User feedback and testing is a crucial step when redesigning your higher ed website.

Once you have an HTML beta site or high-fidelity prototype, get it in front of real users. See how they use it, how they break it, how it frustrates or inspires them. How do users feel about your university after using your website? How easy is it for a prospective student to apply or schedule a visit?

At mStoner, each website project is the result of a significant amount of user research as part of the discovery work. That research informs content and design continuously as we move toward launch. Checking in with real users throughout our design process keeps our project teams focused on the core experiences that really matter to them. And plenty of testing options are out there for getting your product in front of people.

We rely on a variety of testing solutions to improve user experience, but nothing beats the rich qualitative insights we gain from observing users as they experience the content and complete tasks in real time.

Why Remote?

Cost, convenience, recruiting, international testing — all are great reasons to go remote. Testing users remotely also is the best way to see how people browse your website in their own environment. Everyone has their own preferences for getting around a website. Watching people navigate your site in the comfort of their own homes will change everything you thought you knew about your design.

Why Moderated?

Moderated research allows you to dig deeper, be flexible, and improvise as your user moves through your website. Slow it down if the user is just trying to get it over with, and reframe a question or ask follow up questions. Gently speed it up if the user is going off track. Moderated testing is a way for you to genuinely put yourself in a users’ frame of mind, feel their pain, and experience the website from their perspective. Empathy is more than just a buzz word.

Do It Yourself

You’re probably already using most, if not all, of the tools you need to conduct user testing. You don’t need to hire a third party or purchase an expensive application specifically for this process. You can do it all in house. Here are some easy steps to get you ready for your remote moderated user testing sessions.

1. Tools
Choose your favorite video chat application such as Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom, or Google Hangouts. Reliable screen sharing + recording capabilities are a must. Most if not all of these will work for desktop and mobile devices. In the meeting invitation you send to your users, include detailed instructions and a link to download the application.

2. Recruiting
Work with the appropriate office on campus for candidates that fall within your targeted persona types. Users must have high speed Internet and a computer or smartphone to be a part of the survey. If you do not have access to contact information through admission or student affairs offices, then you could consider guerilla testing on campus, testing internally, recruiting through, or adding a pop-up banner on your website.

3. Practice
Practice with internal team members. If this is your first time moderating a test, you will learn a lot from practicing moderating, observing, and taking the usability test before the real thing. Undoubtedly, technical issues will arise. The more you get used to dealing with them, the easier they are to troubleshoot.

4. Writing questions
A website should be built on a solid foundation of strategic points gathered from interviews with stakeholders and users at the beginning of the process. This is the time to go back to that early research that informed the choices you’ve already made and put everything to the ultimate test.

5. Prepping for the interview
Going into every interview prepared and distraction free goes a long way. Turn off your notifications and make sure you have everything you need: water, pen and paper, script, and questions. I like to have the script on screen so I can toggle back and forth between the meeting application and the script. This feels natural and doesn’t take me off track or take me away from giving my 100 percent attention to the task at hand.

6. Backup plan
Have your participant’s email address and phone number handy. If everything goes wrong, you can always conduct remote testing the old fashioned way … and talk it through over the phone.

In our next post on user testing we’ll get to the meat of the actual interview. Stay tuned!

Ben Conley

AUTHOR - Ben Conley

Nothing energizes me like working with my mStoner team to solve our clients’ creative problems. As top-notch designers, developers, and strategists, we work behind the scenes and tinker with details to make sure all the pieces and parts come together in the best products.

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