Six Ways to Test Your Ecommerce Site

Linc Wonham
by Linc Wonham 10 May, 2010

An objective opinion is one of the most valuable, easily obtainable yet underutilized commodities in business. It is especially important for ecommerce professionals to receive outside feedback on their websites, as they are often so close to the process that they lack the most important perspective of all - that of the consumer.


Third-party user testing is a vital resource for any ecommerce business, and it can reveal in seconds what a merchant may not be able to recognize for months or longer. Below are six excellent websites to explore if you want a fair evaluation of your own ecommerce site, and possibly pinpoint an element that has been costing you conversions.
This is a great place to get quick feedback on your site, to sample new features in real time or run A/B tests on different design considerations. You simply post a screen shot of the page you want tested, and visitors to the site voluntarily give it the "five-second test" and post their feedback. It can be a useful tool for testing calls to action or getting fast feedback on any number of things you're trying to develop. There are a limited number of free responses, so to get more feedback or to further customize your testing, a small fee (about $5 to $15) is involved. But for a free first impression of any page on your site, this is a good place to start.
This is a much more comprehensive testing service that is dedicated to targeting specific problems and improving your site's usability and profitability. You pay a fee for access to a panel of "user representatives" that are available 24/7, matched to your specified demographics and given specific things on your site to examine and review. Their feedback is returned in both video and written form, response time can be as little as one hour, and you are free to ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into an issue. Cost is $39 per review/panelist (a $29 discount for the first three used), $10 of which goes to the reviewer.
Usabilla is another good resource to test elements of your website that are in development or under consideration. The website helps you construct your own usability test with specific questions designed around the page or function on which you want to receive feedback. Then, through Usabilla, you are able to share your test page or pages - along with the custom-built questionnaire you have created - with users via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. When the results are in, offers visual feedback and analysis. You can test five pages free of charge with up to 25 respondents participating in the test, then prices go up to $49 per year for 10 pages and 250 participants, $199/year for 50 pages and 250 participants, and $950/year for 250 pages and 500 participants.
This is a clever service that allows you to see your actual users interact with your website and determine for yourself what is working and what could use improvement. By adding a line of Userfly code to your site, you are then able to record user visits and play them back to see each click of the mouse or, more importantly, each hesitation or departure from your site. You can use Userfly's free service to get 10 captures per month, or get an upgrade from 100 captures per month ($10) to 10,000 per month ($200).
This site offers exactly what it claims to: an army of random website reviewers that can be purchased for a price. You simply go to the site and plug in your own URL, write four to six questions about your site to which you would like reviewers to answer, and you get access to the reviews via links sent to your e-mail address. Prices are $15 for a set of 10 reviewers, $30 for 25, and $50 for $55.
The Silverback usability testing software comes from U.K. Web design consultancy firm Clearleft, and it operates on Mac OSX systems. The software is free for 30 days and $49.95 for use thereafter, and it enables you to video record a Clearleft representative's review of your website and export the results to Quicktime. Silverback runs on Tiger and Leopard for Macs with a built-in iSight or an alternative, and Clearleft donates 10 percent of its profits to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.