[Hi – This is not an attack on on-line or, indeed, offline testing tools or techniques. They are valuable, and you should use them – everything builds part of a wider understanding. Don’t do one thing, do many. Here, I am saying, don’t forget what goes before and after the on-line bit – it’s important too.]
There is little dispute that one of the best ways to understand how well or badly your website is working for your customers, is to test it, but all too often, people focus solely on testing what happens on-line. They start at the homepage, and end when they find the submit button. While this can give you valuable insight into how the user experience of the site is affecting customers, it isn’t replicating what your customers are facing.
Start at the beginning
People don’t just spontaneously decide to load the homepage of your site and try to do something. Neither are they typing random words into Google to see what happens. People do things online because things happen to them in the real world – considering what these real world things are gives you a better insight into how you can make people’s experiences with you better.
End at the end
Equally people don’t stop existing the minute they find the submit button on your website, and their issue or problem doesn’t go away when the form is sent. You need to consider what happens next – follow the process through actually test it to the end.
Doing full tests needn’t be too hard – the easy thing to do is to actually complete the task:
- Go find a pothole (it’s not that hard!) and report it – see what happens. How does it progress once you’ve reported it?
- Join the library – someone in your team won’t be a member of the library. Get them to join, see what happens.
- Get hold of a parking ticket – you might be able to get the ticket without the actual fine. What does it say? Also, talk to your finance team: most payment systems have test versions and test credit card numbers, so you can go through the process and even submit the payments.
Find starting points. Look at what causes people to contact you – it might be a sticker on a bin, or a letter the council sends out. Find out what they are and get hold of them. You will be shocked by the number that say just “phone us” or “go to the homepage and click on the link called [thing]”.
It needn’t be too hard, but once you start to think outside the browser you can make a big difference with very small changes.