Prototype user testing with Axure & Loop11

Prototype Design with Axure and Loop11In late 2015 a major bank used a combination of Loop11 and Axure to create and test some new prototypes aimed at improving the user experience for their internet customers.

A prototype is a mid to high fidelity representation of the final user interface. In this instance the prototypes, while looking like a polished website, only contained two or three elements per page which the user could click on. By limiting the potential paths and interaction points a user could engage with the bank opened the doors to a rapid testing cycle where they weren’t bogged down by code and irrelevant functionality.


NPS – The one number you’re (probably) doing wrong

NPS - The 1 number you're probably doing wrongThe Net Promoter Score – aka “NPS”. We’ve all heard about it and most of us have probably used it in a project before to measure positive word-of-mouth about a brand or website. NPS seems pretty straightforward to measure right? You just ask respondents how likely they are to recommend something on a scale. Easy! Right?

NPS is a popular marketing metric, but what is a good score? We were interested in finding benchmarking data to feed back to our users but we noticed that not everyone uses the same scale when asking the NPS question.

What we uncovered was both unexpected and fascinating.


The Loop11 JavaScript – Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Many of our users are often faced with what they presume is a difficult task – including JavaScript in their website. Sometimes it’s the daunting task of getting the IT department to implement the otherwise simple ‘copy and paste’, other times it’s concerns revolving around security, page load time or SEO. The good news is Loop11’s JavaScript does not negatively impact any of those areas. In fact, your website most likely already has similar code inserted within it in the form of Google Analytics.


Loop11 & Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is becoming an ever increasingly popular way for website owners to add JavaScript into their website without the assistance of IT departments or knowledge of coding.

Loop11 can easily be added to your website utilizing Google Tag Manager. To do this follow these simple steps:

  1. Log in to Google Tag Manager or create an account if you don’t have one already.
  2. On the Overview Page, click “New Tag”.
  3. Insert a name for the tag (e.g. Loop11). Then, under “Choose Product”, click “Custom HTML Tag” and then paste the Loop11 Javascript into the ‘Configure Tag’ field. Tick the box called ‘Support document.write’ then click continue.
  4. For ‘Fire On’ select ‘All Pages’ then click ‘Create Tag’.
  5. When you’re ready to publish the changes, click ‘Publish’ in the upper-right corner.
  6. To test the successful insertion of the code go to your Loop11 account and click on the preview link for your test.

Benefits of Online, Unmoderated User Testing

For most usability professionals lab-based research has been the only testing method they’d consider.  However, with the growth of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technologies online, unmoderated user testing (also known as remote unmoderated or asynchronous user testing) is gaining traction and being used not only as a compliment to, but in many cases as an alternative to traditional lab-based research.

UnModerated User Testing vs Moderated User TestingIn 1997 when the internet was relatively new to the non-technical public market researchers started experimenting with online surveying to replace the costly and time consuming telephone and mail surveys.  There was much resistance in the market research industry to online surveying, and it was often seen as a “cheap and dirty” way of conducting market research studies.  Despite benefits such as cost, speed and geographical reach, to name a few, many market researchers dismissed online surveying and chose not to offer it as methodology to clients.

Today, there is no doubt online surveying is a common tool in the suite of products offered by market researchers.  Clearly, they just needed time to understand the internet and online surveying to know how to get the most out of the new methodology.

Online user testing is in much the same place today as online surveying was in 1997; resisted by many and even dubbed a “voodoo measurement technique” by a very well respected user interface engineer.  We think he’ll eat his words, just like Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM did a while ago.

Those who have explored and experimented with online user testing are currently reaping the rewards.  In a recent study by the Usability Professionals Association online user testing experienced an 18% increase in usage by UPA members since 2007, while traditional usability testing experienced a 9% decline over the same period.

Online Unmoderated vs Online Moderated User Testing

There’s online, moderated testing and then there’s online, UNmoderated testing.  The key difference is that with online moderated testing the moderator uses a web-based service that allows users in faraway locations to participate in what is essentially, an online meeting.  The software has the ability to share viewing and control of a web browser that permits the moderator to view the user’s mouse movements and web pages they visit, facilitating discussion similar to that of a traditional lab-based usability test. A good visualisation of the approach can be found here.

In contrast, online unmoderated testing is usually done ‘asynchronously’.  That is, first the researcher designs and initiates a study; the participants perform the tasks in their natural context, at home (or the office) using their own computer; then, once all the participants have completed the tasks, the researcher gathers and analyses the data.  In this approach there is no need for a moderator to be present during the testing. 

Benefits of Online, Unmoderated Testing

There are a lot of great reasons to do some online, unmoderated testing on your website.  Here are a few of the key benefits:

Get quantitative usability metrics
Perhaps the most important benefit of unmoderated testing is that it allows for the collection of quantitative usability metrics; in other words, statistics.  Traditional lab-based testing often consists of between 5 to 8 participants; perhaps double that if you have a bigger research budget.  With such a small sample size it would be wrong to attempt to calculate percentages to assist in reporting, such as the percentage of participants who completed a task successfully or the average time it took to complete a task.  The larger sample sizes that are possible with online testing make the calculation of these and many other usability metrics entirely possible, and these metrics can deliver significantly greater insights into the usability of a website than ever before.

If you run some online testing in conjunction with lab-based testing you’ll get the chance to validate your lab findings to ensure they are a valid and true representation of your websites’ user experience.

Conduct benchmarking studies

Because online testing allows for the collection of quantitative usability metrics it becomes very easy and practical to measure how one website performs against competing websites or other versions of the same website.  This can be particularly valuable if you are redesigning your website and have prepared wireframes of a new design.  Pit them against each other to ensure the new design performs better on those key tasks your site visitors come for.

Test with ‘hard-to-get’ participants

If the target audience of your website is senior business executives, doctors, lawyers or brain surgeons then getting them into your lab for testing can be very difficult and very expensive if you’re offering incentives.  But getting these people to do a 5 to 10 minutes online user test in the comfort of their own office is a much more realistic proposition.

Similarly, if you want to test your website for accessibility by doing testing with people who use assistive technologies (screen readers, electronic pointing devices, alternative keyboards, etc) you’ll never be able to replicate everyone’s unique set-up in your own labs.  Here’s a great opportunity for online testing to step in and take over.

Test with an international audience

Similar to the above point, if your website has an international audience and you want to ensure it can account for any cultural differences that might exist, lab-based testing around the globe is guaranteed to blow your budget…if you had one big enough to begin with.

Online testing easily allows you to recruit participants anywhere in the world.  And if you don’t have a database of your own there are a slew of market research panels that will provide participants that fit your specific criteria.

The ‘Test early, Test often’ principal becomes a reality

With all the different web-based tools around these days that can assist in user research the cost of doing usability testing is always going to be much cheaper than the lab-based alternative.  And once you’ve run a few online studies you’ll be able to run them much faster than anything you can do in a lab.

It follows that if it’s faster and cheaper, you can now conduct more user testing studies more frequently with your currently budget.  For years they’ve said, “Test early, test often”, but how many of us have honestly been able to do that?  Now, it’s become a reality.

Below is an excellent example of a systematic and thorough usability testing process (thanks  There are eight stages of testing in total.  If you use Loop11 for all the stages of task testing, Survey Monkey for the surveys, Optimal Sort for card sorting and Treejack for the IA testing you could do all of this for around $2,500.

Usability Testing Process

For those who want to read more about online user testing there are two books I recommend reading:

What You Can Learn from Popular Eye Tracking Studies

Want to know how you should appear in search results, where to place your most important information when trying to improve your website for conversions, and how to draw attention to your products in advertising? Then you will want to check out these valuable lessons from popular eye tracking studies.

How You Need to Be Listed in Search Results

Popular Eye Tracking Studies

Photo Credit: Fabio Premoli on Flickr

SEOmoz, one of the leading SEO blogs, published an eye tracking study on Google searches for local pizza shops, how to make pizza, pizza making tools, and major pizza chains. Quick lessons to be learned from this study include the following.

• You want to be at the top of search results when the results will be primarily text based without local results.

• If the search is for local-based businesses, you want to be in the top five to ten places that come up in the local search results area.

• If the search is on a how to topic, you will want to have video that appears in the first page of search results as videos usually stand out more with their thumbnails.

• If you are a retailer, you will want to make sure your products are included in Google Shopping so that your product images appear in search results.

• If you are a large brand with local shops, you will dominate the top area of search results with additional links to pages beyond your homepage as well as local search results, both of which will get lots of attention from searchers.

Where to Place Your High Conversion Elements

Popular Eye Tracking Studies

Photo Credit: Michael Sauers on Flickr

In our recent post on how to improve your website for conversions, we mentioned that your conversion goals should be prominently displayed throughout your website. What you can learn from eye tracking case studies on websites is where to put high converting elements like your mailing list sign up form, buy now buttons, and any other thing that you want visitors to find on your website immediately when they arrive.

Let’s say that you want to improve conversions from your blog. Web Distortion listed 8 eye tracking studies from popular blogs to show where the hot spots were. Aside from the content itself, most eyes were drawn to the headers, particularly the right side of the headers where banner ads appeared or where the main navigation was located. Then they were drawn to right-hand sidebars.

How to Draw Attention to Your Products in Advertising

Popular Eye Tracking Studies

Photo Credit: Think Eye Tracking

If you’re using advertisements in print or online to get more visitors to your website, you’ll want to make sure that your product and it’s message is getting people’s attention. There are lots of subtle ways to make sure this happens. In this eye tracking case study by Think Eye Tracking, all it took was a simple change of having the model look toward the product instead of looking toward the camera.

Have you ever reviewed or conducted an eye tracking case study? What other valuable insights have you learend?

How to Improve User Experience with Your Shopping Cart and Increase Sales

Once you have learned how to improve your website for conversions, your next job is to ensure that all of the people who make it to your shopping cart actually complete their purchase. Your online shopping cart can make or break the deal – here’s how to improve user experience so yours seals the deal as many times as possible.

Set up analytics to find problems early on.

It’s never too early to set up analytics to find user experience problems early on, especially when it comes to shopping carts. Once you have set up Google Analytics, you can create goals using a sales funnel. This will track visitors throughout their shopping cart experience and produce the following report.


Now you can quickly see where people exit the shopping cart the most. This is a key piece of information when you are looking to find problems with user experience. In the above case, people are exiting after adding a product to the cart which suggests that this screen has some kind of user experience issue.

Avoid common user experience faux pas.

Think about your own experiences with shopping carts – the things that have frustrated you the most when making an online purchase. You will want to make sure your shopping cart does not drive your customers away because it does the following.

  • • Makes people go through a complex registration process or forcing them to login. There’s nothing worse than wanting to make a quick purchase, not remembering whether you have an account, then filling out a new registration just to find that you already do have an account that needs to be completely updated. Allow for guest checkout instead to let first time customers buy without any hassles or repeat customers buy without having to remember details. Include an option to register for faster convenience for those how are interested.
  • • Logs out of sessions too quickly and doesn’t remember where the user was during the process when logging back in. While security is important, if someone gets logged out and has to start all over with their purchase, they may get frustrated and give up.
  • • Does not allow customers to confirm items in the shopping cart or change quantities throughout the purchase.
  • • Signs customers up for a mailing list without their permission. While this may not affect the first purchase, it could affect the customer’s likelihood to return for future purchases.

Test your shopping cart on multiple platforms.

Maybe the issue with your shopping cart only happens on a particular browser or platform such as a mobile device. Be sure to test your shopping cart from start to finish from a variety of platforms including PC desktops plus all associated browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari), Mac desktops plus all associated browsers, a tablet (such as the iPad), and smartphones including the Android and iPhone.

Run usability tests on your shopping cart.

If you can’t find usability issues on your own, try running usability tests on your shopping cart with a test audience. Sometimes it takes someone not as familiar with your shopping cart to find the problems.

Boost the customer’s confidence in your brand throughout the process.

Sometimes it’s not a functionality issue that hurts your shopping cart’s user experience, but rather a confidence issue. Customers need to be reassured throughout the online shopping process that they are going to receive exactly what they want where they want it.


Help assure your customer by including the following throughout the shopping cart.

  • • Proof that your site is secure and trustworthy. This can include displaying badges to indicate a money back guarantee, an easy return process, a strong rating with the Better Business Burea, and a high customer satisfaction rating with sites like Bizrate.
  • • A phone number or live chat that people can use during the checkout process.
  • • A quick summary of the items ordered so they do not have to back out of the checkout process to confirm their selections.
  • • A reminder that they can review their order once more before their credit card is charged.
  • • An order confirmation screen that includes items to be ordered, shipping and billing addresses chosen, and the last four digts of their credit card or payment method.

What are some other things you would suggest on how to improve user experience with a shopping cart? Please share in the comments!

5 Tips on How to Improve Your Website for Conversions

When it comes to your business website, your goal should go beyond just traffic – your goal should be to take your visitors and turn them into conversions. Once you have defined your conversion goals (which could include signing up for a mailing list, submitting a contact form, downloading a whitepaper, or purchasing a product), your next step is to make sure your website is designed to increase conversions. This allows you to gain the maximum ROI (return on investment) for all of your online marketing campaigns. The following are five tips on how to improve your website for conversions.

Photo Credit: Brian Massey on Flickr

1. Make sure that your conversion goal is prominently displayed throughout your website.

Remember that traffic doesn’t just enter your website through the homepage. If you want to ensure that your website is exposing visitors to your main conversion goals, be sure that those goals are prominently placed throughout your website. For example, if your main conversion goal is to get people to call your 1-800 number, then that number should be posted in your website’s header – not just on your contact page.

2. Create landing pages for specific conversion goals without a lot of other distractions.

This is especially important if you do any online advertising (Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc.). You don’t want to advertise your latest product and then have visitors click through to your homepage where they may or may not find the link to that product. Instead, you’ll want a landing page on your website devoted to the product you’re advertising. This way, you can convert more of your traffic from ads, social shares, or other links for that specific conversion goal.

3. Try out tools that help boost conversions.

There are lots of great tools out there that can help you boost conversions. One of the latest is Hellobar, a simple script you can install on your site that adds a red bar at the top of each page. This bar draws your visitors attention to anything you want with a simple sentence and button to click. Several top blogs on conversion are starting to use Hellobar to draw attention to their latest products, services, webinars, eBook downloads, or other pages. Try it on yours to see if you get more attention to some of your landing pages.

4. Don’t forget to optimize your blog for conversions.

When we talk about optimizing your website for conversions, this includes your blog as well. There are lots of great ways to add your conversion goals to your blog, from banners and opt-in forms in the sidebar to specific calls to action in the footer of your posts. The reason this is so important is because more people are likely to share your blog content than your sales pages. So instead of getting social traffic direct to your landing pages, you’ll be getting traffic to your blog content. Hence your blog content needs to be as optimized as possible for conversions to get the best results.

5. Test different options to see what works best for conversions.

When it comes to testing, you should expect to do both usability testing as well as split testing to see what conversion elements work the best for your website. Something as simple as changing the wording of your mailing list opt-in page or product sales page could make a huge difference when it comes to converting your visitors into mailing list subscribers or customers.

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