When we last spoke about usability testing, we introduced the what, why and how of website quality assessment. Though many appreciate the need for usability testing, some may be skeptical about paying for tools. There are a handful of free tools available that can help users better understand how website elements can be improved and how analytic tools can improve the process.
This week we took a look at some of the free tools available and what they offer.
Why Free is Useful
Who doesn’t love free? Free tools are a great way to get your feet wet. They often provide just the basics needed to perform the task at hand. They are often user-friendly and simple to execute, making the process of testing easier for everyone involved.
Free is also a great psychological concept as well. Two years ago, Chris Anderson wrote about it in Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business and explained that:
Technology is giving companies greater flexibility in how broadly they can define their markets, allowing them more freedom to give away products or services to one set of customers while selling to another set.
For some companies offering a free version familiarizes consumers with enough of the product, so they’re hooked. For premium features, that can even further improve or streamline the process, users can upgrade at a cost.
The Limitations of Free
With free products, you get what you pay for. New users may want to gain experience using free services, but once they’ve continued along the learning curve, free may no longer be the best resource.
Online services that are free may lack the technical support, advanced workflows and in-depth analytics that advanced users may require. In addition, research shows that when you actively invest in something, like money, you tend to value it more than if you needn’t do anything at all to access it.
Three Free Tools
Currently in beta and only recently launched, UserPlus aims to share usability knowledge with web designers, web developers, usability specialists and all others interested in creating user friendly websites.
In three easy steps, users can upload a screenshot, tag design elements for which you seek advice and find out the usability score.
Not only does UserPlus provide a platform for you to test your own designs, the site is full of great tips and best practices for improving your site’s usability. From writing articles for the web to password accessibility, UserPlus not only wants users to test their site, but understand the elements than can influence it.
With UserPlus Advisor, users can also discover the most important obstacles that may be having a negative impact on your revenue stream. Users can sign up to be invited to take part.
A usability startup located in Amsterdam, Usabilla aims to provide Transparent Usability to its clients. Having partnered with usability experts, user experience designers, marketeers, web developers and graphic designers from all over the world, they seem to have developed a streamlined approach for users to follow.
Using five simple steps, users can easily set up a usability test for free. Limited to just five pages and 25 participants, Usabillla analyzes sites and pages highlighting heat maps, notes and user input.
Users select the pages they want users to evaluate, select the types of questions (from pre-generated list or they can add their own), customize the look and feel with logos, intro text and auto-responder content. Once the test is activated, they can send the active URL to anyone or share via Twitter, Facebook or website widget. Test administrators can view the analytics at any point during the testing.
The free model is available for up to 5 pages. If you want to test more, a priced-plan option can provide more. Plans vary from small, standard to large and offer up to 250 pages a year for as much as US$ 950.
Five Second Test
If you have five seconds, you have time to usability test. Five Second Test not only lets you set up your own test for your site, but it allows you to test others’ as well. They call it good karma, we call it fun!
Designed to help you measure the effectiveness of your designs, users can conduct a five second test to find out which parts of your designs are the most prominent. You can do this in two ways:
- A memory test: users have five seconds to look at your design and then are asked to remember specific elements.
- A click test: users have five seconds to locate and click on specific elements of your design.
In a click test, users are asked to click on the most exciting elements on the page. Then they are asked to define the elements on which they clicked.
When your test is activated, random users can test it. These testers are generated when someone visits the fivesecondtest home page, or completes a five second test themselves. Users can choose whether or not you want your test to be accessible to random testers, yet you may ensure that you receive unbiased access to more users.
Once results are compiled, users can see all the areas testers clicked on their site. They can all see the list of definitions provided.
For free users, you get only 5 responses, whereas with a paid option you can choose from bronze, silver or gold plans and receive up to 88 responses. The tiered options also increase the likelihood that random users will test your site. But you can’t beat the prices, the bronze option starts at just US$ 4.
Testing the Testers
We enjoyed testing these three free usability testing tools. Users will find that they can get a lot from a little bit of effort and analytics.
While free did provide the basic information, after playing around, users will find the advanced options compelling enough to ante up just to get more results and a little more flexibility. However, if you just want a glimpse into your website’s life outside your office, creating a free test every few months is a great resource and option.
Finally, we encourage you to take a test drive. Let us know what you think and if there’s a free tool that you currently use to test your site’s functionality and usability.