Published: 5 October 2018

These digital user tests are easy, fast and affordable

In my experience, charities don’t typically allocate any budget for user testing. There is a sense of ‘building perfection’ – launch and leave, which is impractical. You can’t create perfection for every user.

What you can do, is adopt a lean approach to user testing, focusing on your primary audiences to mitigate risk before, during and after launch. Embracing a philosophy of ‘fail fast, but learn faster’ will save you time and money further down the line as you’ll be designing and iterating products or content experiences that you know your target audiences will successfully engage with.

User testing techniques you can adopt today

Tree testing

Tree Testing is a fast and simple way to test the content structure or information architecture of your website or campaign experience. You want to ensure users can navigate to the pages they need to complete their goals. A tree test will tell you if they found the page through the navigation, the route they took to find it, and how long it took them.

Optimal Workshop’s ‘Treejack’ is a cost-effective online tool to set up and perform tests. You can even recruit testers that fit your target audience demographic through their recruitment service.

Pros

Cons

Fast Analytics can be open to interpretation
Cheap The solution doesn’t take into consideration other signposts on a page that may help users to find what they’re looking for
No training required – anyone can build a prototype to test within a matter of hours  

Prototype testing

A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process. Performing user tests with prototypes can give you invaluable insight into any pain points that users are experiencing when they perform specific tasks, which then allows you to fix these problems through iteration. You can learn more about prototypes and user testing from Chris Flood’s interview on the CharityComms podcast here.

Let’s look at two forms of prototype testing you can adopt yourselves:

Persona testing

To run this type of test, find some ‘cold users’ in-house who have no knowledge of the product you are designing. Give them a persona to adopt, and then ask them to perform a task or set of tasks using the prototype. Get them to talk through their experience as they do it and note down where they have problems. Repeat the test for three to five users and use the insight gained to iterate your product.

Pros

Cons

Fast Approximations of users through ‘role play’
Cheap  

Coffee shop testing

As the name suggests, you can use an informal coffee shop environment to run these user tests which helps your users to relax. The test adopts exactly the same approach as persona testing, the only difference being that you actively recruit testers who fit your target audience demographic.

Pros

Cons

Engages real users Recruiting users can be time consuming
Face to face exposes emotional feedback Needs a relaxed testing environment

Post launch testing

Once a product is launched, you can use real-time data to learn how it’s performing and continue to improve it as necessary. You’ll need Google Analytics set up to do this as soon as you launch – it’s surprising how many times this is overlooked. Set up some key goals to track (usually around conversion) to learn where users are dropping out of the funnel. It’s wise to set aside some budget (typically around 2-5% of the project) for post-launch optimisation depending on complexity.

Use A/B or multivariate tests to see how different variations of the same page perform and run with the most successful. This is particularly useful for trialling landing pages, donation prompts, paywalls and sign-ups where conversion is key. Finally, evolve your product to adapt to your users needs. Technology changes over time, as do user behaviours. What works today, might not work tomorrow – so keep testing and keep learning!

Pros

Cons

Use data-driven insight to evolve and improve products Intermediate GA experience required
A/B / multivariate tests can be set up through GA free of charge  

User testing doesn’t have to be overly expensive. Building it into your project plan will pay off and help create better experiences for your audience. 


Not all charities can afford to work with a digital agency to help them design and deliver their next website or digital product. Yoyo has created a free eBook called Think Experience to help debunk some of the fears around digital projects, read more here.


Images: Yoyo Design


Jenny Kitchen, managing director, Yoyo Design

Over the last seven years, Jen has led the growth of Yoyo Design to become one of the most exciting digital agencies working within the charity sector. With a background in experiential, retail and digital marketing, Jen views every online interaction in the context of the whole customer experience. She leads the team with passion, energy and purpose. At Yoyo, we design end-to-end digital solutions so your charity can tell its story and create genuine user engagement. We are results-driven with a strong focus on the customer experience. Over the years, we’ve worked with the RNLI, RSPCA, PVRI, England Athletics, Diabetes UK, Prostate Cancer UK and YoungMinds along with many other local charities.