Common UX issues discovered while user testing

by Georgios Maninis on 23 August 2013

Within the last few months at Webcredible I have conducted usability testing sessions for varying types of organisations, including charities, educational institutions, e-commerce stores and service providers. I am always fascinated by usability testing because even though as a UX professional you can, to an extent,  foresee what works and what doesn't, letting customers interact with a product or service always reveals detail that couldn't have been discovered otherwise. Interestingly, I found that there were some common behavioural patterns and attitudes towards certain common website features which have relevance across these sectors. I will try to outline some recommendations on these aspects as derived from customer feedback in usability testing sessions:

1. Response time

If your customers can get in touch with your organisation via an online 'contact us' form, make sure it's easy to use and you provide detail on how long it will take you to respond. Highlighting the fact the message was successfully sent and clearly stating the time it will take to respond makes your form look more trustworthy. However, make sure you keep your promise, if customers send you an online enquiry and you don’t respond within the proposed time they will likely contact your call centre in a bad mood.

Bonus: In a few cases users told me that they didn't expect a solution to their problem within the stated response time, but rather a non-automated reassurance that someone was dealing with their enquiry.

2. Live chat

Offer live chat as a means to reduce phone calls and deal with customer enquiries. Chat as a means of customer service is still not widely used, but it’s certainly a growing trend and a preferred means of contact for some customers. But beware, make sure that you manage user expectations - customers might expect a solution to their problem solely through a chat, but that’s not always possible.

3. Donations

Be transparent about donations. Try and explicitly highlight how a donors contribution will aid in a particular project or organisational goal. There are many organisations out there that accept donations, not necessarily charities, and users overwhelmed by choice carefully consider where to make their donation based on the apparent value of their contribution. Being transparent and creative illustrating where a donors money will go and how it will help is a competitive addition to your donation page. One example of a good donations page is WaterAid's.



4. Customer reviews

Customer reviews and domain expert testimonials have become extremely popular among a breadth of industries. It is no secret that users have come to rely on reviews in making a decision on a brand or product. However, in my experience  despite their popularity testing participants  have been aware that reviews can easily be falsified. Perhaps this is why academic research has shown that people tend to search for negative reviews first. A solution? Try to present real and not exclusively positive reviews and testimonials. What is more, don't ignore the negative reviews; where you can make sure you  publicly respond and resolve any issues. Showcase an exemplary customer service. Bonus: If you display testimonials from experts, ensure that they are recognisable as such, otherwise their words will go unnoticed.

5. Free trials

Offer a free trial of your service without asking for card details upfront. Asking for card details while potential users are subscribing for a free trial make people more likely to drop off. What is more various testing participants expressed annoyance at 'dark patterns'. For example: “your subscription will be renewed automatically” in small type and selected by default, and more annoyingly, services which make it easy to sign up but inconceivably hard to cancel. These situations lead to a poor user experience. This chart lists some offenders and the issues a journalist had in cancelling their services after the free trial ended.

6. PayPal

Consider PayPal as an alternative payment option. Many people see PayPal as a more secure way to pay online and they might be disappointed or sceptical when they don’t see it as an alternative payment option.

7. Confirmation emails

Make it clear that a confirmation email has been sent. A confirmation email is considered a convention nowadays but it’s not always clear if an email has been sent. State clearly that a confirmation has been sent to your customers’ email address and give them an option to resend the email if they haven’t received it. Don’t put your customers to the trouble of  printing or capturing their screen. They will appreciate it. The above recommendations do not have universal application but they are some interesting recurrent issues I have come across in my experience of user testing across a lot of different sectors. Have you come across any issues that you see all the time when user testing? Please share them!

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