes voodoo marketing out of the equation.

Here’s an example from my project. I used  Maze for it. It’s great and free.

5 sec test with Maze. Questions after seeing the landing for 5 seconds
5 sec test with Maze. Questions after seeing the landing for 5 seconds

Usability test

Your goal is to guide people to action. Convert. 
With a simple usability test of the flow, you can see how easy it is to do.
Like with the 5 seconds test you can use a prototype in Figma to see where people are clicking. 
If there are missed clicks or it takes too long: reduce distractions and be clearer in messaging.

Again I used  Maze for this. Here’s an example.

Click heatmap in Maze to test the conversion flow
Click heatmap in Maze to test the conversion flow

After you published your website

Make sure you enabled analysis tracking.  Google Analytics  or  Splitbee is good enough. I recommend adding a tool like  Hotjar or  Fullstory for heatmap and session recording. It’s useful to get the "Whys" of conversion metrics.

In usability tests (from above) people are in a task-oriented state and focused. In real-life situations, people behave differently. A lot differently.

Hotjar has a free plan and is very easy to use. 
For example: If people are stuck on a certain screen where there is no text, chances are they are stuck and don’t know where to progress.

Hotjar example of screen recording to view the conversion flow on live website
Hotjar example of screen recording to view the conversion flow on live website

🐟 Just give me the fish

Research by lurking the community you try to serve. Use the same language they use on your website.
Do a 5-sec test to see if people understand what are you offering or selling. 
Test the flow of your conversion funnel with a usability task. Check if it's as lean as possible. 
On your live website. Check conversion analytics together with heatmaps or recordings of visitor behavior