Top 10 tools for better understanding users

On the first episode of season 10 we look at the top 10 tools for better understanding users. There really is no excuse not to test!

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Paul Boag:
On the first episode of season 10, we look at the top 10 tools for enhancing your site’s usability.

  1. Verify (07:42)
  2. UserTesting.com (13:16)
  3. Optimizely (18:23)
  4. Treejack (22:42)
  5. Hemingway App (28:13)
  6. Clicktales (32:55)
  7. Qualaroo (37:24)
  8. Google Analytics (40:19)
  9. Solidify (42:43)
  10. Feng Gui (46:20)

Paul Boag:
Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, season 10 of our web design podcast that covers all kinds of web related things. Do you notice, Marcus, how I started with the normal presentation and thought I’ll get in getting trouble if I keep going? So I switched across.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, although I’d kind of forgotten what you will – what the new thing is now.

Paul Boag:
I don’t even know anymore anything about this podcast, it’s been weeks since we have done it. And in the meantime, I have circumnavigated the globe – well, I haven’t quite but I might have.

Marcus Lillington:
It seems that you have been away forever, Paul.

Paul Boag:
I have been away forever. Three whole weeks of glorious holiday.

Marcus Lillington:
Lovely.

Paul Boag:
And now, misery. And I am not obviously just talking about you, Marcus. There are other miserable things in my life other than you.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. And now, this precise second misery.

Paul Boag:
The jetlag is killing me. Three weeks of America seems to have really screwed me up quite badly.

Marcus Lillington:
But it’s always coming back that is the problem I found.

Paul Boag:
Well, I had a really interesting conversation with Sarah Parmenter about this, so I said exactly the same thing to her and she was like, really? For me, it’s always going over there. And we discovered it was because she is a morning person and I am a night time person.

Marcus Lillington:
Alright.

Paul Boag:
And I think that if you are a morning person, then going over there is much worse.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, that’s bizarre. I have become a morning person as I have got older. I think…

Paul Boag:
Yeah, that’s just weird.

Marcus Lillington:
No, I think it’s – I think actually that’s what happens.

Paul Boag:
It’s not happening to me.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And I am not that far behind you. How old are you?

Marcus Lillington:
I am 47, Paul.

Paul Boag:
I met – when I was over in States, I met up with Carl Smith who is the founder of an agency called Engine.

Marcus Lillington:
He is 47.

Paul Boag:
He is 46.

Marcus Lillington:
Alright, okay.

Paul Boag:
And he’s managed to remove himself entirely from the day-to-day work of his company.

Marcus Lillington:
I hate him.

Paul Boag:
And he is still taking a salary.

Marcus Lillington:
I hate him even more.

Paul Boag:
There you go. So what are you doing with your life, Marcus, step up man!

Marcus Lillington:
I’m busier than ever.

Paul Boag:
No, it’s insane at the moment, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, that’s the way it goes. But it’s quite earlier in the year and now it’s not, so…

Paul Boag:
Apparently, according to Chris, Marcus, Chris always manages to find the cloud that is associated with the silver lining. Apparently, we haven’t got enough design and development work.

Marcus Lillington:
At the moment, we could do with a little more, working on getting some more but yeah, we have got lots of consulting work at the moment.

Paul Boag:
See, I think that’s the future.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
I think fire all our designers and developers. I really – I mean what – what do they really add? It’s much better to talk about web design rather than actually doing anything.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, having to write long documents and stuff like that and be learned…

Paul Boag:
Yeah, that’s true. I like it when I just waltz in, say a lot of stuff and waltz out again. Can we have just lots of that?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, isn’t that what you do anyway, Paul?

Paul Boag:
Pretty much, yes, probably a fair comment. I have the best job. So how are you, Marcus? Are you happy?

Marcus Lillington:
I am alright, yeah. Happy, yes, I suppose. We…

Paul Boag:
Don’t sell it up too much, mate.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, it’s summertime which I always like, I have done… I don’t like the fact that I am stuck indoors for a lot of summertime.

Paul Boag:
Why don’t you go and work outside like I do?

Marcus Lillington:
I try and do that and it’s kind of like – inside your office, everything’s as it should be, and it’s in the right place and stuff works and your chair is comfortable and stuff like that. And if I go outside, next door will start mowing their lawn or something. And it just never feels quite right.

Paul Boag:
You’re just… that’s not good. It sounds almost OCD or asparagus or something. I like everything in its place.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes. Don’t move that whatever you do.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I don’t what it is. I think it’s – there is a lot of distraction outside that you don’t think that is there but there is. I think that’s all it is. Tucked away in here is a little quiet bubble.

Paul Boag:
No, there you go, Marcus, nice.

Marcus Lillington:
I quite like it in here really and I can get to look out at the garden which is nice.

Paul Boag:
Well, there you go, fair enough. Whatever floats your boat, Marcus…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
…but you can’t then complain about being stuck indoors when you choose to do it. Can you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. Also I don’t think that my Wi-Fi reaches out there very reliably which is a bit crap but…

Paul Boag:
That’s easily done. You just need one of these extender box things.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I guess.

Paul Boag:
And it’s not – they are not even – you are just making excuses.

Marcus Lillington:
I am looking forward to going to America next month.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I could really do with going to America again.

Marcus Lillington:
I guess you are looking forward to it less than I am.

Paul Boag:
I think I am going between now and the end of the year. I think I am going five more times.

Marcus Lillington:
There you go. Just once for me.

Paul Boag:
Well, no, because there is one. I don’t know whether it will happen. The law firm we work with, aren’t we supposed to be going out and seeing them?

Marcus Lillington:
May be. I have asked them about that and it’s sort of still not sure yet.

Paul Boag:
Okay, so that might happen.

Marcus Lillington:
It might happen and it might not.

Paul Boag:
Okay, fair enough. So, yes. I think if I go back out to America five more times, I will become so obese that I won’t be able to leave my house anymore. I am going to be one of those people.

Marcus Lillington:
There is one thing, Paul, after your three-week holiday that’s been and gone.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got a three-week holiday coming up in November.

Paul Boag:
Have you, where are you going?

Marcus Lillington:
I am going to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Paul Boag:
I knew this.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
That’s sounds very exciting.

Marcus Lillington:
I suspect the podcasters, the podcast listeners know that as well.

Paul Boag:
I bet who knows.

Marcus Lillington:
I suspect I have mentioned this in the past.

Paul Boag:
Who knows what they know? I don’t think anybody actually listens to this. I think they downloaded it but never get around to listening. That’s my new conclusion of things.

Marcus Lillington:
Some people listen to it.

Paul Boag:
Hey, shall we talk about what we’re going to do this season?

Marcus Lillington:
What it’s going to be, Paul?

Paul Boag:
It’s going to be – well, this is the 10th season.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
We thought we’d do top 10 lists.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So that’s what we’re doing this season. And this time, we’re going to do the top 10 usability tools.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So there we go, that’s what I have got planned for the show. We’re totally up for other ideas. People have already submitted a lot of ideas which is great. But keep them coming, so you can email them to me at [email protected] I’m also going to put out the occasional posts that says, hey, we want to do a top 10 list on whatever, and then get people to suggest what should be in those top 10.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So it’s going to be a good series. I am really looking forward to it. So shall we start?

Marcus Lillington:
Let’s start.

Paul Boag:
Let’s start. So here, we go. We’re going to do our top 10 usability tools and here is number one.

Verify App

Verify App

Paul Boag:
So the first one on my top 10 list of usability tools is one that you know, Marcus, all too well: Verify.

Marcus Lillington:
I have used Verify. Yes, it’s very useful and I like it.

Paul Boag:
It has the Marcus Lillington: seal of approval.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, this one is good. Move on.

Paul Boag:
So we’re not going to spend long on each of these, because we have got to get through 10 in a show.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s true. So I mean Verify, I imagine there are other things that do what Verify does. I suspect we’re going to talk about some of them but this one, I have used a lot. I like the fact that it kind of forces you into making things simple. I mean you can try to kind of ask complicated testing type questions. Maybe we should explain what it is.

Paul Boag:
Well, I was waiting for you to reach that point of actually explaining. Verifyapp.com is a ZURB app product. They produce a number of excellent products. This is the main one that we use however, and it is basically for getting feedback on designs, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So you can – there are variety of different tests that they offer for getting feedback on design from kind of simple ‘which design do you prefer’ type tests to ‘where would you click on this’. Yes, no, type tests, multi-click, you can even put multiple design pages together, a memory test which is a really useful one. You’ve got five and half seconds to look at the design, then you have to see what you can remember from it. There is one where you can annotate, people that you’re testing can put annotations over a design…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
…there is a mood test which, to be honest, I think, is a bit limited in my opinion and there is also a label test so they can label different elements on the screen and stuff like that. So there is a whole kind of variety. The ones that I use the most are the click tests, the preference tests – in other words which of these two options do you prefer and then the memory test. I am a great fan of the memory test because it – showing somebody a design for five and half seconds then taking it away is a great way of finding whether your visual hierarchy is right, whether they spot the right things on the design.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. I use the click test but I kind of use it more – I use it ways that I don’t think they think you’re going to use it, or the way it was designed for.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
I will create a screenshot and I will add a question to it with multi-choice answers, and then you click on which one of the answers and then you get a number of clicks on each one of the answers. And you can – so you can say, does this design represent, I don’t know, freedom, conservatism, whatever. And you can click on each one of the words and then it will give you kind of which word people are doing the test think the design represents, so that’s kind of a good way of using it.

Paul Boag:
You know I never knew you did that. That’s very cool.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, more than just a pretty face, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, you are. Not a lot but it’s whether you’re a pretty face or not. I supposed you were because you were a pop star, so you must be pretty face boy, twinkly eyes according to Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Marcus Lillington:
Twinkly eyes, yes, definitely.

Paul Boag:
Yes – no, I like the idea because one of the tests that we do a lot is to see whether we have got the emotional – the right emotional feel for a design. So when you go into a client, you get the client to kind of describe the emotional characteristics of the brand, is it conservative or liberal, is it fun or serious, et cetera…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
…and then, yeah, essentially, you’re testing that with the design. You give those different words and people click on which – I like it. Very nice.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, it can – it’s just ensuring that what you think you – often it’s a case of verifying what you as a designer thinks is the right way to be going. It really helps if you can kind of put words, so words you’ve agreed are part of maybe a brand because often branding guidelines include a bunch of words and you can basically test against those and their opposites.

Paul Boag:
Cool.

Marcus Lillington:
And if people are clicking on the opposites, then you know you haven’t got it right. But usually, you’re just verifying that you have made the right decisions in the design. It has worked really well in the past. And obviously, the great thing about online testing like this is you can get to hundreds of people very quickly.

Paul Boag:
So that is Verify app. The pricing ranges from $19 up to $99 per month depending on what package you’ve got. I think we just have the basic one, don’t we? Remember?

Marcus Lillington:
I think so. Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
I honestly don’t know.

Paul Boag:
And there’s a 30-day free trial. So check that out. By the way, I am very conscious this is going to sound like a bloody big advert the whole way through, isn’t it? But nobody is paying us for any of this, alright? I wish they were. In fact, we are paying them mainly which is a bit crap.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So…

Marcus Lillington:
Well, no, we are making – well, I guess, we are making recommendations, some things we might not rate, who knows?

Paul Boag:
Yes. And some on these lists I haven’t personally used but other people have recommended them. So they are not just my selection. Alright, so that’s Verify. Let’s move on to our number two.

I just said number two.

Marcus Lillington:
You did.

Paul Boag:
That amused me. I love the fact that you noticed it as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Obviously, that’s just made me realize that I need a joke.

Paul Boag:
You need a joke. You do.

Marcus Lillington:
I do.

UserTesting.com

Usertesting.com

Paul Boag:
Right. So number two is UserTesting.com, which is one of my favourite usability tools. There are lots of these services out there. They range in quality. This is the one I like the most. There is a couple of reasons why I like it, which I’ll tell you in a moment. But first of all, let me explain what it is. It is basically a tool that allows you to create user testing that you want to do, or usability testing that you want to do. You upload your questions and then essentially someone… tasks, isn’t it, the usability testing. Go make a purchase or whatever you want people to do. Then, people can online go and do that test and they record a video while they are doing it, where they are speaking and explaining what they are doing as they are doing it and then you can review those user tests, usability test sessions afterwards. So it’s a really great tool. And I highly recommend that you check it out.

So the way that it kind of operates is either you can push people towards it yourself and say, hey, take this test. Or alternatively and this is where I think it gets really useful as a tool and why it stands out from its competitors, is it has a huge audience of people that will test stuff. So they will find people for you to test. And you can even target the type of users that you want. For example, I want someone who is female between 18 and 35 who lives in the United States, has a yearly household income between $40,000 and $100,000 that is an advanced web user and any other additional bits and bobs that you happen to want to put in as well.

So they can go and find those people for you and you get the results back very quickly. You could also then, in addition to that, you can annotate and make notes in the video so that if you want to kind of show a client a particular clip and a particular video, you can jump to the appropriate section because you have annotated them. You can edit video clips and even ask follow-up questions. So it’s a really powerful system and what’s most amazing about it is each test, so each user that you test, it costs only $49. And I have to say in the majority of cases, they come back to you with results within about an hour which I just find phenomenal. And that means that you can really – there is no excuse for not testing as you go along with this tool because the big barrier to test – usability testing is always it’s very expensive to organize. Well $49 per user is not expensive.

And the other one is, well, we have to wait around to get the results back. But if you can get results back in an hour that is quite incredible. They reckon they get – 79% of customers get feedback in less than an hour which I think is quite incredible. And that’s certainly been my experience as well. That’s not just their kind of marketing bullshit for lack of a better word.

You don’t just have to test websites, you can test Facebook games, or prototypes or even test a competitor’s website, which I think is a great idea, to learn what works and what doesn’t from your competitors. So I cannot really praise this one enough. Have you used this one, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
I haven’t. I know we have used it. I haven’t personally used it. I guess my only concern with it is that because you’re kind of pulling from a group of testers who are – who made themselves available to this, then you are running the risk of potentially testing with experts…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…that do it all the time.

Paul Boag:
But that’s one of the options they have, is you can select expertise with the web, so you can say how advanced your web users are.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So they have accommodated that. Yeah, I am sure there’s a danger of that but don’t forget you can supplement with your own people, you don’t have to use their people.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So I just find it a really useful tool that’s definitely worth checking out. They have got all kinds of add-ons and clever stuff that they can do and ways that you can – they have got different options. So if you are an agency or if you are an enterprise and all of that kind of stuff, but it’s a really good tool, really recommend checking out, one of my favorites on this list.

Okay. So next up, this is a problem, Marcus, because I just said that UserTesting.com is one of my favorites on the lists.

Marcus Lillington:
Is the next one one of your favorites?

Paul Boag:
This is also one of my favorites. I guess I cover myself by saying one of rather than my favorite.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s my favorite, it’s my favorite.

Paul Boag:
They are all my favorites. I get overexcited and enthusiastic about anything new and shiny.

Marcus Lillington:
Like an excited puppy.

Optimizely

Optimizely

Paul Boag:
I am indeed. So the next one is Optimizely.com. Obviously, all of these are going to be linked in the show notes, so don’t worry too much about them. And it’s basically an AB tester.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
And you can test multiple versions of any particular page to your heart’s content. Now there are other similar services that are free, for example Google Website Optimizer, I think it’s now called content experiment, isn’t it? And it’s built into Google Analytics. So that’s a free version. This isn’t a free version. It starts from $12 a month right way up to like – well, its gold version is $243 per month but it’s also got a platinum version which they don’t give you the price of. So it’s not cheap, not cheap this one. By the way, that wasn’t $12, it was £12. I apologize.

So it’s not the cheapest of tools in the world. But it is so, so easy to use compared to a lot of these AB testing type tools. It is really easy to set up. You can either track entirely different pages, so two different versions of the page. Or it’s even got an interface where you can just basically go in and edit the HTML of any particular page and even the CSS of a particular page. So you don’t – you almost don’t need to create two versions of the page which is great.

The other thing is you don’t really need to be a coder to use this one. It’s a kind of point and click editor which makes life really easy. Have you used this one, Marcus? I can’t remember.

Marcus Lillington:
I haven’t used Optimizely but I have used Visual Website Optimizer.

Paul Boag:
I think that is pretty much the same. In fact, I think one has been bought out by the other.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I am trying to find it and failing miserably. So I assume it doesn’t exist anymore.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, I think Optimizely has replaced Visual Website Optimizer. I am sure somebody can correct me in the comments if I am wrong… or what’s that visual…?

Marcus Lillington:
VWO.com.

Paul Boag:
VWO, yes. So it’s two different things. I could have put either on the list, to be honest. They are both brilliant tools.

Marcus Lillington:
But yes, I have set up AB testing using this. You need someone who knows what they are doing to plug in the code into whatever sites it is that you’re doing the AB testing on. But that’s it really. After that, it’s standard WYSIWYG-type editing.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And lots of reporting as well. It’s a – yeah, very good. Both are very good.

Paul Boag:
And I think it really – for me, this one is great because I just think split testing is great, do you know what I mean?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
It’s such a useful thing to be able to split test multiple designs. Especially when it comes to design because it takes the arguments out of it. You know when a client goes “I want it to be pink”, and you know damn well it’d be better off blue. Well, you can test it, you can get results and you can win the argument or lose the argument. Sometimes that happens. I am sorry to say.

You can either do a B testing which is where you have just two variants of it or you can do multi-variant testing where you have multiple versions of any particular page. So there’s lots of different kind of ways of doing it. And, oh, I have just noticed that Visual Website Optimizer now allows you to test iOS apps as well, that’s very cool.

Treejack

Treejack

Paul Boag:
So really good stuff. Check out both of those. And yeah, they do very similar things, slightly different pricing model. But, yeah, no excuse not to start doing multi-variant testing.

Alright. So the next one – now, Marcus, you’re going to be opinionated on this one. Have you come across this product? It’s called Treejack.

Marcus Lillington:
I have heard of it. That’s all I know.

Paul Boag:
Because it’s essentially – it’s a tool to help take the guess work out of information architecture. Can you tell I just read that off the website?

Marcus Lillington:
The usability testing tool you can use to test your IA without visual distraction.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, there you go. So it’s basically a card sorting tool, amongst other things.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, I am sure we didn’t use it. But I am sure when we worked with EDF, they used it.

Paul Boag:
No, you are not a great fan of card sorting, are you?

Marcus Lillington:
I have… no. The reason why, is I don’t think when we used to do it, I don’t think we did it as well as you can – as well as it can be. I think we used to do, is it open and closed card sorting? I can’t remember what the terminology is, there is two different types. We used to basically go here’s a deck of 100 cards, off you go kind of thing.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
And basically ask people to put them into groups and then name those groups, so the groups would be the different sections of the site and then you’d ask them to give names to these different sections. So therefore they are naming the sections of the site. Basically, you got rubbish results because everyone did it differently and… people will, when they are doing this kind of thing, will get fixated on things or they will make loads of early decisions that aren’t right. And then – but can’t – they won’t change their mind because there is too much to deal with.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
So I think that’s open?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Closed, where you basically say here is a bunch of cards. Here are the six groups that you need to put them into, I think, is a much better form of card sorting. But I haven’t actually done that.

Paul Boag:
But in your head you think it is.

Marcus Lillington:
I think that would bring – that would give more useful results but then you think yourself, well, if you’re already basically stating these are the areas that we want you to put these things into, then I wonder about the value of it.

Paul Boag:
Well, I mean I think the thing is if you keep that, you talk about those top level sections as a starting point. So if somebody wants to rebel against those top level sections, then they can do.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Because I think that’s where interesting things come out of it. But you’re right. I mean there are lots of different ways of doing card sorting. I would be interested to hear what people think in the comments over that.

Now, actually, Treejack isn’t really a card sorting tool. It’s more of an information architecture tool. Treejack is produced by a company called Optimal Workshop and they have got three products. They have got Treejack, Optimalsort and Chalkmark. And Optimalsort is their card sorting tool while Treejack is more of a kind of information architecture tool. So essentially what you have is… so you create your tree, your information architecture within their system. And it’s basically just building up a site map, and then you set certain tests that you want users to do. So can you find the latest, greatest mobile phone, for example, and then they navigate through the tree to complete that task. So it’s more testing the effectiveness of an information architecture.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, you’re not sure about that?

Marcus Lillington:
I am trying to remember the last time that I put together a tree-like information architecture because I have not bothered with them for a year or two, if not longer. Because really what you need to be doing certainly from a testing point of view is to create a prototype with actual content, actual calls to action, actual structure, if you like, to a certain extent. Certainly some kind of layout. And then ask people, can you find the – this particular area of the site by going through a navigation rather than just looking at a tree.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. I actually think I agree with you.

Marcus Lillington:
So I think there is a point when you get to – say if the site you’re looking at is massively complicated, and it’s got lots and lots of levels, then you’re not going to prototype all of it.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
You can’t do that. So then just having a tree structure is useful. But for your average kind of couple of hundred page type site, I am not sure about their value anymore.

Paul Boag:
No, I see what you mean. I mean it’s interesting, isn’t it? I could imagine this being of use to some of our university clients, or the European Commission, or those kinds of organizations. But yeah, I do see where you’re coming from. Interesting one that one. But it’s definitely worth checking out Treejack and Optimalsort. I don’t know anything about Chalkmark which is their third product which is essentially pretty much click-through design and screenshot. So it’s very similar to Verify app in that regards.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
But I think I would tend towards Verify app simply because I know Verify app. So there you go. So that’s Treejack. Next one is an interesting one.

Hemingwayapp

HemingwayApp

Paul Boag:
Yeah, because the next one isn’t actually a usability tool. So you think why is it in the list? So this tool is called Hemingwayapp, right? And it’s actually a writing tool, okay? And it helps you improve the writing that you produce generally. And you can put any writing, it doesn’t need to be website writing. So for example, anything I write goes through Hemmingway app and it helps me to tighten up and improve it. Have you seen this app, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
This is great. No, I have never seen it before.

Paul Boag:
It’s bloody wonderful.

Marcus Lillington:
How excellent is that?

Paul Boag:
It is just so good. So what you do is you copy and paste your text in, then it highlights sentences that are hard to read or very hard to read. It has like a yellow or red version depending on how difficult it is. It highlights all your adverbs, which sometimes we have a habit of putting in too many of those. It highlights words that could be phrased simpler, or made easier to read and also passive voices, voice which is never great. Now, none of that really – well, some things like passive voice, adverbs, they are not really a usability thing. But once you get into the other stuff, then it becomes a usability issue. If you are using – if you could use a simpler phrase, that makes your website easier to process, easier to understand, easier to take in. If you can make your sentences shorter, more concise and less difficult to read, again you’re helping people that don’t speak English as the first language or people that have got cognitive disability or just helping normal people to process the information you’re presenting in a quicker way.

The other thing that Hemingway app does is it’s got readability scale. So it tells you the readability level of your content and what grade you need to be in order to read it and take it in. Now, this is really interesting. I was recently doing a workshop – content strategy workshop with a university and I made them as an exercise, take a page from their own website and take it into Hemingway app and then get the reading grade down to level 8. Now, level 8 is a kind of acceptable level, 8 to 10 is probably just about okay. When they originally copied and pasted the content in it was level 14, and they could only just about get it down to level 12. And so it really highlighted how our content and the way we write our content affects the usability of our site and affects how well people can process it. So even though it’s not officially a usability tool, I kind of quite like it in that capacity.

Marcus Lillington:
I think it’s fantastic. So I am putting some of our stuff in. And oh, we got grade 10 on a paragraph from our site.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
But no reds or yellows or purples coming out which is good…

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
…on a particular paragraph.

Paul Boag:
So it’s a great tool, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
That is fantastic. You have taught me something new today.

Paul Boag:
Hurrah! They have got a little icon on the side of it, right, which says desktop version and I was like, yes, they have got a desktop version. I clicked on it and it says, they are testing demand for a desktop version, would you pay $5 for a desktop version of this app? Hell, yes. And actually I am really worried. I have become so reliant on this app, I am worried that they are going to take it down at some point or it’s going to disappear, so I desperately want them to create a desktop version of it, so I know I have got it forever.

So it’s really, really good. Definitely check that one out. I am glad you’re as enthusiastic about it as I was, Marcus. That’s cool.

Marcus Lillington:
I am still playing with it.

Paul Boag:
We’re going to move on to the next thing. So you have to stop playing now.

Marcus Lillington:
No, that’s a really – no, a bad sentence.

Paul Boag:
I know, you become obsessed with it. It’s really funny, becomes like this game of can you improve your copy. It was – I spent a whole day doing this workshop session with these people. And all these profound things I taught them, all this great advice, they didn’t care about any of it, all they cared about is Hemingway app, that’s cool. So probably I suspect most of the people listening to this will be going away, going, ooh Hemingway app. What else did he talk about, no idea. That’s all that mattered. Anyway, let’s move on to the next one. Shall we?

Clicktales

Clicktales

Paul Boag:
So this next one, I think you know quite well, don’t you, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
No?

Marcus Lillington:
I know of it.

Paul Boag:
Alright. Clicktale. I really thought – I thought this was one that you’ve used quite a lot.

Marcus Lillington:
No, it’s one that you used to go on about a lot. And I went “yes, Paul, that sounds great.”

Paul Boag:
It’s really good. So Clicktale basically allows – you see, really, I should be doing the show with Chris because Chris is our analytics guy, isn’t he? He cares about these things.

Marcus Lillington:
Is it a bit like Crazy Egg?

Paul Boag:
It’s Crazy Egg but on steroids.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Right. So we need to give you a bit of an idea of what it is. So Clicktale basically, there are kind of couple of elements to it. First, it does Crazy Egg heat maps, right? So if you have come across Crazy Egg, you will know that it will show you where people are clicking and what they are viewing on a page. So it does all of that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
It also allows you to create conversion funnels, which allows you to identify how people are moving through the site and those that are converting to complete your call to action, what route they took down through your site, so that’s really cool, though Google Analytics does that. It’s got formal analytics which I really quite like, which is about improving the online form completion rate on your site. And it’s got a lot of other tools as well.

But the real winner from this point of view is the fact that it records, and this is a bit creepy, alright, but just go with me. It records sessions, user sessions, so if you went along to a site which had Clicktale installed, it may well record a video of you moving around that site, okay?

Now, obviously, it doesn’t know who you are, that is completely anonymous, but it will actually record your session. And you can play back that session and see how somebody has moved around so you can see their mouse hovering and clicking and scrolling and all of that kind of stuff. So it gives you a real kind of sense of how someone is interacting with the website.

Now, it’s not as good as a user test session because you don’t know what’s going on in their heads. But on the other hand, one of the problems I have found with usability testing in the past is the very fact that you are running the session changes user behavior.

Marcus Lillington:
Of course it does.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Because it’s not the same as just hanging out at home surfing the web. So what this does is it kind of gives you a sense of how people are really interacting with your website. And you lose the kind of feedback mechanisms you get from user testing in terms of being able to hear what people are thinking. But you do get a real sense of people moving around the site which I think is absolutely awesome. So I love it.

Marcus Lillington:
Good.

Paul Boag:
So how much do these guys cost? Where is the….

Marcus Lillington:
A million pounds.

Paul Boag:
A million pounds, I don’t think they are, now that’s the free trial, request a demo… where – well, I hate it when people hide their prices. Oh I am annoyed at them now. No, can’t find them. That is appalling… FAQs… doesn’t tell you. I can request a demo. I think they have gone a bit more upmarket than last time I looked at them. [Tuts]

Marcus Lillington:
Request a demo.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
That sounds a bit…

Paul Boag:
Yeah, it’s all a bit shit this. So I did look at the site before I included them. But I didn’t look at prices. Well, check it out anyway. Because it is an interesting product and I have used it in the past when it obviously… the pricing model was different or something like that. And it works very well and it’s definitely one worth trying out. Okay, let’s move on from Clicktale because I am now disappointed in them.

Qualaroo

Qualaroo

Paul Boag:
So I don’t have a huge amount to say on this next one because it’s such a simple product, it’s called Qualaroo.com.

Marcus Lillington:
I have heard of it. I have recommended it.

Paul Boag:
You recommended it?

Marcus Lillington:
In proposals but no one has ever taken us up on it.

Paul Boag:
Sad. So what…

Marcus Lillington:
So I can’t tell whether it’s any good or not.

Paul Boag:
Well, it’s a really simple – basically it’s a survey.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
You could pretend that it’s something cleverer than that but it’s really not. So essentially the way that it works is that you add a bit of code to your website and you can then trigger at certain points a little popup at the bottom of the screen. A kind of overlay popup thing that asks very, very simple questions. So it’s not a long survey, it’s not really built for that kind of thing, although you can do that kind of thing if you really want to. But what it does instead is it just pops up a very basic question. For example, what are you looking for today? What is it that you are after? Or what do you think of this page? Or whatever else. Then you can have the questions popped up on certain pages, if you want to and you can target based on the time of day if you want to or the number of visits that the page has already had that day, or their referring search term, or any data that you want can trigger the question. And then basically people can just go click one radial button checked, hit send, job done kind of thing. Very, very basic. It integrates with lots of other great systems, right, it will integrate with Mailchimp or KISSmetrics or Google Analytics, et cetera.

You can have the survey triggered as an exit survey as well. So it allows you to ask a question when somebody is about to leave your site, if they have abandoned a shopping basket or left a download page or any other page on your website that they are leaving, and you can do all kinds of intelligent questioning as well, like branching, for example, that depending on what they answer you might ask them a follow-up question, et cetera.

So it’s a really nice little tool that, I think, is a great way of gathering information from potential customers that are using your site. It’s not the cheapest of tools, it’s $63 per month for the basic version, there is a professional version for $199 per month which has got a lot of the other features to it. But if you are a reasonable sized organization, this is definitely worth making use of. So check it out: Qualaroo.com, quite hard to say.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

So I felt obliged to put Google Analytics in this list, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. Well, everyone knows what that is. Can we move on?

Paul Boag:
Well, the thing that I wanted to say about itis I don’t think a lot of people necessarily think of it as a usability tool. Do you know what I mean? They think of it as an analytics tool. But it’s got some really nice features that support more usability type thing. For example, it’s got the Google content experimenting thing that I talked about earlier which is allows AB testing. Obviously, analytics themselves can provide a huge amount of information on how users interact with your website. It also tells you what – it can tell you what people search on, on your website which I always think is a really useful thing as well for finding out what is not obvious in the navigation. So…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not the best feature though in Google Analytics, the search terms thing, basically it will give you about 5% of the search terms.

Paul Boag:
Oh!

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah. If you want all 100%, then you have to pay them lots of money.

Paul Boag:
That was interesting. I didn’t know that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, well, it’s obviously probably the most useful thing that they can provide you, one of the most useful anyway. But, yeah, so if you want all of your search terms, you have to have the enterprise version, it costs lots of money.

Paul Boag:
I disapprove of that. Google have got lots of money. Why do they need my money for? Yes. So Google Analytics is a usability tool. There is lots of stuff you can do about it. To be honest, you can do a whole show just on Google Analytics. So I am not going to say anything more about it now except that when it comes to usability testing, don’t forget to look at Google Analytics and consider the kind of things that you can get out of that tool so incredibly easily. But with that, we will move on.

Marcus Lillington:
I just wanted to add that you – we have done a show, I don’t think I was on it, where you interviewed Matt Curry about using Google Analytics. So you may want a reference back to that show.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, we will definitely put a link to that in the show notes, that’s a really good idea. Now, I have to go and find that, Marcus. Thank you for giving me work to do.

Marcus Lillington:
Anytime of the amount of work you’re giving me on these editing wise.

Paul Boag:
No. I feel so sorry for you, we’ve got a whole season of this!

Marcus Lillington:
I know.

Solidify

Solidify

Paul Boag:
Alright, let’s move on to our ninth segment.

So our penultimate tool is Solidifyapp.com. Now, this is another tool from ZURB app which is the same people that do Verify. And I don’t know why we’ve never used this tool, Marcus, because it strikes me as a really useful tool. So it’s designed for prototyping. So it allows you to create and assemble clickable prototypes for user testing. So you can test your interface at any phase of the development cycle really. So it can – you could even put in kind of hand-drawn sketches, you can validate wire-frames or bring entire mockups to life. And you can do tests across any kind of device. And then there are different ways you can do that testing. So you can use Solidify to test people in person, where you sit down and test with them. There, you could do remote testing or you could just allow people to kind of navigate around it in their own time.

And then basically, you can get the different kinds of feedback depending on how you want to set it up. So did the user succeed in completing a particular task, if they failed, why did they fail? So there is lots of different ways that you can use this tool. But it strikes me as a really nice way of testing prototypes.

I am just trying to figure out what we mainly use these days. We just kind of do it face-to-face, don’t we?

Marcus Lillington:
Usability testing or with the UsabilityTesting.com.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I guess that’s the kind of way that we tend to go. So we build our own prototypes and wire-frames…

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
… well, it helps you do it a little bit – it takes a little bit further and helps you through the process of creating them. There’s a couple of different accounts as with Verify app that’s got a 30-day free trial, and the pricing is pretty much the same as well either $19 per month for the basic version or $49 per month for the plus version. So compared to some of those open tools that’s really quite reasonable and it’s definitely worth checking. It’s worth saying that ZURB do some other really interesting tools that you might want to check out as well. For example, they have got something called Notable which is a kind of feedback tool that you might want to look at, which basically is for getting feedback on the design and the design look and feel.

Then there’s also – they have got a design presentation tool as well for presenting your designs to people.

I want to look at it a little bit further. I don’t know huge amount about it because it doesn’t look like it’s still being developed from the looks of it. But one of the things that we have always made a big fuss about at Headscape is something that’s part of our process, is that we create videos to talk through our design so that we can get a… make sure that whoever sees the design is actually getting all the information they need to go alongside it.

Now, with their Influence tool, they are doing a very similar thing. In fact, it’s very similar to get sign off that we created days ago.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So I’d be quite interested to try that but it’s not yet available, perhaps I’m going to sign up now. So hopefully, I will get to try out that tool because it looks very good. No, I don’t want you to email me about news and features. Checkboxes, it annoys me.

Alright, so that is Solidify and related tools. Now, we come on to our very last in the list.

Feng Gui

Feng Gui

Paul Boag:
Okay, so our last app is Feng-GUI now.

Marcus Lillington:
Surely that’s Feng-GWE.

Paul Boag:
No, it’s Feng-GUI, because it’s a GUI. Feng-GUI.com. It’s a play on words, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
I know.

Paul Boag:
Now, you’ve heard of this one, aren’t you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
So this is a very interesting one.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s eye-tracking, but it’s not.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. I don’t actually know. I have got to kind of make sure… I almost didn’t include it in my usability tool list because I am not convinced it’s a usability tool more than a sales tool. But then I’ve decided to put it in.

Let me explain. Right. So what they have done is they have used thousands and thousands of hours’ worth of eye-tracking on variety of different websites to create an algorithm that supposedly gives you a good indication of where people would look when you show them a design. So it’s kind of automated eye-tracking, right? Or computer algorithm eye-tracking. So essentially what you do is you upload an image, and then it has a guess at how a user would look around, what it would look at first and what a person would look at first and second and third and so on, and then how long they dwell on each of those things.

Now, this is a kind of tool that would horrify anybody that did eye-tracking for real.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And it also is the kind of tool that you’re not going to like by default, Marcus, because you’re not a huge fan of eye-tracking, are you?

Marcus Lillington:
Again, I just were – I wonder about… The reason why… I am not saying that I am not a huge fan of it. It is more a case of people make assumptions based on it which I am not sure are correct. It’s like that. So you’re going to look at a face first, there is a picture of somebody, yes we are all programmed to look at faces first. And then you look at whatever next, then whatever next, but that will happen in such a short amount of time that actually, is it really that important that you look at that area of the page first. This is – that’s why I have a problem with eye-tracking. I guess it could be useful. But you have to make assumptions, I am not sure that are always correct.

Paul Boag:
No, no, that’s a fair comment. So I mean that raises the question of why I included it on the list. Well, the main – if I am honest, the main reason I use Feng-GUI is if I am having trouble with a client that is looking at a design and is going, oh, I don’t like it this way for whatever reason they have. Feng-GUI is a kind of an impartial thing, you can upload your image to Feng-GUI, you can show it to the client and go, look, they are looking at the things in the order we want them to. So it’s more of a kind of sales tool than it necessarily is a usability tool, but the reason I am including it in the list is because one or two times when I have gone through that exercise, yeah, right, the client is talking crap, you know, that they want something that’s silly, so I’ll run it through Feng-GUI, show them that they are wrong and then I upload it to Feng-GUI and it actually says something that I don’t want it to say.

And then I start – and then it starts me thinking, well, okay, am I actually really right? Or have I got this wrong? And so it just kind of – it makes me then go and do proper user testing.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Does that make sense?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
So it’s not that it in itself is particularly reliable but I have found on several occasions that it’s kind of made me reconsider assumptions that I have made in a design. So it has got some value in that regard, I think, which is why I decided to include on the list as well. Now, no doubt if you are listening to this you’re thinking, hang on a minute, you put something like Feng-GUI in, where you should have put X, Y and Z. Well, that’s what the comments are for. So I am hoping that we can expand our list of usability tools by looking at – or by people posting stuff in the comments. So that is what you should be doing right now because otherwise, you have to listen to Marcus’s joke.

Marcus Lillington:
This is from Dan.

Paul Boag:
Our Dan? Oh, are you sure, Marcus?

Marcus Lillington:
Oh, no, it’s perfectly clean.

Paul Boag:
I love the fact you instantly knew what I meant.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, there’s no swearing or shouting in it. Right, here we go. Recently, I was asked, what is the biggest advantage of living in Switzerland?

Paul Boag:
I think I’ve heard this, it’s really funny. Go on.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, the flag is a big plus.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that was it. I love that joke so much.

Marcus Lillington:
Ha ha.

Paul Boag:
So there we go, thank you, Dan, even though you didn’t directly give it to us the podcast, it is still much appreciated. Right, so that pretty much wraps up the first episode of season 10. What do you think of it, guys? Do you think this is a good format? Are you interested in the kind of things we’ve talked about covering? What do you think we should cover? Let us know in the comments below, they are not necessarily below, because you’re probably not reading the show notes. But let us know in the comments which are available at Boagworld.com/season/10/1001.

Marcus Lillington:
Slash slash slash.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, we really need to come up with a better name convention for our URLs. It’s really difficult, podcasts don’t support URLS, anyway, that’s it for this week. We will be back again next week where we will do this all again with a new top 10.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

  • http://www.cxfocus.com/ Tim Leighton-Boyce

    Amused to hear Paul rip into Clicktale over their opaque pricing. Perhaps take a look at http://www.sessioncam.com/plans/ next time. Tip for usability troubleshooting using the session replay features in either of them: you can use search to find sessions which include recordings of pages you’re particularly interested in. With Clicktale you can even make view a sequence of those individual snippets one after another, which can be an extremely painful way of learning what’s going wrong.

    Re Google Analytics — I think Marcus is confused about this. All the internal search term data is available. Perhaps Marcus is thinking about the loss of inbound unpaid search terms from Google Search? These days the bulk of unpaid search terms are ‘(not provided)’. But they are withheld by Google Search from all analytics tools — the keyword is no longer in the HTTP request. So this will apply to whatever analytics tool you use and paying for GA Premium will not make any difference. It’s a real usability loss, since the external and internal search words were two things which gave some indication of the visitor’s intention.

    One way of clawing some of that back is to build a custom report to show what the second page in the session was — ‘they landed on the site and then went… where.’ Carmen Mardiros has written about this technique, although she uses an API report rather than doing it in GA with a Custom Report: http://www.clearclues.com/not-provided-behavioural-analytics/

  • Vernon Fowler

    Quite pleased to hear Hemingway App mentioned in this episode. Inspectlet is a very nice addition to the analytics tools with screen captures, and heat maps for mouse hover, clicks, and page scroll. Clear pricing plans too (including a nice free limited version).

    • http://www.cxfocus.com/ Tim Leighton-Boyce

      That’s very interesting, thank you. I liked their API for sending in extra data. I can think of some good uses — for example sending in a user id and a Net Promoter Score from an embedded feedback system, so you can find and view the sessions where people are complaining about something in particular. That would be a very powerful UX facility.

  • paraschopra

    Thanks for mentioning Visual Website Optimizer. You’re right – we have rebranded and now we are VWO.com

    With the new version, there have been several enhancements. Check it out: https://vwo.com/

  • Kevin Dyck

    I’ve used the Optimal Sort package on several projects and been happy with the results. Your review was somewhat negative on the tools, although you qualify your comments be stating you haven’t actually used any of them. Someone must have suggested it to you to include on the list, perhaps you could have used their comments? I agreed with Marcus’ opinion of card sorting in that it’s hard to do correctly, but the Optimal Sort product makes it easy. Please note that I am not in any way affiliated with Optimal, I’m just a fan of their product in the same way I’m a fan of your podcast. A tepid review from recognized experts could hurt their business, which would be a shame.

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