How to Qualitatively Evaluate Your User Experience

When assessing the performance of a website experience, people gravitate toward immediately reviewing their analytics. However, conducting a qualitative evaluation (also known as heuristics analysis) of your user experience first—through careful usability review and user feedback—can give much needed context to the quantitative information found with analytics tools.

So before you dive into Google Analytics and other reporting tools, visit your website as if you’re in the customer’s shoes. Ask yourself important questions about the experience:

  • What do you notice first when the page loads?
  • Does the information align with what you may have seen before arriving on this page?
  • Is the call-to-action effective and easy to locate?
  • Can you complete the intended objective?
  • Is your site simple to navigate? How well does your site search work?
  • Is there a mobile-friendly version of your site? Does it work on phones as well as tablets?
  • How is the design of your site? Does it feel clean, simple, and trustworthy?
  • How long is your experience? Count how many clicks it takes to complete a conversion.

This is far from an extensive list, but it demonstrates the types of questions you need to be asking of yourself and of your users. Be as thorough as possible. Visit the far reaches of your site. Click every button, comment on every blog, and put every product in your shopping cart. Read user feedback and comments, explore what technical issues have been submitted to support.

Assessing your own experience is an important step in CRO, especially if you will be heavily involved in building the strategy. However when you’re too close to your product or website you can be blind to even the most glaring mistakes. I implore you to be as honest with yourself as possible. Yes, you may be emotionally attached to some page elements—but are they really working? What about your site is disappointing or, dare I say, just plain awful.

You wont be able to answer all these questions yourself. Catching every mistake or awkward interaction isn’t possible—and that’s okay. The next step (and the most important) is to get other people to review your experience for you through user testing and feedback. That’s why user testing and feedback is a crucial step in assessing your experience.

Track your own visitors and see how they behave on the site. Where do they drop off? What page elements do they interacting with most? Click maps and heatmaps can be especially helpful and they are easy to understand. Ask for feedback in surveys, and if they are willing, bring them in for an interview. The point is to get as many first impressions of an experience as you can. Ask your coworkers, customers, friends, family, heck even strangers on the street. Not all their opinions will constitute eye-opening revelations, but if you find common complaints—or compliments—take note.

In addition to asking about the functionality, design, copy and information architecture of the experience, it’s also important to ask about the intangible and emotional impressions that your experience leaves such as:

  • Is the value proposition clear and is it compelling?
  • Does this page seem relevant to what you were expecting?
  • How motivated are you to take action? Does the offer seem better or worse than competitors?
  • Does it seem trustworthy?  

By gathering all this information you will have a useful qualitative overview of your experience. This knowledge will be extremely important after reviewing your site analytics for developing conversion rate optimization hypotheses to test. Not only is it important to have a critical review of your site for a successful CRO strategy, it also is a good way to catch small errors or mistakes that you can take immediate action to improve. The more you evaluate your user experience, the better you are at giving visitors the experience they want—and the performance you need.

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