Thanks to website usability testing, fewer people “came and went” vs. 40-50% before!

John Kenyon and Beth Kanter at NTENs Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco

John Kenyon and Beth Kanter at NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference (credit: Judith Sol-Dyess/flickr)

Why should you care about your cause or nonprofit organization’s website?  According to John Kenyon, interactive media strategy expert, your online strategy really depends on the quality and usability of your website, as in, “You need to eat your vegetables before you eat dessert.”

What’s usability testing?  Say someone is interested in your cause.  They Google you, and land on your website.   In the heartbeat of time that you have their attention, will it interest them?  Will they find what they’re looking for?  Will they be able to do what they want, like find out how much of your donations go to direct service?  Will they be inspired to make an immediate online contribution?  Will they have confidence that your organization is credible?  Usability testing evaluates how easily real people — donors and non-donors, young and old — can use your site.

Kenyon was joined by Maryann Osmond, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and Johanna Bates, Technology and Lead Grant writer for Community Partners of Amherst, Mass.  It was Johanna that shared the remarkable improvement in website experience that she attributes to learnings from usability testing.  Before testing, Community Partners’ “bounce rate” (those that came and immediately left) was 40-50%; afterwards, less than 1%  far fewer did.  [Ed note:  I invited Johanna to weigh in with any comments and she responded early this morning that she has learned there is a glitch in the code that’s throwing off the Google Analytics report.  “I do think our bounce rate is lower, but we don’t know how much lower… it takes a while for the data to re-set.”  That’s OK, Johanna, you still made awesome improvements in the Community Partners’ site!  Thanks for the update!]

Besides a summary post of the Nonprofit Technology Conference Session by Raised Eyebrow Web Studio, here are my takeaways from the session:

So I need to do usability on the cheap.  What’s the process?  John recommends:

  1. Begin by drafting an instrument – a list of what you want to know or might ask potential users
  2. Review the instrument with the team.  Are the questions clear?  Would it make summarization easier if you had set response options rather than posing open-ended questions?
  3. Set up an online evaluation tool like Survey Gizmo.  Among other things, you can upload pictures of design options.
  4. Have staff try the evaluation tool.  Can they do it?  (Think about questions and answers that might fit on 2-4 pages, not 6 or 10!)
  5. Set a deadline to complete the evaluation.
  6. Email the link to the evaluation to members, family, etc., and be sure to get it into the hands of people of different ages.  Post it on your Facebook page and ask friends to give you feedback.  Tweet it and ask people to retweet the link.
  7. Compile the findings.
  8. Discuss it with the team that’s involved in the design process
  9. Develop an action plan.  You may have to plan for some improvements in a future version of the website, not the one you’re trying to launch immediately.

Does John mean “cheap” like I mean “cheap”?  Yup.  You can do usability testing for $500 if you have to do it on a shoestring.  Of course, there’s fancier ways to do it, like in a lab where mouse clicks or eyes can be tracked.

What are the most important factors to evaluate?  John showed some example of scale-based questions (strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree) with questions like the following:

  1. To what extent does the website interest you?
  2. Motivate you?
  3. Based on the design would you say that the website is informative?
  4. Credible?
  5. Inspirational?

John also recommended having some people “kick the tires” in front of you, so that you can ask good questions like:

  1. Show me what grabbed your attention first?
  2. What would you expect to find on a website for XYZ?
  3. What would you want to be able to do?
  4. Could you find or do what you wanted?
  5. Would you say that the site has too much information, too little, or about the right amount?
  6. Is anything confusing?  What?

This last bit – about fulfilling what people want to be able to do – was emphasized several times.  John recommends that organizations always know the top five pages that people come to now based on Google Analytics or another site analytics tool.

Tip from the audience:  The book, Don’t Make Me Think:  A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Thanks to website usability testing, fewer people “came and went” vs. 40-50% before!

  1. hungjon

    Thanks for the rehash, betsy. Personally, I think the largest factor for “motivation” is that there’s gotta be new content on the front page so the viewers don’t think that a) the website is dead, or b) that no one at the non-profit cares about web presence. I’m working on getting that accomplished in my team.

    I would love to hear your opinion about what site elements are most influential in motivating exploratory and donation behaviors.

    Lastly, here’s a recent usability/non-profit article you might find interesting: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/nonprofit-donations.html

    — @jonathanhung

  2. Right now, I think having a blog with compelling, brief stories is one of the best things that a nonprofit can do to attract traffic to its website AND to get people motivated to explore — and hopefully — donate. There’s no magic bullet, just a whole lot of work, cross polinating with e-newsletters, and so on. I also think it’s just plain great discipline to get internal staff in the habit of capturing snapshot reflections of the work they do. I’ll follow the usability article. And I’ll follow you on Twitter! Many thanks – Betsy @philanthrophile

  3. I had wanted to go to John’s session, but it was taking place next door to the one I was doing on ROI .. Thanks for the write up and the photo

  4. That explains the rowdiness next door! Seriously, I wanted to be in two places at the same time. I heard your ROI session was great and I appreciate your blog posts about it (on Beth’s Blog).

  5. Thanks for these notes. John was presenting the same time as me and I really wanted to hear his session. You captured fabulous notes. Almost as good as being there.

  6. This is hilarious .. I forgot I already read this .. worth reading again .. 🙂

  7. I wanted to be in two places at the same time… I heard both sessions were great