Your ecommerce site is full of content. Your home page, category pages, landing pages, and product pages have lots of content that your customers use to engage with your brand. This content should speak to your audience and support the user experience.
How do you craft the right content? With the help of content testing. In this article, we dive deep into content testing. We discuss what it is and why you need it. Then we lay out the key content testing criteria and methods. Finally, we explain how to test your own content.
What is Content Testing?
Content testing is a research method that helps you determine if your content resonates with your users and customers. You can check if your content serves their needs, addresses their paint points, helps them complete tasks, and supports the usability of your site.
Content testing typically falls under the category of usability testing, a broad discipline that seeks to learn how well users can use your site. The goal is to create a clear, effective, and cohesive user experience that doesn’t create much friction.
Why is content testing important?
Good content throughout your ecommerce site can make the user experience smooth, simple, and intuitive. It helps people move between pages and find what they need. It sets expectations so customers don’t get surprised, confused, or lost.
But bad content can totally disrupt their experience. If users have a bad experience, there’s a good chance they’ll choose to leave your site and buy somewhere else.
What content should you test?
All of it. Every word. There’s probably a lot more content on your site than you expect. We aren’t just talking about landing page copy and blog posts. Content testing can be used to improve the performance of any of your site’s content, such as:
- Product titles and descriptions
- Home page copy
- Button copy
- Error messages
- Tooltips and popups
- Filters and sorting features
- Images and icons
Take a look at a typical home page. It’s full of content that can be tested.
Naturally, some content creates higher value for the user and your business than others. Product description copy is important because it leads to conversions, but the title of your “Contact Us” probably doesn’t create much impact.
How do you decide which content is most important? Prioritize based on the importance to your users. Any content that the user must engage with to complete a task is paramount, as is any content that might disrupt their path toward completing a goal.
When should you perform content testing?
This is a tricky question. Truthfully, there’s no simple answer. On one hand, your content is a fundamental piece of the user experience and the design of your site, so it deserves thought, experimentation, and optimization. You simply don’t want your customers to have a bad experience.
On the other hand, each piece of content typically represents a tiny part of the user experience. Spending a lot of time on any one element won’t move the need much.
So what’s the solution? Like other types of usability testing, content testing should occur in iterative stages throughout the design process. It can be used during your site’s design process to determine the framework of what your shoppers need. It should also be used after launch to make sure the content is achieving its intended function.
Content Testing Criteria
When it comes to content testing, there are five main criteria that you should consider:
Your content should be easy to engage with. It should be descriptive, but concise. Unlike writing an article, you can’t explain concepts in a thousand words. You have to be economical without creating confusion. Users should be able to read a word, phrase, or sentence and instantly understand what it means for them. Most importantly, your messaging should speak to your audience’s pain points.
Your content should be usable by as many people as possible. This includes people on different devices, browsers, and apps. It also includes people with disabilities. Small changes like higher color contrast, video subtitles, or image ALT text can go a long way toward being inclusive.
Your website’s content should be readable by all of your users without having to read it a second time. In fact, the best content can be scanned quickly without much effort. Use the same vocabulary as your audience and use clear calls-to-action.
4. Tone of voice
Your content is an extension of your brand. Every word and phrase you write should consider your brand’s personality. Your language should be consistent throughout your entire brand presence. For instance, a childish and silly brand might write a form error message like this: “Uh oh! You forgot something, you silly goose!” Whereas a professional and formal brand might say: “Please input a value in the missing field.”
Your website doesn’t help anyone if they can’t find it. Your content should be optimized for search algorithms to help potential customers find you online. Use content testing to determine if your content is optimized for search and whether/where it appears in search results.
Navigability refers to the ease of moving through the content and the site. Does your content help users find what they’re looking for? Once they’ve found it, does the content help them move forward toward their goals?
Content Testing Methods
There are several methods to test content. The method you use depends on your goals and use case. Let’s go through each.
Usability testing helps you identify whether users can complete a particular task on your site. The goal is to determine if they can successfully use the content to complete the task or if the content needs to be changed or improved.
In traditional usability tests, the test participants are given a specific set of scripted instructions to complete the task. For content testing, however, it’s important to be more open-ended. Give a simple instruction, such as “Find the Little Tyke’s 3-Wheel Bike and add it to your cart.” Then let the participant engage with the site as they normally would, using your search, navigation, and written content to find their way.
Usability testing is one of the most valuable types of content testing, but also the hardest to administer. Our managed user testing service identifies technical bugs or points of friction, so every campaign you run has the best chance at success. It’s a great option for stress-testing website changes and giving your team peace of mind on launch day.
Readability formulas are computer-run tests that analyze your text to evaluate the difficulty of reading your content. This is a simple and quick content testing method because it doesn’t require any participants. That said, it’s not entirely accurate because it doesn’t study real people and it doesn’t provide any actionable feedback.
A Cloze test measures how well your readers can understand a piece of content through context and whatever prior knowledge they bring to the table. It works by removing every fifth or sixth word and asking test participants to fill in the blanks. A score of 60% or above is considered comprehensible enough to meet user needs.
(Note: This only works with text of about 125-250 words, otherwise there isn’t enough context.)
A highlight test can give you valuable qualitative data about your content. Give test participants a section of text and two highlighters. Have them use one highlighter to mark text that makes them feel confident about the product and the other color to mark text that makes them feel less confident. Simply switch out “confident” to test for any other feeling.
Once you have all of the responses, look for commonalities. Try to identify why they were positive about some parts and negative about others.
Use surveys to ask your users for the words and phrases they would use to name, describe, or explain the features, products, and services on your site. For instance, you might ask, “If you wanted to know about a gift wrapping service, what words or phrases would you look for on our site?” Sometimes the results could surprise you.
Low fidelity (low-fi) prototype
Before launching into new products or services, consider offering a beta version to select customers in order to gather some feedback. For instance, you might create a product page for a product that doesn’t exist yet. Give customers the opportunity to navigate the offering to help you identify content that confuses them or disrupts the experience.
A five-second test gives test participants five seconds to look at some content before you start asking questions. The goal is to understand their initial reactions, which are important because they tend to form the basis of our opinions. It will also tell you if the information on your page can be absorbed and understood quickly.
Ask broad questions, such as, “What do you think of the page?” or “What do you remember seeing?” Then get more specific with questions like, “Which of the items are on sale?” or “When does our event start?”
A/B testing is the process of showing different kinds of content to segments of your users in order to identify the one that performs better. For instance, you could show a product description to half of your traffic and a different description to the other half. As long as you don’t change any other variables on the page, you might decide to go with the description that convinced more people to add the item to their shopping cart.
You keep in mind, however, that while A/B testing tells you which option performed better, it doesn’t tell you why. To learn why one variation is better than another, you will need to perform multiple A/B tests or conduct other content testing methods to draw reliable conclusions.
Card sorting is a unique content testing method that asks accusers to organize topics into logical content buckets. The goal is to get your users to tell you how they expect content to be organized throughout your site. You could use this information to organize your navigation bar for redesign the screens on a shopping app.
Search term mining
Search term mining is the process of identifying the words and phrases that your customers tend to input into search engines. You’ll want to use the same words and phrases throughout your ecommerce site to increase your search engine ranking. Use Google Trends or SEO tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush to determine what people look for.
How to Test Content in 6 Steps
Now that you understand the different criteria for content testing and the different methods, let’s briefly walk through the steps to administer a content test.
1. Identify your goals
Before you start conducting tests, the first step is to clarify your objective. What are you testing? What do you hope to see? What will you do with the information you collect?
2. Choose your testing method
You’ll need to determine the most suitable method for collecting the type of content you plan to test. Do you want to know how people feel about your product copy? Use a highlight test. Want to see if users understand your checkout form? Run a usability test. Create a test that will lead you to the right information.
Step 3. Test the test
There’s nothing more frustrating than running a test only to discover some inherent flaw that makes the response data invalid. To avoid this, test the test by administering it on a colleague or someone in your organization. Use this opportunity to ensure the instructions make sense and the participant understands what you’re asking of them.
Step 4. Gather test participants
After creating and validating your test, the next step is to find some users. For qualitative tests, we recommend finding at least five participants. For quantitative tests, we recommend finding at least 20. That said, more participants is always better, as long as you have the resources to conduct the testing and comb through the data.
The most important part, however, is to find participants that represent your actual users and customers. Avoid enlisting the help of proxy users (the people who are near you who don’t represent your customers) as their feedback is usually unhelpful.
Step 5. Conduct the test
How you conduct the test will vary depending on the method you choose. Decide whether you’ll have a facilitator present to offer advice and feedback (called moderating) or if the testing requires the participant to work alone.
Step 6. Analyze your results
Once testing is complete, the final step is to analyze your responses. Compile your results and place them in an accessible place for your team. Keep this information nearby for your next round of testing.
Build a Positive User Experience with Content Testing
Content testing is a key part of building a friendly and intuitive user experience, but it requires direct input from actual users. For many brands, administering content tests is time consuming and laborious.
UserInput gives you insights from real people in your target market, so you can convert more browsers into buyers. We pair you with real people in your target market, who are trained to provide constructive feedback in a helpful way. You’ll learn where customers are getting stuck, and get introduced to new ways to present and sell your products online.
Don’t blow your first impression. Start your research project today.