Whether you are starting a business that needs a website to represent it or already have a website that needs a makeover, you should consider testing different design alternatives before launching into development. Don’t assume you know your audience if you have never tested how it would interact with your website. Testing website designs doesn’t have to be complicated or very expensive.
In the concept stage you can do it as simply as using still pictures of different designs showing how it may look like. Do it with real content and as close as possible to a finished look. Even if the interactive piece is missing in this approach, you will learn tons about the first impression a design gives and its capacity to grab attention and invite visitors to come in and explore your website site.
By comparing website designs in a simple concept testing you will learn how different elements speak to your audience, including:
- Color scheme
- Content organization
- Navigation expectations
- Potential sources of abandonment
- Brand image elicited by the design
- User identification as a member of your target audience (Is this website for me?)
- User concerns and anxieties about using your website
- User reaction to different calls to actions and labels
Testing these elements with your target audience (there is no such thing as ‘my product/service is for everybody’) early in the design phase will save you time and money in the long run as you will be able to launch a website that will work for your business from the get go. Of course, testing shouldn’t stop there as website interaction is a big factor in the user experience, and for that you may need qualitative and qualitative usability testing. However, if your budget is tight, the more reason to start with a simple design concept test. It would be better than just relying on personal taste or misleading assumptions about your target market.