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User testing is a vital and intricate part of UX design. Understanding how your user interacts with your design is crucial to crafting the best user experience to help visitors achieve their task, and overall to increase conversions.

Running your own user testing lab, including finding and hiring your own target consumers and setting up the required hardware can be expensive and time-consuming. However, there's plenty of user testing software around that will help you avoid this step, by offering you the tools to monitor user behaviour and gather feedback so you can confidently identify any flaws in your design.

In this article, we'll take a look – in no particular order – at some of the most useful and popular user testing software to get you started. Which becomes your go-to user testing tool will depend very much on what your requirements are and which interface appeals most to you. I suggest trying out the free trial versions of the user testing software in this list (where it's available), to see how well each one suits your needs before taking the plunge.

01. Userlytics

Userlytics is the ideal remote user testing platform

  • From: $49

Userlytics is the perfect remote user testing platform, designed to enable you to record users’ interactions with a website, mobile app or prototype. This tool uses picture-in-picture remote testing software to capture the user's facial expression and audio commentary as they test your asset, in order to provide a full picture of how they respond and react to your asset in real time.

There is no hardware or complicated setup required to get started with Userlytics. It’s a great way to quickly and inexpensively uncover the frustrating points on your mobile app, or discover why users are doing what they’re doing on your website. 

02. UsabilityHub

Put your design in front of new users and get feedback quickly

  • From: free

Should you put the navigation toolbar on the left or the right? Will people prefer design A or design B? Making design decisions can be frustrating, especially when it comes to figuring out which design is the best solution to release. This is where UsabilityHub comes in: It’s designed to help you settle any design debates once and for all. UsabilityHub includes five different test suites to enable you to capture and analyse users’ preferences and make a confident decision. 

Simply upload an image of your website interface, mobile app UI or software design and assign a task for users to complete, then wait for the results. UsabilityHub will provide a report that includes heatmaps indicating where users clicked. You can even set a five-second test to capture user’s first impression of your design. 

With this user testing software you can also upload multiple designs and ask users which version they prefer and why, create navigational tests to pinpoint dropout points (ideal for complicated user journeys), and arrange a survey to gather user feedback. 

There is a basic free option of this software – you'll only need to pay if you want UsabilityHub to provide test subjects for you. 

03. Lookback

Speak to users while they’re exploring your website – not after

  • From: $49/mo
  • Free trial

Lookback is a user experience recording software made simple. With it you can record a user’s computer or mobile device in-house or remotely, without any additional equipment.

What makes Lookback unique is that you can join the live testing session and speak to the user while they’re exploring your design, to ask questions or conduct an interview. A lot of other user testing software only provides a report or recording after the testing has been completed, but with Lookback, you can schedule tests and watch them as they are conducted in real time, and speak to the user directly with follow up questions. It’s an easy way to get an immediate answer. 

04. TryMyUI

Get your website tested by real users and see the results

  • From: free (pay per result)

TryMyUI is a usability testing service aimed at helping you discover how you can improve your website or mobile app. With it, you can set up your own custom test with specific tasks for users to carry out, and find the right user base through a wide range of demographics. You can also watch the recording of the users conducting the tests you’ve set. 

Alternatively, you can use TryMyUI Stream service. This is installed on your website to collect real-time information of how user interact with your website, enabling you to find pitfalls and identify bad UX with Stream’s AI frustration finder. This helps to identify paths users are taking, and which ones lead to success and failure. 

05. Hotjar

Hotjar is an all-in-one analytics and feedback platform

  • From: free 

Hotjar contains a host of useful tools to help you analysing and receive helpful feedback for your website. Crazy Egg (number #6 in our list) may be the user testing software that springs to mind when you think of heat maps, but Hotjar has them too. These help you see which parts of your interface your audience is being drawn to, and are getting the most clicks and taps. 

With Hotjar you can also see recordings of people's mouse trails to indicate exactly how they're navigating your site, and the Conversion Funnels utility lets you know at which point people are dropping out of a purchase or sign-up process. These features can be very insightful. The funnel helps you pinpoint exactly which part of your site needs tweaking in order to get better results from your design. 

There are a few other great bits of functionality within this tool, including form analysis and feedback polls. Hotjar should definitely be on your shortlist of user testing software.

06. Reflector

Stream a mobile screen to your computer

  • $14.99
  • Free trial

Screen mirroring app Reflector isn't designed specifically for usability testing, but it's useful for testing how your app design works on mobile. This tool wirelessly sends your phone or tablet screen to your PC or Mac so you can watch how people use your app. Reflector also includes recording capabilities so you can review your testing sessions later or share and present them to an audience.

07. UserTesting

Easily hire and record a user interacting with your website

  • From: $49 per video session (up to 15 sessions)

One of the best and most simple ways to record users interacting with your website, alongside their responses, is via video using UserTesting.

With this user testing software you can pick your target audience and assign users a task to perform on your website or app. Your test can be run on a desktop, tablet or a mobile device. In return, UserTesting will record real people giving their thoughts whilst interacting with your website/app, so you can truly understand why users do what they do. You can try out UserTesting for free.

08. Crazy Egg

Insightful heat maps help you identify what users are actually doing

  • From: $29/mo
  • Free trial

Uncover how visitors interact with your website with X-ray glasses using Crazy Egg. This user testing heat map software helps you understand what people are doing on your website and why visitors may not be converting into regular users or customers. Heat maps identify which objects on your website are being clicked on and which traffic sources they are being referred from.

An extremely helpful feature in Crazy Egg is the scroll map, which identifies how far visitors scroll down a page before they abandon it entirely. Other useful features include the ability to monitor the numbers of clicks on each element of a page, and to do A/B testing.

09. Inspectlet

Record active users on your website as if you’re over looking their shoulders

  • From: free

Inspectlet is a user testing software that records your visitors and monitors exactly what they are doing on your website, including what links they click on, mouse movement, scrolling and key-presses. You can watch each visitor as if you were looking over their shoulder.

Beyond recording user interaction on your website, Inspectlet includes a heat map, which allows you to identify the sections visitors are paying attention to. The heat map also includes eye tracking, information about what has been clicked on the most and how far visitors scroll down pages. And as an added bonus, the form analytics tool highlights which form elements are the most troublesome for visitors and where they are failing the most.

10. Optimizely

Optimise your site’s UX with A/B testing

  • Price on request

A/B testing is an extremely effective way to test planned changes on a web page compared to the existing design (or an alternative proposed update) to determine which version produces the most positive results. Google offers its own A/B testing software called Google Optimize, which allows you to perform experiments on your website.

However, a more robust software for A/B testing is Optimizely. This tool offers several easy-to-use features to help you build your tests, including multivariate testing – a technique to test multiple variables on a given web page. You can create personalised experiences and target specific audiences when unveiling new designs to visitors, including targeting different URLs, browsers and geographic regions.

Optimizely is a comprehensive suite of tools, but it is aimed at serious businesses, which is reflected in the price. 

11. Usabilla

Gather visual and critical feedback from your existing visitors

  • Pricing on request

If you want to gather customer feedback on your website or mobile app, Usabilla is the tool to use. It offers a customisable feedback button that you can place on your website, or for mobile, a custom feedback form that doesn’t require any redirects. Visitors can actively select particular elements on a given webpage and provide detailed feedback of suggested improvements or highlight any bugs.

Usabilla also includes a slide-out poll to gather an 'emotional' rating. All this data is summarised and can be viewed visually, through insightful graphs within the Usabilla dashboard.

12. UserZoom

UserZoom provides premium features for UX research

  • Pricing on request

UserZoom is an enterprise-level, fully packaged user experience research and analytics platform. Besides capturing user interaction, it also provides powerful analytics data.

UserZoom contains a wealth of features for collecting user experience data. With it you can test websites and prototypes, or remotely record users testing your website along with their feedback and comments. You can also perform market research by evaluating multiple websites (for instance, competitors’ sites) to provide UX benchmarking. The UserZoom dashboard contains insightful reports with user actions, click information, unique views, heat maps and more.

13. Morae

Record information, analyse results, and easily share your research

  • Price: $1,995/£1,735.66

Morae is a fantastic testing suite for anyone wanting to manage all the user testing in-house. It is provided by TechSmith, which also offers screen recording software. This comprehensive testing application resides on the designer or developer’s computer, and allows them to perform usability testing sessions through recording the user's interactions and survey results, then enabling them to analyse and edit the final results, which can easily be shared with the team.

Related articles:

  • 6 hot new websites to be inspired by
  • 4 different ways to create a website mockup
  • New skills in UX design

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Permission Marketing: why user consent matters

How to turn an interruption into a desirable resource.

If you think about most marketing you encounter day-to-day, you’ll notice that you didn’t ask for most of it. In fact, this is such a foregone conclusion for most people that the idea anyone would ask for someone to market to them seems almost laughable.

Advertisements interrupt the TV programming we watch, the music we listen to, and the articles we read. It fills our inboxes, brands our sports teams, and worms its way into product placements in block-busting Hollywood hits. If you’ve ever aggressively unsubscribed yourself from email lists, added your name to a “do not call” registry, or considered deleting your social media accounts, you already know how difficult weeding unwanted advertising from your life can be.

The problem is that marketing isn’t inherently bad. In fact, good marketing is a crucial part of our economy. The commercials interrupting your TV show also help pay for their programming. The advertisements to the side of the news article you read help the publication stay in business. And marketing campaigns that successfully connect a consumer to a product that they want performs a valuable service to the customer, while keeping businesses and the people who work for them employed.

Marketing is necessary, but it isn’t a necessary evil. The question is, how can we help marketing perform the service it was designed for without disrupting everyone’s lives? This is where the question of consent comes to play.

Permission marketing puts users in control.

Back in 1999, Seth Godin published his book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers, in which he promoted the practice of obtaining consent from customers before marketing to them. This thinking has shaped a lot of modern digital marketing practices in ways we’ll get to in a minute.

But to clarify the premise, the idea behind permission marketing is that advertising to people who may not want to hear from you is fighting an uphill battle. Some people are never going to be customers, and the faster you can identify those people and leave them alone, the happier we’ll all be.

For instance, I used to routinely get calls from carpet cleaners offering me a great deal on cleaning the carpets in my home. The problem is: I only have wood floors. It doesn’t matter how great I think their brand might be, I will never be their customer.

On the other hand, I do have a select group of brands I explicitly want to hear from. I’ve signed up to their mailing lists, and despite culling my marketing subscriptions regularly, I still let their emails into my inbox. I almost always open them, and I often click on their links as well. Even if I don’t make purchases very frequently, I like being reminded of the brand, and I like to see what’s new from them.

What this has done is it’s allowed me to be selective about the messages that come my way, and it’s allowed these brands a safe way to build a relationship with me that will almost certainly lead to future sales. But all that is the result of asking my permission.

How to ask for marketing permission.

Once you start thinking about permission marketing in your own strategy, you may realize that many platforms have already taken a permission-first approach. Here’s a few places where marketing consent already is the norm.

Likes, follows, and subscriptions.

If you’ve created a brand page on a social media platform, then attracting followers is your way of growing a permission-based marketing stream. You focus on creating the kind of content your followers want to see, and they spread the word for you through their social networks.

Email marketing forms.

A lot of online content marketing is built on obtaining email addresses. When someone leaves an email address in exchange for a piece of downloadable content or access to a service, they’re opening the door for marketing communications from you.

However, this is only tacit consent rather than full consent, so if you’re emailing someone based on this, you should be looking for other triggers as well. And if someone stops visiting you or opening your emails, you should take that a sign that they no longer want to hear from you, and you should stop emailing them.

On the other hand, a double opt-in form moves from tacit to affirmative consent. In this situation, the customer not only leaves their email address, but then in your first email to them you ask to verify that they did actually intend to join your email list. You let them know what your list is for, and how frequently they can expect to hear from you. And you given them an easy way to withdraw consent (unsubscribe) when they’re ready.

Transparent cookie policies.

Finally, there are cookies. Web cookies can be a tricky subject, because many people misunderstand how they’re used. In some instances, web cookies are necessary for a website to function. In others, they’re a rather harmless tactic to provide your users with a seamless user experience.

Even in marketing contexts, web cookies are like a branded shopping bag: people can see where you were and change what advertisements they display on their site to match. But the website itself doesn’t follow you around.

That said, you can help your users understand cookies better by putting up a consent notice when they first visit your site. In some countries, particularly those that fall under the GDPR, that may even be a requirement.

But doesn’t permission marketing begin with an interruption?

There is, of course, a paradox about permission marketing. To get permission in the first place, you still have to draw attention to your business. Probably the only way that marketing is ever interruption-less is through organic search traffic, but most businesses need some kind of boost, particularly when they’re first starting out. It’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg problem.

Well, all right. You have to get attention somehow. But when you do, think of it like an introduction rather than an interruption.

If you were at a social event, and you wanted to pass out some business cards, you could do it two ways:

1) You could shove your way into conversations, push your business cards on people who didn’t ask for them, cause a scene, and “make it rain” in the hopes that someone might pick up a card and decide you were someone they wanted to do business with.

OR

2) You could wait politely for an opening, introduce yourself by explaining who you are, what you do, and why a connection might be worthwhile, get to know the person you’re talking to, and then offer them your business card if you still thought you were a good match.

You want to be the latter, right?

Of course you do.

So yes. Permission marketing doesn’t happen spontaneously. You will have to make an introduction first. But if you do that by putting your users and their needs first, you’ll get a lot farther, and you’ll make more friends along the way.

The post Permission Marketing: Why User Consent Matters appeared first on build/create studios.

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