While usability testing focuses on users’ behaviour when interacting with an interface, content testing focuses on what users understand while using a digital product.
Usability studies do not necessarily consider the content quality and relevance within the customer journey. Content testing is a must for most sites but particularly critical if your site is providing information about a sophisticated, complex or innovative product or service.
This is because your audience might not fully comprehend the information provided, or the way you’ve organised the information or why some critical details are left till the end of the journey.
For example, when running a content study for a flower shop most participants could not find critical information about the product they would buy. They indicated that they expected to see delivery costs and how many stems are included on the product page, so they could compare different options.
Also they expected to know how long the flowers will last and if a vase is included in the order (as a vase was shown with the flowers in the product image). For them, a basic product description wasn’t enough, they needed specific details to ensure they were making the right decision.
Dendrogram showing critical and irrelevant information on a product page
There are many ways to test content but whatever you do, keep in mind that you need the right users from your current or potential audience and you need at least 50 participants per study as you will be gathering opinions and preferences.
If you already know what is not working, you could run a think-out-loud test or a moderated study with 10 participants to understand why your audience needs to know specific information and uncover unstated user needs.
Before we get to the major ways you can UX test digital content by research objective, we’d just like to share the following resource that could help UX test your content during the coronavirus pandemic…
Here are six other remote ways to UX test your online content…
To answer this question, you could create a closed card sort task asking participants to group all your cards into three different groups, based on their relevancy on a specific page.
Use images to show your content to allow participants to prioritise them under three categories: Critical, Nice to Have, and Irrelevant.
Create a study with navigation tasks for 100 participants and ask them to review specific pages on a site, and then present a set of questions regarding the content provided.
You could replicate Google’s Panda questionnaire or use your own set of 10 questions.
If you’re using Google’s Panda, questionnaire respondents should answer ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’ to the following questions:
This set of question, or your own custom questions, should be used to re-test content periodically in order to identify if the content quality and relevancy has improved or to compare your content to your competitors.
When customers are looking for a specific product or service, they already have certain needs in mind. Ask them what information they expect to see on a specific page without showing the page just yet. Then show them the page and ask them if there is something missing or confusing.
Create a navigation task that allows users to go through your site and then ask them to describe your content using a set list of adjectives.
Check if those adjectives match with your ‘brand personality’ adjectives.
Here is a handy list of 118 adjectives provided by the Microsoft Desirability Toolkit, which you can adapt and shorten to be more relevant to your needs.
We recommend only using words that describe content (like ‘confusing’, ‘engaging’ or ‘too technical’), rather than ones describing functionality or the interface (like ‘hard to use’ or ‘slow’).
Before running a card sort, show participants the main navigation of a site and ask them to explain what each category means in their own words.
This task works particularly well when testing unconventional navigation categories that could be found in government websites, innovative or complex services, or sites using a lot of marketing or company jargon.
For example, “What would you expect to find under Nature-based solutions?”
Create a timeout task to show a specific piece of content to participants for a few seconds, and then ask what are the key messages delivered or critical calls to action on that page.
Content testing is critical in product engagement and stickiness, and there are many different study and question types to test content in different ways. Get creative and remember that you shouldn’t test every word on your site. Define your goals and test early and often.