Website usability testing is a troubleshooting methodology that helps you discover specific ambiguities, pitfalls or issues in your website design and interface that spoil the effective use, legibility and navigation of your web pages. If you want to improve the user experience on your website, in this MasterNewMedia guide you can find all the best paid-for commercial website usability testing tools now available on the market.
Heat map of Google homepage
At a very basic level, website usability testing does not require any special equipment or software. In fact, you just need someone (a friend or even a random user) that is kind enough to spend a few minutes on your website while trying to carry out a specifically assigned task. While the selected tester navigates your website, you look at her and jot down her comments and what she likes / dislikes about your design.
Your goal is to uncover all those elements in your website layout that are ambiguous and confuse your typical reader, slow her down, or, at worst, forbid her to carry out specific critical actiona like purchasing a product, downloading a file or finding specific document.
If you are building a new website from scratch or you are thinking of redesigning your existing website layout, usability testing is a very effective way to gain useful insights into how to best organize your content layout and site navigation for your readers.
But while this approach works well if you just need minor design refinements or have little time to spend on usability testing, if you are serious about improving your website layout and create actual conversions, you definitely need a more professional and reliable usability testing solution.
Lucky for you, now there are a number of professional website usability testing tools that come in every flavor and for every pocket size.
Depending on the specific features you need and the type of tool you are looking for (software or web-based), there is a wide price range of $9/month to $1500 where you can find the ideal usability testing tool for your website.
These professional website usability testing tools work all pretty much in the same way: you just let the tool record the screen of your potential user and highlight for you all the operations that she carries out on your pages. Mouse movements, clicks, form inputs, page scrolling, the whole user experience is recorded on video so that you can watch it at your own pace and take your notes.
To help you you identify and select the most appropriate website usability testing tool for your specific needs, you will find in this guide a set of individual reviews, comparative tables and a comprehensive mindmap of all the usability testing tools available out there to immediately get you started.
Here below are the specific selection criteria that I have used to compare all the usability testing tools I have listed for you inside this guide:
However, if you don't feel like spending any money for a usability testing tool, you might want to check the MasterNewMedia guide about free website usability testing tools.
TechSmith Morae is a professional suite for Windows that you can use to conduct both remote and local usability testing sessions. Morae is made up of three separate software components that you can also purchase separately: Recorder (for audio / video capture), Observer (for remote screen-sharing) and Manager (for analytics and reports). Morae does not require any coding knowledge to get started, but the software needs to be installed to all the machines that will participate to the usability testing session. Voice and webcam recording are fully supported, but heat maps are not available. Morae is priced at $1495 and you can test the software for 30 days before purchase.
UserVue is a professional usability testing software from TechSmith that you can use to remotely monitor the behavior of your customers and improve the design of your website. The service records the screen of your potential customers and also their voice to gain insights on your website design and user experience. Currently UserVue is only available in the U.S. and Canada and only for Windows computers. No screen-sharing, webcam recording, nor heat maps are supported. Usability and analytics reporting are also not available. No coding knowledge is required to install UserVue. The service is priced at $149/month and can be tested for 14 days before purchase.
Userfly is a professional online tool to run remote usability testing sessions on your website. Userfly records the screen of your customers and tracks also their mouse movements (but not voice or their webcam) to help you discover ambiguities or interface issues in your website design. No screen-sharing, nor heat maps are supported. Usability and analytics reporting are also not available. To allow Userfly to track your website you need to paste a few lines of code to your web pages. Userfly costs $10/month and a 30-day trial period is available to let you evaluate the purchase.
UserTesting is a professional web-based tool that helps you evaluate the usability of your website. With UserTesting you can remotely record the screen and voice of your customers and also their on-screen mouse movements. At the end of each test you get a comprehensive written summary which analyzes what users liked / didn’t like and also all the issues in your design that were confusing or forced the users to leave. No screen-sharing, webcam recording, analytics reporting, nor heat maps are supported. No coding knowledge is required to run UserTesting. The service costs $39 per user tested. No free trial is available.
Silverback is a Mac-only professional website usability testing software. Silverback allows you to remotely record the screen, the voice and even the webcam of your potential users while they run through your website. By watching the recording of the usability session, you can later understand which elements in your website layout are most difficult to operate and may lead to low conversion rates. No screen-sharing, heat maps, nor usability or analytics reporting are available. To use Silverback you do not need to paste any code to your web pages. Silverback costs $49.95 and allows a 30-day free trial period.
OpenHallway is an online commercial usability testing tool that you can use to improve the design of your website. OpenHallway lets you create both remote and local testing sessions where you record the screen and voice of your customers and also their on-screen mouse movements. No heat maps, screen-sharing, nor webcam recording are supported. Also, no usability or analytics reporting are available. To record the screen of your customers you do not need any coding knowledge. OpenHallway is priced at $19/month and you can run the first usability testing session for free.
CrazyEgg is a professional website usability testing tool that allows you to visualize the behavior of your users while they navigate your web pages. Without downloading anything to your machine, and just by adding one line of code to your website, CrazyEgg tracks all mouse movements on your web pages and then highlights those areas that receive most clicks using a heat map. The service also provides you with a detailed analytics report to monitor all your website traffic data. No voice and webcam recording, screen-sharing, nor usability reporting are available. CrazyEgg costs $9/month. No free trial is available.
ClickTake is a professional online usability testing tool that you can use to monitor the behavior of your website users. Without downloading anything to your machine, and just by pasting a small portion of code to your web pages, the service tracks all mouse movements and clicks while highlighting the areas that receive most clicks. ClickTale also generates comprehensive reports that contain useful analytics and usability data for your website. No voice and webcam recording, nor screen-sharing are available. ClickTale is priced at $99/month. You can test the service on one website for free to track up to 400 recorded pageviews/month.
Clixpy is a professional remote website usability testing service. By pasting some lines of code into your web pages you can record all mouse movements, scrolling, clicks and form inputs and then replay a video that show all the actions performed by your website visitors. No heat maps, screen-sharing, nor webcam and voice recording are supported. Also, no usability or analytics reporting are available. Clixpy costs $5 per 100 recording sessions. No free trial.
Userzoom is a professional tool that helps you test the usability of your website. With Userzoom you can remotely record the screen of your customers without installing anything on your machine and with no knowledge of coding required. At the end of each usability test, Userzoom generates comprehensive usability and analytics reports that give you useful insights to evaluate the quality of your website design and interface. No screen-sharing, webcam recording, voice recording, nor heat maps are supported. For pricing details you need to contact Userzoom sales department. No free trial is available.
Daniele Bazzano -
Originally prepared by Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia, and first published on March 15th, 2010 as "Website Usability Testing: Guide To The Best Professional Usability Testing Tools And Services".