While the world hit the milestone of one billion websites a couple of years ago, the majority go sight unseen: according to a 2013 Nielsen report, the average internet user visits only 96 separate domains per month. To stand out from the crowd, sites new and old must ensure they satisfy a whole host of criteria, with flawless design and user experience (UX) at the top of the list.
After all, anyone can admit to having quickly closed a webpage while online shopping, due to nothing more than an unimpressive colour or font (I’m looking at you, Comic Sans).
To help businesses to perfect their online presence to ensure visitors stick around, Melbourne startup Loop11 has developed a platform that enables users to run their own detailed usability testing.
A business is able to connect their webpages up to the Loop11 platform and set up ‘tasks’ for testing users to accomplish. The platform will then churn out a string of statistics based on the testing user’s interactions, allowing the business to understand how their site is performing and identify flaws in their UX model.
Founder Toby Biddle said the platform can help solve the “infinite” variation of problems that can be found on a website.
“[It’s] things like information architecture, the wrong placement of buttons, and things like that. That’s what usability testing is all about, it’s finding what those problems are and fixing them before the site goes live,” explained Biddle.
Biddle had identified a need for businesses to improve their online user experience over fifteen years ago, having founded a brick and mortar UX consultancy business in 2001. Here, clients would be able to complete usability testing using an old school physical observation approach.
“That meant getting clients coming into a room to observe a user operating their website in separate room. It also limited us to only be able to test with small user sample sizes,” said Biddle.
“Businesses also wanted to know statistics like what percentage passed or failed and other things, and we couldn’t really create accurate percentages without a larger sample size.”
At the time, Biddle said site testing wasn’t nearly as popularised as it is now due to prior technological limitations. Nowadays it’s a different story.
“Usability testing should be done on any type of website, whether they’re large or small. With the price of them, there’s really no excuse these days not to do usability testing,” said Biddle.
“There’s also a lot of legacy sites out there which are using outdated forms which don’t really work anymore.”
To translate the consulting service to the digital age, Loop11 was founded in 2009 to allow for larger scale tests with a bigger testing base, in order to ensure accurate testing.
The platform operates using a self serve model, where users are provided with a step by step guide on using Loop11 upon signing up.
Rather than create their own wireframe mock-up page using an inbuilt web creator tool, Loop11 users simply attach a URL to any external web page they want to test.
Users set up tasks for different things they want a testing user to accomplish, such as navigating to different pages using buttons. Biddle said there is no limit to the amount of tasks or task duration a user can allocate for their website.
To get a pool of testing users completing tasks, however, requires businesses to either source them out of their own audience or use Loop11’s recruitment service, for an additional cost.
“The most accurate way to find target participants is to recruit them through a panel. We have access to a global market research panel which has around 25 million people worldwide,” said Biddle.
After a test goes live, the platform tracks a number of different metrics, which are visualised for the user to analyse at the end of the process. Naming a few examples, Biddle said Loop11 helps track task completion rate, reports heat maps, click stream analysis, path time, time on task, and page views.
“There’s also session replays, where the business is able to watch what the testing users are actually doing on the computer, allowing them to see a user’s mouse movements and things like that,” Biddle added.
Beyond the testing platform, the startup offers additional services too, including online consultancy sessions which educate users on how to develop strong UX.
Biddle said the Loop11 also offers assistance for businesses who don’t have time to conduct their own UX testing.
“Sometimes they want us to do fortnightly or monthly benchmarking, to see if they’re retaining a high usability rate,” said Biddle.
Biddle said that pricing for the consultancy service varies based on a client’s requirements, although the “standard” price ends up at around US$2500 (AU$3260).
Pricing for the testing platform itself comes in at either US$199 ($260) monthly or US$1788 ($2340) annually.
The development of Loop11 was financially supported by Biddle’s existing consulting service, a measure which helped make kicking off a new startup easier. He is now “entertaining the idea” of raising funding.
Biddle said the startup currently has a 30,000-strong customer base, and will continue to focus on growing this number.
Image: Toby Biddle. Source: Useful Usability.