If you can’t afford a usability lab, is your software doomed from the start? Not necessarily, but many successful UX design processes begin and progress with the same common element — user research. This pivotal step separates the products and solutions that serve user needs, improve pain points and increase efficiencies from the projects that sound great, but miss the mark when it comes to expected interactions and user patterns.
Recognizing and mobilizing the importance of user research and testing in your UX design process benefits a range of business types and projects — from entrepreneurs beta testing with a first user group to enterprise teams vetting a line-of-business app with internal stakeholders.
Why Conduct UX Testing?
Everyone, from freelancers with limited budgets to full-time designers, can and should conduct thorough user research to verify user needs are being met. Both remote and local teams can successfully conduct user research that delivers a quality user experience in the end product.
Challenges Implementing User Research
While, user testing is critical to product success, but much (including budget) can hinder optimal testing in the UX design process.
Startup clients and organizations with established solutions and teams often resist investing in user research. Comparatively, freelance designers with limited resources who work for small companies must undertake herculean feats to find users and complete testing to deliver the results that their clients need to satisfy users and business goals.
Perhaps your clients are located overseas, and the product’s target group is located in the U.S. Using friends or family members as participants in your user research does not a representative sample make. If they are not part of the target group, then you could be left with misleading data.
Scaling User Research
Regardless of the resources available to the designer, finding the right participants for user testing or another study is one of the most difficult things in the user experience design process. The right participants should represent the target group of your client’s business. Agencies and recruiters can simplify this process — but at a price.
HotJar is a powerful, yet affordable tool that connects designers to the right participants. This allows for better user research regardless of available resources. HotJar offers custom options for finding and connecting with participants, as well as several methods for studying users’ interactions with the product. While a variety of other user research and testing tools exist, among them Optimizely and Crazy Egg, we’ll do a deep dive with HotJar.
UX Research Analysis Tools
Leveraging HotJar in Your UX Design Process & Research
How does HotJar connect developers with user research participants?
Using the HotJar “Recruiter” tool, the admin can activate a feature that displays a small panel appearing on the bottom of the screen, incentivizing the user to become a tester through monetary compensation or the offer of a complementary good or service. Example offers might include a month of free access to your product, a premium account, a free eBook, etc.
Interested users provide their information — full name, age, sex, etc.— in a form in exchange for your offer. The designer will access all responses through HotJar’s admin area. A table that compiles the participants’ demographic information allows for the easy selection of participants that more closely represent your target audience.
According to Jakob Nielsen, three to five 3-5 participants to test a product will be able to sufficiently identify and address a significant part of a product’s usability issues.
Expect to compensate users about $60-$100 for their participation. Unfortunately, it can’t be completely free of charge. But the insights gained from motivated participants will earn you a better return and a more successful product in the long run.
Bolster Your UX Design Process & Research With Google Analytics
As your list of testers grows, Google Analytics to gain other insights into user experience that will help advance your UX design process and research.
Check the data from Google Analytics and see where your users abandon the website most. These points indicate weaknesses in the design and therefore points of improvement. Hypothesize how this particular area could be revised.
Google Analytics can also help you uncover who are your main users. Under the “Audience” section in GA, you can see reported gender, age range, the operating system they use most and their location.
After identifying your main users from GA, find individualswith the same demographic characteristics in the list of people who have registered for the user testing session on your website.
UX Research Tactics
Click and Scroll Heatmaps
Let’s assume that your users don’t check a particular section on your home page, but for your business, it’s important to help them see and interact with that exact section. Use the click heatmaps to see where the users on this particular page click most, and the scroll heatmaps to see whether the users scroll down to this section at all. If they don’t make it to this area on the page, it’s the responsibility of your UX team to alter the user experience design process in a way that highlights the section, draws their attention in another way or moves up the section so it’s visible without having to scroll.
User Polls Posted on Your Site
Creating polls to ask site visitors questions can be another tactic key to furthering the learning of your project team. Here are some examples of questions you can ask your visitors:
- Is there anything on this page that doesn’t work the way you expected it to?
- Is there anything preventing you from purchasing at this point?
- Is there anything preventing you from signing up at this point?
- What other information would you like to see on this page?
- What’s missing on this page?
You can find these and more questions as templates in the HotJar admin area.
The results from the polls will give you valuable insights on elements than can be improved, what is missing on your website and so on. Generating information is quick using this method, so you will have time to analyze it and use it to iterate. You also have the option to display the polls with a delay, e.g. to ask the user 10 seconds after the user has entered the page. Nobody likes to be bothered with such panels and pop-ups that appear immediately after entering the page. Here, I would like to add that, generally, I don’t like to be bothered with pop-ups, sliding panels and such things too, but the capabilities included in HotJar are fairly non-intrusive. I’ve seen this feature being used on a variety of well-known websites.
Watch the recordings of your users’ visits on the website. Everything is recorded from the start to the end of the user’s session. Study them to understand how users are interacting with your experience. Unfortunately, when using this method/tool, you can’t ask them why they don’t click in certain places in the experience. You can still learn a lot from those video recordings, supplement the data from your other research channels, support your hypotheses and more.
Send surveys and ask your users key questions about their needs and objectives, about their experience using your software, what they think could be improved and how.
If you don’t have an email database for your business, consider building one. With it, you could use the same approach to find participants for user testing by offering a small reward if they complete your survey. You need dozens, even hundreds, of survey responses in order to identify patterns and gain valuable data that can inform and improve your user experience design process.
In your request to potential survey respondents, you may also include how much time it will take them to complete that survey. This small detail helps set expectations around time commitment.
Testing Experiential Hypotheses with User Testing
Teams using HotJar to facilitate and organize user testing will see all people who have completed the form for becoming a tester along with short demographic information in the admin area.
Then, use HotJar’s other features to test your hypothesis as you continue to improve upon the design.
HotJar also offers click heatmaps, scroll heatmaps, visitor’s session video playback recording, polls, surveys and more. With all those tools available in one place, you can test nearly every hypothesis and effectively build an efficient and responsive product.
UX Design Process Takeaways
To complete a user experience design process with research under a budget is not an easy job. But, whether with limited resources or an abundance, clients and project teams deserve exceptional software. There is no other way to accomplish that except by reaching out to the target users of the business and aligning the product to their needs.