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I was recently invited to run a sample usability test with UserTesting.com. They claim to offer “The fastest, cheapest way to get user feedback on your website”. Yeah well, I’ve heard similar boasts before. How good could it really be?

As stated on their FAQ page, “UserTesting.com uses the Web 2.0 crowdsourcing model to dramatically drop the price of usability testing. It lets website owners easily get pre-screened users to rapidly do usability testing of their websites.”

Today I set up a test and got the results. And I’ve got to say, I’m blown away. Here are my impressions:

  • Great deliverables: Flash videos of users speaking their thoughts as they browse your website, plus written summaries where users tell you their impressions.
  • It’s a bargain: $29 per user. (Even less if you buy pre-paid credits.) No additional setup costs, no minimum charge, no recurring fees.
  • It’s easy: Registering and setting up a test is a breeze. You can have a test up and running in minutes.
  • It’s fast: I had my results — both the video and the written response — in 45 minutes! (Naturally, it will take longer if you have very specific demographics or a complex test scenario, for example if users must download an application.)

From just one 15-minute video, we got pile of great insights that we were able to pass on to our client. Some were head-smackingly obvious in hindsight (like the link that was so poorly worded, it was interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what we intended.) Some were things we’d never have imagined. (“Oh crap, you mean people will actually read this fine print??”)

This service beautifully complements traditional, moderated user testing; it doesn’t make moderated testing obsolete. Reasons include:

  • Tests must be kept short, about 15 minutes. So there’s only time for a very few tasks.
  • As there’s no moderator, you can’t ask follow-up questions or put subjects back on track if they stray.

Also, the test subjects may not always perfectly represent your actual customers. (They may be rather more web savvy.) But so what? Great insights are great insights.

Overall, it’s an incredibly impressive service. It’s so easy, so fast and so inexpensive, there’s simply no reason not to use it. If you only get one valuable insight, your test will have been worthwhile. And you’re likely to get much more than that.

Highly recommended, to say the least. If you want to give it a try, follow this link and get your first test for just $19. (Offer limited to the first 20 respondents.)

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