Content Testing: Which Process Works Best For You?
User experience (UX) design should always focus on the customer first. We often put this into practice with visual design elements, testing layouts and designs with direct feedback. Yet, we usually see this testing occur with placeholder content.
When it comes to the customer experience, your words are as important as the aesthetic of your site. Content testing often happens after the fact. Marketing teams will A/B test their campaigns, and so on. Testing content earlier in the process can help you focus on your customer’s needs.
Integrating content testing into every stage of your testing plan can lead to significant benefits. When you test your content, you get the readers’ perspective. You can use this to personalize and target your content more effectively.
What Does Content Testing Mean?
Content testing is essentially market research. You’re testing the impact of your content on your readers. You’re also testing the reach and visibility of your content. You want to know how easy it is for users to find your content, engage with it, and navigate it.
This is useful when you’re planning a content strategy, marketing, or designing user interface elements. Gathering direct feedback from your user base is the core of content testing. You can then separate this data by demographic groups or buyer personas to optimize your content.
Why You Should Test Content as Well as Design
When it comes to creating content, you should be focused on user outcomes. Testing your content is a vital part of discovering what works best for your audience. If the content is confusing or unclear, you’ll drive away interested users.
You could be testing anything from your website landing page to the call-to-action buttons in your app, Either way, your main focus should be what outcome you and your user are looking for.
For example, think of a product landing page. Depending on where the customer is in your buyer’s journey, they will want different things. Both your design and your copy will influence how they find what they’re looking for.
A customer could be looking to make a purchase or want more information. Strong calls to action like “learn more” or “buy now” can help them to their desired outcome. Different types of content will appeal to different users, so it’s worth testing with your target audience.
The Key Content Elements You Need to Test
If you want to test your content, you need to know what you’re testing for. We’re not just talking about quality assurance. Editing and typesetting are important but, as you’ll see, the reach and tone of your content also need to be considered.
Ease of Use
Your content needs to be easy for users to engage with. The actions they can take should be clear for the best usability. Consider the type of content when you assess this. A blog article can get away with detailed explanations but a product description must be brief and snappy.
This is the reach of your content. You could also call this searchability, as we’re mostly concerned with how easily you can be found in an online search. Search engine optimization (SEO) has become a key metric for content performance.
It’s not surprising. Marketing managers agree that organic traffic from SEO generates more leads than other methods. On top of that, the top search result on Google has a click-through rate of 32%. That’s a lot of traffic and a lot of leads.
This is how well your content can be used by as many people as possible. This could mean subtitles on audio content or text-to-speech functions. It could be something as simple as using clean visual designs to help those with visual impairments.
Many users will have different needs or different ways they want to access your content. Catering to as many of those users as possible opens up your product to the widest catchment group possible. This includes making sure your content works with both website and app integration.
When designing content for a site or an app, brevity is key. You often work within strict text limits, so clarity and word choice are critical. There are software tools that can help you with readability.
Remember that the level of readability you’re looking for will depend on the content itself. In general, though, you should choose simple words and short sentences. With product pages and landing pages, users will expect to be able to skim your content and absorb the gist.
If you want to keep readers in your ecosystem, you need to make your site easy to navigate. Consider the top-down map of your site. Using top or side navigation bars with drop-down menus can help you intuitively organize your site.
On a page, a user should be able to get to anywhere they want to go in one click. That means you should consider the next steps in your buyer’s journey when you lay out the navigation text on a page.
The Tone of Voice
This should be consistent across your content. Your tone of voice should be determined by your brand identity and informed by your buyer personas. When you test for this, you’ll be looking for consistency and engagement with your target audience.
The Best Content Testing Methodologies
There are many ways to test content. Some are rigid and give complex data, like regression testing for software. Others are more holistic and rely on subjective user feedback. These are the most popular standard content testing methods if you need some inspiration.
This is the simplest method of testing your copy. A/B testing uses two versions of the same copy. Each group of testers sees one version of the copy. You can then judge its success either by positive responses, or hard figures like conversion if you’re testing live.
This is great for finding out what kinds of words and phrases your audience responds to. Yet, it doesn’t tell you much about the reasons why they prefer certain content. This means that it’s best used alongside more in-depth testing methods.
The Cloze Test
This is a popular comprehension test. It checks how easy your content is to understand from context. You do this by taking a sample of your content, 100-250 words depending on the copy, and removing about 15-20% of the words. Like this:
Cloze tests were originally devised as language comprehension tests for students. They’ve proven effective for testing whether copy can be understood easily from context. This is important for reading comprehension.
If your testers can consistently guess the correct words in your test, that means your content is easy to understand. This means readers will understand the point of your copy quickly, even if they’re just scanning the page.
A usability test is similar to a beta test for your content. You give users a task, then let them engage with your content in their own time. Noting how they respond to the task is key. The task could be something simple like reading a product page and then describing the product.
The user may or may not “complete” the task but it’s their response that is important. In the above example, if the user fails to describe the product that just means you need to optimize your content.
Using readability software tools can help you optimize written content. Like an automated editor, they can give feedback on your word choice, paragraphs, and sentence structure.
It’s best to have this sense checked for quality assurance, automated programs operate to strict rules. You’ll have to make decisions on what’s appropriate for your content.
The Five-Second Test
This is a simple perception test. You show your test groups a design for five seconds, then ask questions about the design. Users only see the design for a brief period, so this is effective for testing whether design elements stand out as intended.
Using cloud modernization to communicate with users instantly means it’s easier than ever to conduct this kind of test. You can source participants and conduct tests remotely. This applies to many of these user-based testing methods.
The Highlight Test
This is a good test for checking both clarity and word choice. You give your testers the content and ask them to highlight anything they like and understand in one color. Then do the same in another color for anything they don’t like or don’t understand.
If you use a broad enough testing group from your demographic, this can help narrow down language that resonates. You can eliminate confusing or unnecessary passages. The data you’ll get is simplistic but very easy to identify trends from.
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When to Conduct Content Testing
You might have heard of agile testing from your software developers. It’s actually a testing framework that can be used for other applications, too. It essentially means testing at every stage of a project and feeding back the test results to improve the project.
You can apply this to content testing as well. Many businesses will only test content post-launch or after visual designs are finalized at best. If you incorporate content testing while you design, you can come up with more holistic, unique, content that appeals directly to your user base.