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Why Testing Always Helps - the Owners Disease

2 years ago by Daniel Winter

Varys keeps you informed wether your websites are reachable or not, but what we can't provide is real user feedback. provides exactly this: Get videos of real people testing your website directly into your inbox. We tried the service and would like to review it here.

Userbrain? Isn't that the horror splatter game from valve?

Nope. Userbrain is a small startup from Austria trying to prove two major problems in usability testing: Pricing and Frequency. If you order a usability test from agencies you usually pay a few hundred dollars and get tons of pages in return. As they tend to be so damn expensive and hard to set up, many companies do no tests at all, or they do only one or two when their website launches.

Userbrain actually makes testing fun.

First of all: Its entry price is pretty low, you can start with just 29$ per month. The best value is certainly in their mid-plan: For 49$ per month you get one video per week. 

Another frightening part for most is the creation of tasks, but userbrain has got you covered: they even provide a few standard tasks that might suit your website already. Here at Varys we are even using one of them:

"Check out this website and describe what you think it’s all about. Please tell if you would want to try it and say why or why not. Please try to sign up to this website (you can use fake data) and speak your thoughts while you’re doing it."

And third: Results. You don't get pages filled with text and possible solutions. You get a simple video about 5 to 15 minutes long.

Now come on, who doesn't like to watch videos as part of their work? Here's a short example of one of our own user tests:


So why should you test your website anyways?

The Owner's Disease.

The major problem lies in the way we work at the web: We stare at our content all the time. When you implement a new feature you most likely will only take the shortest way possible to test it on your own. The result: You don't see problems that my be hidden on your page, or misleading titles etc.

So while you might be even writing unit tests, your website is still not being tested with real human beings.

For example: We had a copy on the front page of that described the way we fetch our data as "... we ping the website every 5 minutes...". At our early stages we didn't really care about our wording that much to see that this might be misunderstood as a "well.. we do nothing but the ping. No HTTP status, no hostname errors etc", but varys is more than that. In one of our tests this was mentioned as being unclear, so we were able to change that. It might have took us months to see this error on our own, and Unit tests wouldn't have helped either.

User Tests are NOT unit tests.

I've seen many self-called-pros doing that mistake, they think that a user test is some sort of test where they have to throw any possible question in and let the user do only very specific tasks. That's not what User Tests are about. They are here to see mistakes and certain gaps that you couldn't see on your own.

The best tasks are the ones that are pretty short to read and pretty short (in terms of about 10 minutes) to be done aswell. This makes sure that the user doesn't get frustrated using your website, especially if they don't like the website at all.

Another misconception is the importance of demographics, meaning that you could choose which kind of user should check the website. Take as an example: Of course our target group lies within developers and website owners that need more insight on their services, but does that mean that my mom should have no idea what this service is about? Maybe she would recommend it to someone she is talking to, if she understood the story behind it.

So to be clear: You don't need to test with your target audience. - But you really _should_ test your website in any way.

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