We’ve written before about how launching a website is only the beginning of the process of achieving your objectives.

No matter how much you understand your website and business, user research can provide unlikely insights and missed opportunities. This research should form the basis of your offering, it’s imperative that you understand your users and their needs.

Luckily there are a number of valuable methods that enable you to gain actionable insights.

Surveys

Surveys are an excellent way of performing research to gain insights into the thoughts and behaviours of your customers and users. You will be able to use this data to improve customer satisfaction and prioritise any future website work.

There are a number of different types of survey to consider however you should first decide whether you require qualitative or quantitative data.

Qualitative data will help you understand the underlying reasons and motivations (why, how) whereas quantitative data is the measurable properties (how many, how much).

Online web surveys

Online surveys are commonplace on a number of websites; a small prompt will try to encourage your participation. These can be either be random or targeted at specific groups of users.

Email surveys

Similar to online surveys, users will receive an email prompting their participation.

Face to face interviews

Conducting face to face interviews can often reveal telling information that isn’t possible with online or email surveys. The interviewer, generally someone who has received specific training, can ask follow-up, often improvised, questions.

As well as individual interviews there is the possibility of performing group interviews where a group of people discuss their opinions together. However group interviews are generally frowned upon as often loud and opinionated participants overwhelm the entire group leading to a reduced number of clear insights.

Telephone interviews

Sometimes it can be difficult for users to fully explain their rationale in a text box; therefore it a viable option to phone approachable customers to gain further insights.

Card Sorting

This is an extremely valuable technique for helping to design and evaluate the information architecture of a website. The participants will organise topics into categories that make the most sense to them and this allows a better understanding of their expectations when they encounter the website.

The main areas to benefit are the overall information architecture of the website, the navigation as well as deciding what to include on the homepage.

Card sorting can be conducted with both individuals or as part of a group session; it depends on your particular requirements and constraints.

Open card sort

The participants are required to group the topics into categories of their choosing and suitably name those categories to describe the contents.

Closed card sort

The participants are required to group the topics into a predefined list of categories.

User Testing

Normally performed prior to a design or redesign, user testing enables you to evaluate a website by testing it on users. You receive clear qualitative data on how real users use your website.

This important method can also be utilised after launch to improve and prioritise future work. You should continually test your interface against new behaviours and environments to ensure it is still suitable.

Direct observations

These sessions can take place in dedicated labs or in normal settings more akin to realistic locations of the participants.

Remote testing

We can also capture feedback from people all over the world using online software to record video and audio like Silverback.

Conclusion

Hopefully some of these methods will prove to be suitable for your research. Whatever method(s) you decide upon, the important thing to ensure the user is the focal point of your web presence. They are the ones to provide real insights into how you can improve your website, and consequently your revenue.

A website should never be stagnant, you should continually be experimenting shaped by user behaviour.