One of the most important milestones in a website redesign project is during the 1st round Creative Comps presentation which is usually attended by various internal website stakeholders. Unfortunately, it is common for the the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person's Opinion) to have plenty of feedback on the creative comps even though the HiPPO rarely knows much about web design nor is familiar with website's analytic data (or any other strategic analysis that was done to develop the wireframes) which were then used to design the creative comps.
Instead of presenting first round creative comps to a bunch of HiPPO's why not quickly test them against the actual audience they were intended for? By using several free tools on the web you can give your websites audience a voice in the creative process!
FiveSecondTest.com is a great free tool that allows you to upload and present a design (e.g. your creative comp) to a user for 5 seconds and then asks (in words) what they remember of the website. Is it design elements, the marketing slogan, the call to action? The FiveSecondTest will help you determine how effective the new home page design is in driving traffic that support your website's key performance indicators (think goals) and the websites branding (e.g. are you a paper company and no-one mentioned the keyword "paper" in your test)?
Feng-Gui.com is a free artificial heat mapping tool. It has proven to be surprisingly accurate and it's free (compared to the real eye tracking tests which can cost tens of thousands of dollars). By combining the heat mapping data along with the FiveSecondTest you can gain a better understanding of how the websites intended audience will scan your home page and where they are most likely to click on (e.g. if your main call to action isn't even being registered on the heat map you probably have a design problem).
If you have time create the HMTL for the creative comps and use Clicktales.com to predict mouse movements and where your visitor will actually click. You can have all the links go to dead pages but it is interesting to see if a majority of the intended audience will your home page links that directly support your websites key performance indicators.
For example, when my website was launched I believed the "Learn More" button would attract the most number of clicks on my website. Neither the 5SecondTest, the AI heat Map (Feng-Gui.com) or the Click data (Clicktales.com) confirmed this assumption.
What people remembered most about the website was overwhelming the bee (over 50% of respondents listed this keyword first) which the AI heat map confirmed. In addition, the Clicktale data showed that over 50% of my visitors where clicking on the Read More link for the Blog and the Website Consulting list. See screen shots below.
If I like the idea that my website design is strongly "bee" branded (so hopefully its easier to remember) and I want most of my website visitors to click on the Consulting and Blog links then the design probably works for me! I don't want the website associated with the bee/buzz theme nor clicking on the SEM or Blog links, I should probably move onto the next creative comp and conduct the same type of tests.
Remember, although the design of a website must adhere to a companies branding guidelines the design still needs to focus on driving traffic into the areas of the website that support the websites' key performance indicators. By conducting these fast, free, simple tests prior to a creative comp review with several HiPPOs in the room you can be armed with specific data when a HiPPO makes a comment like "No one will remember we are a paper company with that design" or "No one is going to going to click on that Learn More button".
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