For far too long, online marketers, agencies, and other influencers have created collateral that they think will appeal to their target market. They may have a good understanding of their prospect and have a perfectly viable product or service, but they don’t really know if it will sell. Certainly, they may take advantage of widely available research tools, but they may not have heard from the most critical person in the process – the customer. Why is this customer so important when it comes to initial product development, and how can you determine how they really feel so that you stand a much better chance of success? Principles of a Product Development System A product development strategy can be a lengthy process. Many organizations use what is known as the “Ansoff Matrix” to kick everything off. Sometimes referred to as the product/market expansion grid, it outlines four strategies that show an organization how to grow while analyzing the risk linked to each strategy. The matrix covers market penetration, focusing on increasing sales of existing solutions to a defined market. It also covers product development or the introduction of new products to a limited market. Market development focuses on the plan to enter a new market with existing solutions, while diversification is the riskiest strategy and focuses on entering a new market with a brand-new product. Getting into the Head of Your Prospect When attempting to sell a new product or service online to a new customer base, it is critical to understand the potential client. You need to know how they think or act, what their pain points are, and how they are likely to respond when presented with various solutions. This may involve content testing, message testing, user interaction, and other forms of analysis. Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis You’ll want to analyze your solution from both a quantitative and qualitative point of view. You’ll want to make sure that you can elicit the type of response you require so the concept is successful. You must also ensure that people take the right type of action from a procedural point of view, so the layout of your website makes as much sense as possible. Product Development Stages – Time for Testing To gather as much information as you’ll need, you must conduct a significant amount of testing, and there are many different tools available in the marketplace to help. A/B Testing A/B testing, sometimes known as split-run testing, is an approach in which two or more variants of the item (product, service, web page, etc.) are shown to users at random. A response is elicited, and statistical analysis is performed to determine which one fared the best. In the case of a web page, where a user is asked to act by clicking on a button or entering some data into a field, the page’s overall design may impact their response. Page “A” will be considered the control, and others (from “B” onward) will be considered the variants for side-by-side analysis. This approach can be productive, but it relies on your interpretation of the outcome. You will be able to see how the respondents reacted but will not know why they did so. Even so, this form of user testing can become very complex, and it may be necessary to present many different variations against the control and still not be entirely sure of the “why.” Testing in a Lab Setting One of the problems with a formal, independent review is that such a test takes place in a contrived environment. Certainly, the testers may use their experience and knowledge to come to a conclusion, but they may not represent the end-user in a natural setting. Where possible, it is best to reach potential users in their natural habitat where they are more likely to be relaxed and emotionally open to the possibility. The way they interact with your product is likely to be far closer to the real-world experience than it would be in a test lab. Google Analytics and Other Analytics Tools There is no doubt that Google’s analytic tool is very well designed and can deliver a wealth of information. It can help to show where your visitors originate, what times of day they visit your site, and, crucially, how they behave when they are there. You will be able to see if they simply exited your site without diving deeper (aka the bounce rate) and what pages on your site proved to be the most popular. Yet again, you have a lot of detailed information, but you still don’t know why these people took those actions. You need to experiment by changing certain site elements and gathering more information from this tool to determine the outcome. You can certainly study the behavior flow but will nevertheless need to come to your own conclusions. While there are other analytics tools available, the principle remains the same. The Better Approach – Validating with real audiences through User Testing What if you could set up a research study and get some actionable results to stop stumbling around in the dark and make sure that you hit the mark instead. Rather than spending a lot of time on A/B testing or poring over your Google Analytics results, get feedback directly from your prospects. Ask them what they think about your website or parts of a single page so you can make changes, if necessary, based on how you know your visitors will react. How It Works Choose any User Testing platform and share everything carefully to gather, analyze, and receive their comments as an outcome. This will help you perfect your design, so it meets user expectations and, crucially, gets you the results you want. Stop over-analyzing your analytics and learn more about the people behind the number You don’t know what you don’t measure. By diving into your website’s analytics, you find out how to improve user experience for your target audience. It’s a long-held marketing truism, but it has limitations. Analytics offer qualitative data. In other words, it provides numerical information about the occurrences on your website — how many people visited a specific page, how long they spent on that page, and whether they clicked through to another page or exited your site altogether. What analytics can’t tell you is why a user spent just three seconds reading your 2,000-word blog post or abandoned your website after adding your product to their cart. That is qualitative data, and it’s what you can learn through user testing. Here’s why you should stop over-analyzing your analytics and learn more about the people behind the numbers. Website analytics have limitations Website analytics certainly have their place. Metrics like the number of visitors, conversion rate, and bounce rate can flag successes and failures in your digital experience. But your audience’s behavior is more nuanced than a series of yes or no decisions. They are motivated by wants and needs, driven by emotion, and nudged toward action by evocative textual and visual elements. Often, website analytics pose more questions than answers. For example, let’s say your website ranks in the top three search results for a relevant keyword, yet the number of visitors remains low. Why? Do the meta title and description displayed on SERPs (search engine results pages) fail to drive clicks? If so, what is it about the language you have used that elicits a negative or disinterested response from your audience? Are there any words specifically that are consciously or subconsciously pushing your target audience away? And here’s another example. Your home page is attracting visitors, and the average session duration is several minutes. Yet, visitors are not clicking on your other web pages (about, blog, product category pages, etc.). Is your navigation confusing, leading to a poor user experience? Does the copy on your home page fail to inspire your visitors or, more fundamentally, demonstrate the utility and value of your product or service? Are you missing the mark when it comes to user expectations? Are you fulfilling their search intent? While analytics give us part of the user experience story, they don’t paint the full picture. We are left filling in the blanks, connecting the dots, and making assumptions about our audience that may or may not be correct. Instead, we need to get to know the human beings behind the number. We need to flesh out our audience personas so that we can understand the forces behind the decisions. It’s only when we have clarity on the why that we can optimize the user experience and elevate our conversion rate. The best way to get to know your audience and how they respond to your digital presence? Ask them. What is user testing? User testing — also called usability testing — collects qualitative feedback on a product, design, website, advertisement, or interface. Users are asked to perform a specific task, such as browsing a website or viewing an ad, and share their reaction to what they see and read. User testing empowers you to leverage data on user behavior and the context surrounding that behavior. User tests aim to improve the overall user experience, increasing conversion rates and triggering customer loyalty. It achieves this by: Uncovering problems in the design or text Identifying opportunities for improvement Deepening your understanding of your audience persona’s preferences and motivations Conventional, in-person user testing is not accessible to all businesses. The good news is, There are several User Testing platform available online that has innovated the user test process to empower brands of all sizes to secure the information they need to compete. Why user testing matters User testing matters because it teaches you about the people behind the numbers. It brings them to life in three dimensions, quirks and all. With this information in tow, you can stop wasting time and energy re-writing and re-designing and fine-tune your content with razor-sharp precision at the most decisive moments in the buyer’s journey. That’s how to improve user experience and your bottom line. Let’s go back to our example scenarios. Your website ranks in the top three search results for a relevant keyword, yet the number of visitors remains low. You don’t know why, so you organize a user test. It turns out your audience, who typically shops in the luxury market, are put off by the word “cheap” in your meta title. And now, our second example: your home page is attracting visitors that stick around for several minutes yet don’t click on other web pages. A user test finds that the playful navigation menu labels you’ve chosen (“Who” instead of “About” and “What” instead of “Services”) are confusing users. It’s an easy fix for a significant result. The value is evident. If you’re going to sell to an audience, your success hinges on your understanding of their motivations. User tests paired with website analytics offer the most comprehensive look at how your audience behaves and why. Uncovering problems your team has overlooked Even the best teams can fail to identify problems with a design or text. Sometimes, we get too close to our work, and the glaringly obvious becomes undetectable. The more eyes you have on your website, ad, or email copy, the more you can tweak and refine it to drive conversions. In short, user testing can become your instant competitive advantage. Don’t leave your business’s success to chance. Get to the bottom of what motivates your audience so you can meet users’ expectations, win their trust, and secure your business.