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Peek: Free user testing for your website

So, one of the things that us Web Profeshes do all the time is yell about user testing. and usability. True story: We build websites not for our clients (sorry!) but for our clients' users (even though we love our clients and you have 100% great ideas!)  

But the fact of the matter is most of us don't ever do any serious user testing.  Usually the budget is already a little tight, so we just get by with a lot of reading about usability and common sense.  But recently I ran across a little service that can at least give you a taste of how your website is received in the wild. 

Peek is a free service run by the folks at UserTesting.com.  I know that it's a bit unsettling to type your name in underneath their kinda creepy animated logo, but they seem pretty legit. You type in your website and your email, and they then put your website through some minimal testing with a rando on the internet. So, maybe you're trying to reach dance audiences in Omaha? Well, you might get someone whose never realized that dance happens after high school graduation. Not your target audience so much. But the fact is, if you ask your friend what they think, most of the time, they're going to say, "Oh, it looks GREAT!" because they remember how you cancelled on them for happy hour to finish it, and how you've been waking up in cold sweats worried about it, and they have zero interest in upsetting the ox cart at this late hour.

Peek takes people who don't give a f*ck about you and asks them to review your site for 5 minutes, using some pre-determined metrics. I ran my site through this month (you get three free tests) and my results were as follows:

What is the site for?

  • "Tara designs and prints things for you."
  • "It's for...flowers? No, wait. It's for graphic design."

What is the first thing you want to do?

  • "Click on the Recent Work page" 
  • "Click on the Workshop page"

About the site overall:

  • "I really, really hate this green color."
  • "I like it! It's so pretty!"
  • "I don't like this font."
  • "It's ....I'm going to sound sexist, but it's girly, not professional." (Pro tip: You sound sexist because it's a sexist thing to say. Try harder next time.)
  • "Logos! I had no idea she did logos."
  • "This site is pretty boring; I'm not entertained"
  • "This workshop sounds cool"
  • "Hashtags are overdone"

Well, thanks for sharing.  You can watch the three tests here if you want to see what it's like: One, two and three.

There was pretty clearly a difference among the testers: One of them was quite honest and thorough in her feedback. The second was honest, but not as thorough. The last one seemed to really like pictures of flowers. I could see what they were just scrolling past and where they decided to pause and read more information. Humbling to see how much they scrolled past, to say the least.

But also super useful! This is the kind of information you can't usually get out of your users because you don't want them to know how you sit at home, on pins and needles, just HOPING they love you and that they might consider sending you some extremely friendly feedback.

If you try it:

  • Put on your thickest skin before watching the video. 
  • Take notes, and make sure to write down what they like--not just what they don't.
  • Don't bring these videos to the web designer and expect them to "fix everything" immediately.  That's not nice, and it doesn't show that you trust the person you hired. Share the videos with them and get their feedback, but don't insist. 
  • As with any advice, ignore all but the very best.

Have you ever used Peek? How were your results?