Strategic Web Usability

Guide to Low-cost Usability Tools

As someone who works with start-ups and SMBs, finding low-cost, high-impact tools is an absolute necessity. Fortunately, the usability world has been blessed by dozens of new tools over the last couple of years. While many excellent blog posts have been written about these tools, I decided that it was time to take a deeper dive. Most importantly, I wanted to test these tools on User Effect and try to provide real data and screenshots.

In the end, I decided that a blog post just wasn't going to cut it this time around, and so my second e-book was born. I'm happy to announce that I'm making that e-book available for free as of today. It's a guide to 20 online usability tools, all of which have free or low-cost versions.

What You'll Find Inside

The e-book is 48 pages, with 40 of those pages dedicated to the tools themselves. The tools are broken up into 4 sections: (1) Heat Mapping, (2) Screen Recording, (3) User Testing, and (4) User Feedback. Each tool has a nearly identical, 2-page spread that looks something like this:

Download The E-book

The e-book is absolutely free, and you can download it using the button below. It's in PDF format, and is about 1.5MB. If you plan on printing the document and don't want to waste all of your blue ink, here's a printer-friendly version.


48-page PDF (1.5MB)

Complete List of Tools

If you're just not an e-book sort of person or you're cursed with a slow internet connection, never fear - here's a list of all 20 tools (in alphabetical order) with links to where you can find them:

Even More Usability Tools

As I mentioned, there have also been some excellent blog posts covering this and similar tools. Here are just a few of my favorites, for your reading pleasure:

I hope you enjoy the e-book and all of these resources. As always, comments, criticisms, and crazed fans are welcome.

* Full disclosure: User Effect is a partner of UserTesting.com and an affiliate of Userfly.

Dana Lookadoo

 · Tuesday, December 8
Pete,

Thank you for the phenomenal resource! And it's usable! It's easy to read even in a browser with multiple toolbars open.

The industry owes you for sharing your insights and review of the tools!

Dr. Pete

 · Tuesday, December 8
Thanks, Dana. It's funny - a while back my 1st e-book appeared on someone's Top 10 list for something, and I noticed that the other 9 e-books on it were all landscape format and prettier than mine. I occasionally learn from my mistakes :)

Chetan

 · Tuesday, December 8
thanks a lot for the book.

I would like to bring to your notice one small flaw.

On Page 4 :
For the following two points the respective images are interchanged.

Https - Lists whether the tool supports secure (https:) pages.
Type - Required installation type (JavaScript, image upload, etc.).

Dr. Pete

 · Tuesday, December 8
Thanks, Chetan - I appreciate the heads up. I've uploaded a corrected version. Funny how many times you can stare at a page and still miss something like that. More proof that we need user testing, right? :)

John

 · Wednesday, December 9
Great job on putting together this guide. I'm only using one tool on the list, ClickTale. Looks like I need to get my butt in gear and try out some of the others.

I use the paid version of ClickTale and it also provides heat maps, but I find the screen recording and form analytics to be their strength.

Dr. Pete

 · Wednesday, December 9
@John - I've heard good things about the ClickTale form analytics but haven't checked out the paid version yet. One of my goals, now that I'm done writing this, is to go back and figure out what I'd like to start using more regularly, including here on the User Effect site.

Michael

 · Thursday, December 10
Hi Dr. Pete!

Thanks for the great list of low-cost usability tools. I agree, that usability is an issue everybody is talking about, but hardly anyone does it consistently. May be the approach pointing to the low cost aspect can inspire more people to do it.

I am happy that you push this matter forward, since we at pidoco.com follow the same apporach. We think usability testing is rarely applied because:

- it's usually too complicated
- it demands professional skills and insights
- it's too expensive.

Therefore we incorporated several easy-to-use usability testing tools as 'plug&play features' in our web-based wireframing tool for screen designers. Combining that way prototyping and usability testing supports perfectly the user centered design process that creates much better websites and helps ... everybody! The end-user, the customer and finally, the media agency itself!

I would appreciate everybody testing our tool and the included usability features for free on https://www.pidoco.com

Thanks and regards
Michael from pidoco°

Alejandro Rivas-Micoud

 · Thursday, December 10
Hi Peter, one more to add to the list...:)

www.userlytics.com. The first remote usability testing service that includes videos of the testers performing the test (not just the web screen recording or audio, but their facial reactions also).

In addition to synchronized webcam based tester and screen videos, included are ClickFlow Analytics, Contextual "bubble-screenshot" written commentary, survey answers and site ratings, as well as quantitative data.

Free samples are available on www.userlytics.com

Best regards,

Dr. Pete

 · Thursday, December 10
@Michael - There are a number of good prototyping, wireframing, card-sorting, etc. tools out there that, unfortunately, were just beyond the scope of this book. I'll have to check out Pidoco, though.

@Alejandro - Userlytics was actually on my original list, but then I had trouble reaching the site for a while. Looks like it was just a fluke, but sadly an ill-timed one. Glad to see you're still around.

WiseClicker

 · Sunday, December 13
This is a very helpful list. Thanks a lot.

I have a couple of posts about usability at WiseClicker.com and will continue to address web site usability, since I believe it is a very essential component of web presence. While it is important, it is almost never considered for small business web sites, which is the focus of my blog. I believe I will write about many of the products mentioned in the list. Actually I have already introduced UserTesting.com to my readers.

I will try these myself as well. I can definitely use some help to improve my web site.

Ed Hughes

 · Monday, December 14
Thanks I've found it really useful. Click Heat is a good free alternative, which you can find here/

Dr. Pete

 · Monday, December 14
@Ed - I've heard generally good things about ClickHeat - one of my criterion was that the tools be web-based and simple installs, and ClickHeat is a server-side install, so it didn't make the cut, but not because of any quality issues.

Ben

 · Thursday, December 17
I reccomend Clicktale as the best usability tool. Its heatmaps, real time videos and aggregate behaviours and analytics are second to none!

Dave

 · Wednesday, December 30
Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to put this up.

MeisterX

 · Tuesday, January 5
@ Dr. Peter J. Meyers Nice article, excellent and easy to read.. Big Thanks!

DNL

 · Tuesday, January 5
Thank you for sharing with us, and the most important: thank you for your time to put all this together!

Vanessa Rousso

 · Sunday, January 10
I use the free version of clickTale. I love the ability to replay the videos of what the users are doing with their mouse, and this has enabled me to make fixes and improvement. Your ebook is very welcomed for a comprehensive list or resources.

Niels Kristiansen

 · Wednesday, January 13
As long as userfly.com can't find out to give a successful support (non existing), I would not recommend them to anyone, unless they use the free solution.

Besides that, I had to close down my VISA card, because they didn't stop raising money from my account, even though I did return to the non payment version. That's where I tried to call them and send e-mails through their support, without any kind of success.

I just hope I'm the only one with this problem, else they have some big issues.

The product is worth 5/5 stars
The support is worth 0/5 stars

Dr. Pete

 · Wednesday, January 13
@Niels - Sorry to hear that. I haven't had need for direct support from them yet, so I haven't run into trouble, but I find that's too often a problem with web-based services. They're so automated, that the human side of the equation gets left out and support is woefully underfunded.

designfollow

 · Wednesday, January 13
very useful, thank you very much.

Freelance Website Designer Brisbane

 · Sunday, January 17
Great tools, thanks! I will definitely start using these.

Bill

 · Monday, January 18
Fantastic list! Simple and low cost tools are too often overlooked since many business owners assume good solutions require expense and complication. I'll be referring to this list (and the 25pt checklist).

Kino

 · Wednesday, January 20
Thank you for the resource! it's usable! I will definitely start using these.

John Turner

 · Wednesday, January 20
Hey Dr Pete,

Ever since I discovered you through seoMoz I've found the world of user testing to be a great new area for my company to explore.

I started talking to my boss about the idea and he jumped on board, and when he went looking on his own for a service that would allow us to track user interaction, i was able to refer to this guide and recommend Userfly. The man nearly did a backflip he was so thrilled, and we plan to use that, User Testing and Feedback Army after we make some upcoming website changes!

So, in short: Yaaaaay!

Dr. Pete

 · Wednesday, January 20
@John - Glad to hear you've had such a positive experience - sometimes these tools really are an eye-opener for upper management and are a nice way to get their interest in what can seem like a complex topic on paper. Show them a few nifty videos or graphs that show why this usability stuff might matter, and you're off to a good start.

Itaquera

 · Thursday, January 21
Cool,great post!

Jean-Francois Monfette

 · Tuesday, January 26
Your E-book is superbly well done. I will come back often to your website and share it with my friend. Two thumbs up !

tip

 · Wednesday, January 27
Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to put this up.

Tom Esküvő

 · Thursday, February 4
Thank you for these tools and informations. I know about the conversion increasing already long time ago but this site has helped me to understand how have to use perfectly the usability tools and we increased our conversion already with 230% :)

Heiko

 · Friday, February 5
uitest com is another good ressource for testing ur website - great collection. Cheers

Adam Hayes

 · Tuesday, June 22
One of the hardest things about usability is adequate testing. As stated above, most of the time the "apparent" costs seems too high. However, many of these tools will help keep the cost down while allowing for a consistent testing platform. Thanks!
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